Is almond milk better for you than coconut milk?

Is Almond Milk Better for You Than Coconut Milk?

Almond milk and coconut milk are two popular plant-based, dairy-free alternatives to traditional cow’s milk. Each offers distinct flavors, nutritional profiles, and culinary uses. This article provides a concise comparison to help you decide which vegan milk alternative is best for your needs. Almond-milk-nutrition-vs-coconut-milk

Almond Milk Nutrition Vs Coconut Milk

 

Nutrition

Unsweetened almond milk is lower in calories (30-50) and fat (2.5-3g) per cup compared to coconut milk (45-70 calories, 4-5g fat). Coconut milk’s fat is mostly saturated, while almond milk contains no saturated fat. Both are low in carbs and protein. Almond milk is often fortified with calcium, vitamin D and E 1.

Nutrient (per cup)Almond Milk (unsweetened)Coconut Milk (unsweetened)
Calories30-5045-70
Fat2.5-3g4-5g
Saturated Fat0g4-5g
Carbohydrates1-2g1-2g
Protein1g0-1g
Calcium (% DV)30-45%*0-45%*
Vitamin D (% DV)25%*0%
Vitamin E (% DV)50%*0%

*When fortified

Health Benefits

Almond milk’s unsaturated fat may benefit heart health, while fortified versions support bone strength 2. Its low calorie content aids weight management. Coconut milk’s MCTs provide quick energy and may boost metabolism and gut health 3. Its rich texture can be satiating.

Fatty Acid Profile:

Almond Milk:

  • Mostly unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
  • Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio: approximately 6:1

Coconut Milk:

  • Predominantly saturated fats (about 90%), mainly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
  • Lauric acid (C12) is the primary MCT in coconut milk

Drawbacks

Almond milk is low in protein and some brands contain concerning additives. It’s unsuitable for those with nut allergies. Coconut milk’s high saturated fat and calorie content may not suit all diets, and its distinct flavor limits versatility.

Environmental Impact

Almond farming is water-intensive but still more efficient than dairy 4. Coconut farming can lead to deforestation. Choosing sustainably sourced brands can mitigate these issues.

Water Usage in Almond Production:

  • It takes approximately 1.1 gallons (4.16 liters) of water to produce a single almond.
  • California, which produces about 80% of the world’s almonds, has faced water scarcity issues due to almond farming.

Coconut Farming and Deforestation:

  • Coconut farming has contributed to deforestation in some countries, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • However, coconut trees can help to sequester carbon dioxide and support biodiversity when grown sustainably.

Culinary Uses

Almond milk’s mild, nutty taste suits cereals, smoothies, baking, coffee, and more. Coconut milk’s rich, creamy texture excels in curries, tropical drinks, and desserts. Its strong flavor may overpower some dishes.

Taste and Texture

Almond milk has a light, slightly nutty taste and a thin consistency similar to skim milk. Coconut milk is much richer and creamier, with a distinctive tropical flavor that can be overpowering in some recipes.

Homemade Recipes

Making your own almond or coconut milk is easy and allows control over ingredients. Soak almonds or blend shredded coconut with water, then strain for homemade milk.

How to Choose

Almond milk suits those seeking a low-calorie, versatile option. Coconut milk is ideal for rich, creamy dishes and those who enjoy its distinctive taste. Consider nutrition, environmental impact, and recipe needs when deciding.

Digestive Considerations

For those with digestive sensitivities, the choice between almond and coconut milk may depend on individual tolerances. Some people find the additives in commercial almond milk, such as carrageenan, to be gut irritants. In this case, additive-free or homemade versions may be better tolerated. Coconut milk is generally low in FODMAPs, making it a friendly option for those following a low-FODMAP diet for IBS relief 5. As always, individual responses vary.

Nutrient Absorption

While both almond and coconut milk can be fortified with calcium, it’s important to note that the added calcium may not be as bioavailable as the calcium found naturally in dairy milk. The calcium in plant milks can settle to the bottom of the carton, so shaking before pouring is crucial. Adding a source of vitamin D, like a few minutes of sunshine, can boost calcium absorption from plant milks.

Allergies and Intolerances

Those with nut allergies should strictly avoid almond milk, as even small amounts can trigger reactions. Coconut, while not a botanical nut, can still cause allergic responses in some individuals. If you have a history of nut allergies, consult with your allergist before trying coconut milk. Both milks are naturally lactose-free, making them suitable for those with lactose intolerance who don’t require the same protein content as dairy milk.

Pricing and Availability

Almond milk and coconut milk are both widely available at most supermarkets, health food stores, and even convenience stores. Shelf-stable versions can be stored in the pantry until opened, offering a convenient option for those who don’t consume milk regularly. Pricing varies by brand and retailer, but both tend to be more expensive than cow’s milk, with coconut milk often priced slightly higher than almond milk. Homemade versions are generally the most cost-effective option.

Kid-Friendliness

When choosing a plant milk for children, it’s important to consider nutrient density, as little ones have high calorie and nutrient needs for their size. Almond and coconut milk are often lower in protein and calories than cow’s or soy milk, so they may not be the best choice as a primary milk source for young children. Fortified, unsweetened soy milk is often recommended as the closest equivalent to dairy milk for kids 6. However, almond or coconut milk can still be incorporated into a well-rounded diet for kids over age one, with a focus on other protein and calorie sources.

The Bottom Line

Both almond and coconut milk can be nutritious, tasty additions to a balanced, plant-based diet. Almond milk’s low calorie and fat content may benefit weight and heart health, while coconut milk’s richness and MCTs offer satiety and energy. Yet both have drawbacks, from almond milk’s low protein to coconut milk’s high saturated fat. Ultimately, the best choice depends on individual priorities. Incorporating both in different ways can maximize their unique advantages as part of a diverse, plant-forward eating pattern.

Conclusion

In the battle of almond milk vs. coconut milk, there is no clear winner. Both offer unique nutritional benefits, flavors, and culinary uses that can enhance a well-rounded, vegan or dairy-free diet. When choosing between these two plant-based milk alternatives, consider your individual health goals, taste preferences, and environmental priorities. Whether you opt for creamy coconut milk in your curry, refreshing almond milk in your smoothie, or a bit of both, you can feel good about incorporating these versatile, plant-based options into your lifestyle. How-can-i-use-almond-milk-pulp

Leave a Comment