Well I may be a nut and seed obsessed nutritionist BUT there are numerous benefits to consuming a plant based alternative to dairy and contrary to popular opinion, almond milk is not a new fad.  In the early 1800s the author Brillat-Savarin talks of chocolate mixed with almond milk as medicine to calm the nervous system.

The use of almond milk for soups and stews was commonplace in the middle ages and it is mentioned in many texts to date back to Ancient Egypt.So, almond milk benefits: truth or myth:     Almonds and almond milk benefits involve their ability to lower bad cholesterol levels, regulate blood glucose, promote skin health and even enhance endurance during sport.

Well these are pretty impressive claims, so I want to give you a few more details about almonds and their health benefits and dispel the myth. Almonds are a good source of protein.  Almond milk varies in its protein content depending on whether it’s commercially made or home-made.   Commercial products will also vary.

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Better absorbed.  For individuals with digestive issues, almond milk is an excellent alternative.     Almonds promote the growth of beneficial gut flora, increasing the population of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the gut and enhancing digestion.  Conversely, milk proteins are not easily absorbed for many individuals as the enzyme needed to digest milk in the gut is absent.

almond milk benefits_2

The monounsaturated fatty acids in almonds endow them with their cholesterol lowering ability.   Studies have shown that almonds can lower LDL cholesterol levels after just four weeks of supplementation. Almonds contain good levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may protect against the harmful effects of the sun, has anti-inflammatory properties and fights free radicals.

Another of almond milk’s benefits is blood sugar regulation.  It is considered that nut consumption may reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes and in fact a study showed that eating almonds at breakfast reduces blood glucose concentrations and promotes a feeling of fullness.   Almond milk on your cereal perhaps?

Endurance during sport is an important aspect of any exercise regime.    In a study by a sports nutrition journal, almond consumption over 4 weeks improved cyclists’ performance and increased their cycling distance by almost 2km.

Apart from the physical effects of almonds,   Ayurvedic practitioners consider almonds to be one of the best of all nuts, intensifying spirituality and helping to balance the mind.

I personally love almond milk and use it for cereal, smoothies and puddings.  Here are a few of my recipes…

Almond milk and banana smoothie

– 1 ½  cups almond milk

– 1 banana

– 1oz ground almonds

– 1 teaspoon agave syrup (or to taste)

– Blend all ingredients.

– Add some cocoa powder or raw cacao for a chocolate shake.

Brown rice pudding

– 3 oz brown rice

– 1 pint of almond milk

– 1 oz brown sugar

– 3 oz sultanas

– 3 tbsps flaked almonds

– Grated ginger and nutmeg

Lightly butter a 2 pint dish, Boil the rice until water absorbed. Add milk and sugar and bring to the boil.  Pour mixture into prepared dish and add sultanas. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cook for 1 – 1 and a half hours. When serving, stir in almonds and ginger.

Healthier chocolate mousse

– 1 ripe avocado, peeled and stoned

– 250mls of almond milk

– 1 tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

– 1 tsp almond extract

– 1tsp cinnamon

– Fresh berries to decorate

– Blend all ingredients (except berries) in a food processor until smooth and chill before serving

References

Jenkins, D, J,A.,  Kendall. C,W, C., Marchie. A., Josse. A.R., 3,5, Nguyen. T.H.,  Faulkner. D. A., Lapsley. K.G., and Blumberg. J (2008) Almonds Reduce Biomarkers of Lipid Peroxidation in Older Hyperlipidemic Subjects.   Available from:  http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/5/908.full

Yi. M., , Fu. J., Zhou.L., Gao.H., Fan.C., Shao. J., Xu.O., Wang.O, Li.J., Huang.H., Lapsley.K., Blumberg.J.B., and Chen.C.Y. (2014)  The effect of almond consumption on elements of endurance exercise performance in trained athletes.   Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition Available from:  http://www.jissn.com/content/11/1/18

Mandalari.G., Nueno-Palop.C., Bisignano.G,  Wickham.M.S.J.,  and Narbad.A. (2008)  Potential Prebiotic Properties of Almond (Amygdalus communis L.) Seeds. Applied and Environmental Microbiology.   Available from:  http://aem.asm.org/content/74/14/4264.full

Brillat-Savarin, J. A. (1825/1915) The evolution of human nutrition. The Physiology of Taste (Physiologie du Goût) Houghton Mifflin New York, NY.

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