More and more people in the United States are turning to plant-based milk as an alternative to dairy milk.
In fact, 32% of consumers drink non-dairy milk at least weekly, including almond milk.
But is almond milk a good choice for people living with diabetes? This article will explore everything you need to know about drinking almond milk if you have diabetes.
Why do people drink almond milk?
People drink almond milk for a variety of reasons.
Almond milk requires less water than dairy cows do for production, so it’s a more sustainable choice.
People gravitate towards a plant-based lifestyle for many reasons, including health.
They are switching the type of milk they drink at home to align with these lifestyle choices.
On the other hand, many people cannot drink the lactose found in cow’s milk.
And many just enjoy the taste of almond milk to dairy milk!
This poses an interesting question for people with diabetes: can almond milk be good for you?
What are the health benefits of almond milk?
There are many health benefits to almond milk, including the following:
Lower in calories and carbohydrates than dairy milk
Unsweetened almond milk has virtually no carbohydrates and is low in calories. This will depend on the brand, but on average:
- One cup of almond milk has 3.2 carbohydrates and 1.9 grams of sugar, and 37 calories
- One cup of low-fat cow’s milk has 13 carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, and 110 calories
Not only do lower-carbohydrate drinks make managing your blood sugars easier, but sticking with lower-calorie drinks can aid in weight maintenance and loss as well.
Full of vitamins
Almond milk is also full of vitamins, including vitamin E.
Vitamin E acts as a protectant against cholesterol oxidation.
Oxidized LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is also a main cause of death for people with diabetes.
Almond milk is also full of calcium, with some brands offering 30% of your daily recommended intake in a single cup.
Depending on the brand, almond milk can also be a great source of phosphorus, manganese, iron, and copper.
Has healthy fats for heart health
Almond milk has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
These fats help decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, which prevents heart disease.
Additionally, oleic acid, the primary fatty oil in almond milk, can help sustain blood cholesterol levels.
What do you have to be wary of when drinking almond milk?
However, not all almond milk is created equally.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you have diabetes and wish to drink almond milk.
A lot of almond milk has added sugar and flavorings
While unsweetened almond milk is lower in both carbohydrates and calories, many brands of almond milk are sweetened to taste like vanilla.
This can add a lot of sugar to your drink.
When almond milk is sweetened, it usually has more carbohydrates and more calories than dairy milk.
Drinking sweetened almond milk can make managing your blood sugars more difficult, and if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, it can make it harder to do so.
When purchasing almond milk, always look for “unsweetened” and make sure the nutritional label shows no added sugar.
Low protein content
Unlike dairy milk which has 8 grams of protein per cup, 1 cup of almond milk has 1 gram of protein.
This is not a great source of protein if you’re looking to meet your daily needs from almond milk alone.
People with diabetes should focus on eating and drinking foods that have a lot of protein and fat.
These macronutrients help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent spikes after meals.
If you’re looking to incorporate almond milk into your diet, do not rely on it for your protein needs.
Since almond milk is so low in protein, it is also not suitable for children under 1-year-old.
Almond milk is off-limits for people who have tree nut allergies.
Even if you do not have an allergy, you may be sensitive to tree nuts and their derivatives.
If this is the case, almond milk may cause you to have gastrointestinal issues like bloating and gas, or skin reactions like rashes or redness.
Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned that you may be allergic to tree nuts or almond milk.
Some good plant-based alternatives to almond milk for people who have tree nut allergies include coconut milk, soy milk, hemp milk, or oat milk.
Should people with diabetes drink almond milk?
It is absolutely fine if you have diabetes and wish to drink almond milk.
It can be a great alternative to dairy milk and is suitable for cereals, coffee, tea, baking, or just enjoyed on its own.
It is lower in both carbohydrates and calories than dairy milk and is full of healthy fats and vitamins.
However, it is important to remember that many kinds of almond milk have added sugars and flavorings.
These additions can make managing blood sugar levels more difficult, as well as losing weight if you’re looking to do so.
Always weigh the pros and cons of anything you add to your diet, and make sure that you calibrate your diabetes medications accordingly.
How to incorporate almond milk into your diet
If you wish to incorporate almond milk into your diet, the following strategies can be helpful:
- Always choose unsweetened almond milk, with no added sugar
- Adjust your diabetes medications and/or insulin if necessary
- Always count carbohydrates
- Talk with your doctor if you have or suspect you have a tree-nut allergy
- As with everything, moderation is key
Do I have to take insulin for almond milk?
This all depends on your insulin and carbohydrate sensitivity, as well as what type of almond milk you’re drinking.
Unsweetened almond milk may have just 1 or 2 carbohydrates per cup and you may not need to take insulin for it.
Whereas some sweetened almond milk may have 10-15 grams of carbohydrates per cup, necessitating an insulin bolus.
Work with your doctor to figure out your insulin to carbohydrate settings.
Check in with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) or your doctor if you have questions about taking insulin for almond milk.
Can almond milk help me lose weight?
Almond milk can be incorporated into a healthy diet, but almond milk alone may not help you lose weight.
Unsweetened almond milk has fewer carbohydrates and calories than dairy milk, and in conjunction with a healthy diet and increased exercise, may aid in weight loss.
Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your weight and wish to strategize healthy ways to lose weight.
What kind of milk is best for people with diabetes?
There is no “best” choice of milk for people with diabetes.
However, when choosing milk to drink, it is best to always choose one that is unflavored and unsweetened, with no added sugar.
Some types of milk, like oat milk, naturally have more carbohydrates than others. Keep total carbohydrates and total calories in mind when choosing which milk is best for you.
People with diabetes can choose full-fat, reduced-fat milk, or nonfat milk, depending on their preferences and health goals.
Is almond milk gluten-free?
Yes. Almond milk is naturally gluten-free.
If you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, always check the nutrition labels on sweetened almond milk to make sure they don’t contain any gluten additives.