They swoop into our daily lives as swiftly and abruptly as they flee. Fads regarding health and nutrition have become somewhat of a trend in themselves. It seems like every week superfluous magazines and discreditable articles pop up advertising the latest food movement.
It is up to readers as well as professionals to be aware of what is fact and what is fad. As a healthcare professional, I feel it is my duty to shed some light on the facts and fiction of elusive food items – and whether or not they should be celebrated or ignored altogether.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
So many milk varieties!
Often times, a trend begins when a product comes in many different varieties. You will likely find the most variety in the dairy section. There are so many different versions of milk, it’s hard to keep up. There’s whole, 1%, reduced fat, fat free, chocolate coconut, soy and the hardest to explain – almond milk.
Almond milk and weight loss: myth or truth?
Articles have claimed that almond milk aids in weight management and weight loss. But is this true? Can you lose weight by switching to almond milk?
We all know that almonds themselves are extremely nutrient-dense, but they are also highly caloric. Wouldn’t that be the same for almond milk? The ultimate question becomes: is almond milk fattening? Should it be consumed by those attempting to lose weight? I hope to clarify some of the confusion that surrounds this current trend.
On the nutrition label of a popular commercial almond milk brand, I found that a single cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 30 calories. Just to give you some perspective, the same amount of fat free milk contains 80 calories. And while almond milk contains 2 ½ grams of fat, none of it is trans or saturated fat. Which also means that you will not find any cholesterol.
Yes, you’re veins and arteries are rejoicing at just the thought of a fat-free, cholesterol-free alternative to our favorite beverage. But just like anything else that seems too good to be true, there’s a catch.
If I were trying to make an easy transition from regular milk to almond milk, I would probably purchase a vanilla flavored variety. The original, unflavored version, is hard to compare to milk, at least because of its blandness, and is closer to the texture of water.
When you throw vanilla flavor into the mix, the calories rise to 90 per cup; and the sugar doubles to 16 grams per cup. The chocolate version of this product contains 100 calories and 17g of sugar per cup. Here is where the claim becomes misleading.
To the uneducated consumer, one who is naturally inclined to choose a flavored version, almond milk is deceivingly the better alternative to milk when hoping for weight loss. But sugar is sneaky; perhaps the most mischievous factor that can sabotage your weight loss progress.
Weight loss sabotage: here’s why!
Throughout the day your body is busy burning calories just by carrying out normal, daily activities. Your body relies on fats, protein and of course carbohydrates to function.
When you consume more sugar than your body has the ability to burn, it seeks a place to reserve all of this unused energy and decides to store it in fat cells. In other words, any sugar that you do not burn directly gets converted to fat and can accumulate rather quickly.
Sugar does not have a recommended daily value. The USDA is unable to put a maximum or minimum on sugar, because it is not a nutrient. For this reason, many professionals, myself included, suggest limiting excess sugars as much as possible – that does not include the sugars carried by fruits and vegetables.
The Power of Protein
If you were to compare the nutrients in cow’s milk vs. almond milk, you will find a couple of things.
First of all, almond milk is not a good source of protein, especially the essential amino acids that the body cannot make itself. Cow’s milk provides a good source of protein that can help boost satiety and build lean muscle mass. Even fortified almond milk only provides about 5 grams of protein overall.
Another downside is that almond milk is not a good source of calcium. Calcium is an important factor in maintaining strong bones. It plays a major role in delaying conditions like osteoporosis.
Switching over to almond milk is a decision where you need to weigh the pros and cons for your particular case. If you are lactose intolerant, then sure, almond milk is a good alternative. If you are seeking weight loss and think almond milk is your key, then think again.
To read more about Bonnie Giller, visit her Expert Profile.