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Torey Walsh / Spoon
Culture

The Truth About Almond Milk: The Sustainable Milk Choice

In the recent decade, almond milk has overtaken the globe to become the most popular milk alternative. Its sales have seen a steady increase year by year, surpassing soy milk, and it has already begun to crash and burn the dairy industry. Although, with discoveries of the environmental effects and sustainable implications of the beverage, it raises the question of whether it is in fact the best choice. Here are some pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

The Pros 


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Torey Walsh / Spoon

The health benefits

Just to get the obvious out the way, there is nothing wrong with almond milk from a health standpoint. It is quite low in calories while being full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and several vitamins. A cup of almond milk contains 50%  of your daily intake of Vitamin E, for healthy skin and nails. Monounsaturated fats help fight against coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The ethics

The dairy industry is far from perfect.  As less and less people are drinking dairy milk, more and more dairy farms are shutting down. Wisconsin, the country’s top dairy producing state, is losing around two farms a day.  In dairy farms, female cows are forcibly impregnated to produce milk, while the male cows are slaughtered or sent for veal. Alternative dairy products such as almond milk completely remove the denominator of cruelty associated with dairy farming practices. The sustainability of the dairy farm industry is not too impressive either. Dairy cow manure emits greenhouse gasses, an environmentalist’s nightmare. We’ll discuss the environmental effects of almond milk later.

The Cons


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Torey Walsh / Spoon

The Nutritional Deficiencies

One thing that many people overlook when it comes to nondairy milk, such as almond milk, they usually contain added sugars to mask the novel taste. Too much sugar is linked to the development of certain cancers, obesity, and depression. It is best to consume unsweetened flavored or unflavored variants of almond milk for it to be comparable to dairy milk. Almond milk also falls short of other milks in nutrients such as protein. A single serving of it contains only one gram of protein, compared to dairy milk, which contains upwards of eight. Soy milk comparatively contains around seven grams of protein. Look elsewhere if you need more protein in your diet.

The environmental complications

While looking at the environmental implications of the dairy industry, the grass still isn’t greener on the other side. Around 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, a state that has suffered from droughts. Maybe a little concerning considering that a single almond requires more than a gallon of water to grow. That comes out to around 55 gallons of water per glass of almond milk (almond milk is 80% to 90% water already. 

The verdict

With the concerns of sustainability, climate change, and environmental policy of the new age, it seems easy to point fingers on almond milk and its negative net impact. You still have to consider its environmental effects compared to other milk products. While almond milk has a larger water footprint than both soy milk and other non-dairy variants, the numbers are still much lower than those of dairy milk, which is upwards of eighty gallons. If you really want to make the “best choice”, oat and rice milk have the lowest footprints, but they also are far less readily available than other types. If you care about the environment, any of these plant-based milks have a lower water footprint and emit less greenhouse gases then water. So don’t feel too guilty about chugging down that last glass.

Sources: 1234

 

Nadyah is a Philosophy and Microbiology major at the University of Massachusetts. She loves listening to the sound of rain, taking afternoon naps, and sipping hot chocolate on a chilly evening.
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