The perks of adding almond milk to your diet

You can make a cup of fresh almond milk from home in not more than 10 minutes. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Almond milk is lactose free, which makes it a popular choice for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking for a healthier alternative to cow's milk.

Taaka Wandera Kupewa

Almond milk is a plant-based, vegan milk substitute made from almonds. It has a creamy texture and a subtle, nutty flavour making it a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. Almond milk is lactose free, which makes it a popular choice for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking for a healthier alternative to cow's milk. 
Almond milk is available in two main types; sweetened or unsweetened and can be used in a variety of recipes, such as smoothies, soups, baked goods and homemade Ice-cream. It is available in many large scale supermarkets in Kampala, usually next to traditional dairy products. 
Nutritional benefits 
Almond milk is free from lactose (a type of sugar found naturally in dairy milk) since it is not an animal product. This makes it a good milk substitute, especially for people who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerant individuals experience difficulty digesting lactose with symptoms such as bloating, gas and stomach discomfort after consuming dairy. It is also plant-based, making it an ideal alternative to cow’s milk for vegans. 
Almond milk is rich in vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that protects your cells from the effects of dangerous molecules called free radicals. Almonds also contains flavonoids, another anti-oxidant.  The Vitamin E found in almond milk, is also crucial for skin health and cell regeneration. It possesses the ability to alleviate sun-damaged skin and exhibits soothing properties that contribute to its effectiveness in eliminating blemishes.
Amanda Twebaze, a nutritionist, says almond milk is rich in protein, which enables us to build stronger body structures and repair work. Proteins according to Twebaze, also help to keep us full for long, which helps to regulate our blood glucose levels better.
Full of magnesium   
Twebaze says Almond milk is also a good source of magnesium as well. 
“Magnesium is important for muscle function, blood sugar control and making bone, protein as well as DNA,” Twebaze explains, adding that because almond milk is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, it can help reduce the risk of heart disease. 
Many commercial brands of almond milk are fortified with calcium, which supports bone health. According to the, most commercial almond milk products are fortified with around 120mg of calcium per 100ml, which is on a par with the average calcium levels in cow’s milk. 
Almond milk is also often fortified with vitamins A, D, and E at levels that are often higher than those found in dairy milk. Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium in the body. Almond milk is also rich in added B vitamins and iron, which promote muscle strength and healing. 
Compared to animal milk, Twebaze says, almond milk, specifically unsweetened almond milk, is lower in sugars and carbohydrates, so it is considered a low glycemic index food. This means it is less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. It is also low in calories compared to animal milk. Therefore, due to its low calorie and sugar content, incorporating almond milk into a weight loss diet can be a beneficial choice.   
“Almond milk is easier to digest compared to animal milk, for many people, which reduces the chances of experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort,” Twebaze adds.   
Making your own
According to Hollard and Banet, UK’s leading health and wellness store, to make about five cups of almond milk, you need 112 grammes of raw almonds, which you will first soak in cool boiled water, overnight. If you do not want to wait for the next day, soak them in very hot water, for between one and two hours. Once the almonds have soaked long enough, drain out the water. 
Put the almonds in a high speed blender, add water, salt and any additional add-ins (optional) and blend until creamy and smooth. In order to achieve a smooth consistency, the blender should run for at least two minutes. After blending, pour the blended liquid through a nut milk bag or a thin tea towel to strain. For tea towel straining, lay a clean tea towel over a mixing bowl, pour the almond milk into the tea towel, then carefully gather the corners, and lift up. Squeeze until all of the milk is extracted. Discard any pulp or save it for your baking.  
To store, pour the milk in a jar or covered bottle and refrigerate. It will remain fresh for between four and five days. To make sweetened almond milk, add the sweetener of your preference (maple syrup, sugar, dates, or honey) you can drink it straight, or use almond milk in any recipe or food preparation.

Many people prefer the taste of sweetened almond milk over unsweetened almond milk, but drinking too much sweetened almond milk could lead to weight gain. 

Despite almonds being naturally high in protein, a serving of almond milk contains hardly any protein, because of the water added.  

Finally, due to the fact certain almond drinks can be fortified with calcium oxalate, people who already have or are prone to developing kidney stones are advised not to drink almond milk.