When it comes to milk, cow's milk still dominates, making up 90 percent of the milk market, according to Mother Jones magazine, but many people are making the switch to plant-based milks like almond milk. While almond milk offers a number of benefits when compared to cow's milk, it's not for everyone and may not always make the best substitute.
Almond milk is not an appropriate milk alternative for infants or young toddlers. If infants are unable to take breast milk, they must be on a formula that closely resembles breast milk. Almond milk does not have the right balance of nutrients to serve as an appropriate replacement for infant formula.
Almond milk is also low in fat, and may not be a good cow's milk substitute for toddlers. When children switch to cow's milk at 1 year of age, it is recommended they drink whole cow's milk for the fat, which is essential for growth and brain development -- unless you can add other high-fat foods to replace the fat in whole cow's milk.
Compared to cow's milk, almond milk is low in protein, with 1 gram in a cup of almond milk vs. 8 grams in a cup of cow's milk. While most adults don't have a difficult time meeting their daily protein needs, milk acts as an important source of protein for children and teens, according to MedlinePlus. Kids need adequate intakes of protein to support overall good health and normal growth and development.
Unlike cow's milk, almond milk is not a natural source of calcium. While it's not difficult to find fortified almond milk, if you're making your own or using a brand that's not fortified, you may not be getting enough calcium in your diet. This is especially important for teen girls and premenopausal women, who already have a difficult time meeting their daily calcium needs, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Not getting enough calcium may impair bone health and increase your risk of osteoporosis.
If you're concerned about allergies, almond milk may not be the best plant-based milk alternative for you, especially if you already have an allergy to any other nut. As a tree nut, almonds are one of the most common food allergens, according to the Food Allergy, Research and Education website, and an allergic reaction to the nut can be severe and potentially fatal. If you have food allergies, talk to your doctor before adding almond milk to your diet.
- Mother Jones: Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Beverages Almond Milk Sweetened, Milk Whole 3.25 Percent Milk Fat With Added Vitamin D, Infant Formula Nestle Good Start With Iron Ready-to-Feed
- KidsHealth: Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
- KidsHealth: Feeding Your 1- to 2-Year Old
- MedlinePlus: Cow's Milk and Children
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Food Allergy Research and Education: Tree Nut Allergy