Personally, I've never been a huge fan of milk but I am a huge fan of coffee — and I always add some milk. A few weeks ago, I decided to buy almond milk instead of whole milk to mix things up. Not only has the grogginess and slight stomach discomfort I had after my coffee gone away, but I actually like the taste of my morning coffee a lot more. Before making the switch, I made sure to do my research. After doing my own research, I can now answer a few questions you might have about this supreme dairy alternative. 

What Makes It Better Than Dairy? 

Milk is really good for you — when you're an infant or a calf that is. The proteins, excess fats, and vitamins found in dairy are extremely valuable in our early stages of life but have been proven to be detrimental to our health after and can lead to things like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic disease, diabetes and even cancer. It's no wonder that over 75% of the world's population is lactose intolerant

This is where almond milk steps in as a great substitute. It's low in calories (one cup of almond milk is 39 calories compared to the 102 found in one cup of dairy milk), contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, is a great source of vitamins, and actually has 50% more calcium than dairy. It has been proven to strengthen bones because it is often enriched with calcium and reduce the risk of heart disease because of its healthy fats and high concentration of Vitamin E. Additionally, it is free of hormones which makes it perfect for people prone to acne. 

The main consequence of switching from dairy to almond milk is the fact that almond milk has only only 1 gram of protein compared to the 8 grams found in dairy. However, as long as you're getting your daily protein intake from other sources you should be fine; you can even buy protein-fortified versions of almond milk. 

cereal, Cheerios, milk, pouring milk, breakfast
Jocelyn Hsu

How Is It Made?

The process of making almond milk is so simple that you can even make it yourself. The almonds are soaked in water for a period of 12-48 hours, drained, and then rinsed. Then they are pulverized and filtered to remove any large chunks. The final product is a smooth, foamy milk. Sweet additives like vanilla, medjool dates, cinnamon, etc can be put in to add a bit of flavor.

One controversy that comes with the process of making almond milk is the amount of water that it takes. More than 80% of the world's almonds are grown in California, a state entering the fourth year of a severe drought. 10% of California's water supply goes towards almond production, that's 1.1 trillion gallons a year. While it takes 1 gallon of water to make 1 glass of almond milk, it takes 35 gallons of water to make 1 glass of regular milk. In the end, you're still being more environmentally conscious by switching to almond milk and if you make it yourself you're barely using any water at all. 

Where Does It Originate? 

Did you know almond milk dates all the way back to the Middle Ages in Middle Eastern and European cuisine? Since it is a plant-based milk, it was used as a substitute during Lent, a religious 40 day period when Christians do not consume meat, as early as the 13th century. The high import costs and intense labor that was put into grinding the almonds for almond milk made it pricey and a food staple for the upper-class. Almond milk was also mixed with cooked rice for the sick and thought of as brain-food for intellectuals. 

almond, chocolate, coffee
Anna Neufeld

How Can I Use It?

Just like dairy milk, almond milk can be used in a variety of ways. You can use it for baking, creamy dishes and dressings, smoothies, protein shakes, cereal, ice cream, and anything that you would typically use dairy milk for. Personally, I think its nutty flavor and sweetness is great in lattes and when added to strong coffee. Its recent popularity has made it a staple item in most coffee shops so you can ask for almond milk in your coffee without a problem.

coffee, cappuccino, espresso, milk, mocha
Amy Cho