Have you switched to almond milk? If you have, you're certainly on trend. Sales of almond milk are growing, and the range of brands available has exploded. Almond milk is now a standard option in cafes; a natural-sounding alternative popular with vegans, the dairy intolerant and 'clean' eaters of all stripes.
The trend's being echoed around the world. In the UK, almond milk has overtaken soy milk as the dairy alternative of choice.
Now dairy milk producers are fighting back. In Australia and the US, dairy farmers are lobbying for plant-based milk producers to be prevented from using the term 'milk' on their products. Dairy milk producers argue that the plant milks are subtly trying to imitate the 'health halo' of real milk, and imply that these milks are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk.
Their protest may get some legs now that the EU has regulated in exactly this way. Purely plant-based products can no longer be sold in the EU using terms such as milk, butter and cheese. These are reserved for products of animal origin. So no more soy, almond, macadamia, oat or rice milk, and no more cashew cheese, soy yoghurt or coconut butter.
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I don't really think anyone is likely to be misled into thinking that almond milk comes from cows. But I do think there's a possibility we could be misled into believing almond milk is as good as cow's milk, from a nutrition point of view.
Almond milk packaging usually looks super-wholesome; implying there's the goodness of heaps of almonds inside. Whole almonds are, in fact, very good for us - they're high in vitamin E and higher in calcium than other nuts, and they have the benefits of all nuts: healthy fats, fibre and protein. But that doesn't mean you're getting all those benefits from almond milk. Most almond milks are mainly water; the almond content can be as low as 2 per cent; it's typically around 3-4%.
This means almond milk is naturally low in kilojoules, but also low in protein, unlike dairy milk. It's naturally low in calcium, although some almond milks now have calcium added. Almond milk can also contain added sugar, which we might not immediately know from the packaging. You'll have to turn it over and read the ingredients list to check for that. You could easily argue that almond milk is a highly processed food; more so than dairy milk.
Environmental issues have also been raised about almond milk. Most of the world's almonds are grown in California; becoming a huge monoculture that has been fairly taxing on that region's water reserves in a time of drought. There are some Australian-grown brands available here which are potentially less problematic and have fewer food miles; another reason to check the packaging.
I like the taste of almond milk; not a bad reason to choose it occasionally. But unless you're allergic to dairy, it may not be quite the super food we may think it is.