I was going to do a review of the whole dairy-free milk category, until I realised this was way too vast a supermarket section! So I narrowed it down to almond milks, and I will cover the others in another post.
Another thing that I want to mention is that I am no way affiliated with any of the manufacturers mentioned (I purchased the products for this test at the supermarket, just like everyone else does!).
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that most product recommendations you see on social media or on TV are paid for. Seemingly credible sources will recommend products and get paid for it. They don’t have to disclose it. So bear that in mind if someone is encouraging you to buy one food product over another.
The first thing I’ll say is that it truly is best to make your own almond milk!
- It’s super easy
- It’s super cheap
- You know exactly what is in it (just almonds, water and a pinch of salt)
On the down side,
- Homemade almond milk doesn’t last very long in the fridge, so it’s not something you can make in bulk.
- It takes time
If you make everything from scratch, then chances are you will either have to give up work, or give up sleep!
So what about the store-bought options?
There are basically two broad groups in the category – the fridge/fresh and the shelf/UHT.
Lets go through the options one by one.
Almond breeze unsweetened
This has the lowest almond content of all the milks I looked at. It is only 2.5% almonds. So think about that for a minute. A 1 litre UHT carton will only have 25g of almonds, the rest is water. Luckily it’s also the cheapest option, but that doesn’t really represent good value! This one also had the longest ingredient list.
Check this out: filtered water, ground whole almonds, tapioca starch, mineral salt (calcium carbonate [ground limestone]), salt, stabiliser (carrageenan), emulisfier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavour.
Wow. Remember, homemade will be just water, almonds and salt.
Lets talk about the added calcium, as this is often a reason people choose an almond milk. As they rightly say on the label, calcium carbonate is ground limestone, or chalk.
How well do you think your body can absorb the calcium from limestone?
Only about 15% of the calcium will be absorbed by your body. It is really cheap to add to food, gets a great claim on the label, but is essentially useless to humans.
Carrageenan is used as a thickener and emulsifier, and is actually derived from Irish moss, so pretty healthy you assume?
The US organic certifiers believe it is harmful enough to human health that they don’t allow it in any organic products. There is evidence to suggest that it is damaging to gut health, causing inflammation, IBS symptoms and ulcers.
This almond milk tasted the most ‘watery’ of all the ones I tried.
Macro certified organic smooth & nutty almond milk
This has a shorter ingredient list (filtered water, organic almonds, organic rice syrup, organic sugar, organic sunflower oil, plant calcium, sea salt) however it was far and away the highest in sugar. It has 2.4g of sugar per 100ml, and it actually tasted super sweet.
In the ingredient list you can see they have listed both rice syrup and sugar. Rice syrup is just another form of sugar, which is why it is so sweet.
On the plus side, it is great that they are using organic almonds. Non-organic almonds will absorb a lot of the pesticides which are sprayed on them, because of their high oil content. Not only are these pesticides bad for our health, they are bad for bees too. Bees are very involved in almond production, and if we are spraying the almonds we are killing the bees.
Find out all about the impact of organic food on our kids’ brains in this article.
The macro milk has a almond content of 4%, middle of the road compared to the others.
This had the second highest level of almonds, 10%, so you are getting more almond bang for your buck. It also had the second highest sugar content, but unlike the macro one, it didn’t really taste sweet. It only has 4 ingredients (filtered water, organic activated almonds, organic rice syrup, sea salt), so if they could just reduce the sugar a bit, it wouldn’t be a bad choice.
Australia’s own unsweetened almond milk
This one gave me a good laugh. The ingredients read “filtered Australian water, organic almonds, organic sunflower oil, salt”. Obviously to call it “Australia’s own”, it needs to emphasise the fact that they are using real Australian water to make it. And as it is 97% water, this is an important claim!
But more importantly, it tasted really bad. A really odd flavour. I would not buy this one, based on taste.
ALDI Inner goodness almond milk
This one tastes good and it’s in the fridge at ALDI. It is low sugar, with an average amount of almonds. The ingredient list is a bit long: filtered water, almonds, mineral (calcium), emulsifier (322), sea salt, natural flavour, stabiliser (418).
Stabiliser 418 is gellan gum, a polysaccharide gum made from bacteria. It doesn’t have any red flags around safety and is used at really low levels. 322 is lecithin and is added to stop the milk separating.
Inside Out Almond Milk
This has a whopping 11% almonds, and is found in the fridge. It tastes amazing, really creamy.
The downside is, it really doesn’t last very long in the fridge. Similar to a homemade almond milk it will separate and go slimy in a few days. But that’s the trade-off you make for having fewer ingredients.
This only contains filtered water, activated almonds, vegetable gum (gellan), sea salt.
Personally, I love this one.
If I am out and about and I want an almond milk latte, I will go from café to café to find one that stocks MilkLab almond milk. It was designed for coffee, and it shows.
It is middle of the road for sugar and almond level, but its ingredient list is shocking:
Australian Water, Almonds (3.5%), Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin (From Corn), Acidity Regulators (340, 332), Vegetable Gums (418, 415, 410), Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt.
As it is mainly sold in cafés, it’s ingredient list doesn’t get the same level of scrutiny, and now that I see it, I will think twice about buying it again.
This almond comes in a pretty funky bottle, and is found in the fridge. It tastes good, and it is pretty popular with my clients.
A massive issue I have with this milk is that it is made in the USA!!
From an environmental point of view (food miles), this is not good.
To transport chilled goods from the USA would cost a fortune. This makes me wonder…..is this actually just a normal UHT shelf stable milk which is being sold from the fridge to give the impression of fresh? The expiry date is months in the future, which adds more weight to this theory.
Even if this is not true, when you buy this, you are paying a huge amount of your money for the cost of airfreight, not for the quality of the food.
This only has 2.3% almonds, so not a lot. If also contains ‘flavourings’, which are probably artificial as it doesn’t make claims to the contrary.
Things to look out for when choosing an almond milk:
- Length of ingredient list – the shorter the best
- The % almonds – the higher the better
- The % sugar – the lower the better.
- No carrageenan
- Organic is best
- Made in Australia
Don’t worry about calcium fortification, as you can (& should) get calcium from other food sources.