In addition to being better for your body than cow’s milk, almond milk is also just as versatile as animal milk – perhaps even more so. It can be used in baking, cooking, smoothies, ice cream, or just enjoyed straight up. You can also mix up the flavor of your almond milk with the addition of other nuts, fruits, and spices. When you juice your own almond milk, you give yourself the opportunity to get creative and make a delicious, versatile beverage to boost you and your family’s health.
Almond milk sales have skyrocketed over the last couple of years with more and more people becoming aware of the health risks associated with dairy milk and soy milk. With this huge increase in demand, suppliers have had to step up to the plate, and keep production flowing. The problem is, that in keeping up with the demand, the resulting product is one that you should probably keep as far away from your fridge as possible. Not only are top almond milk brands practically void of almonds (and the awesome nutrients and health benefits that go along with them), but they are also filled with dangerous preservatives, chemicals, and additives that can be damaging to your health and well-being.
First, let’s talk about the almond-to-water ratio in your almond milk. When you make almond milk at home, you can control the amount of water that goes into your beverage. Usually, the ratio is about one cup of almonds to 2-4 cups of water (depending on how thick you like it), which means that your resulting product is 25%-50% almond goodness. Most store-bought almond milk, on the other hand, contains only a measly 2% almonds. Which means, when you buy almond milk from the store, you are spending 98% of your money on water and added chemicals and sugar, and only 2% of it on nutrient-rich almonds. Talk about a rip-off!
So, you might be wondering, if store-bought almond milk is mostly just water, what makes it so thick and tasty? We’re glad you asked. Commercial almond milk has a huge amount of added sugar to make up for the lack of flavor. One cup of original almond milk (only 2% of which is actually almonds) typically contains seven grams of sugar. Vanilla almond milk can have anywhere from eight grams, all the way up to sixteen grams of sugar, depending on the brand. In comparison, one-half cup of whole almonds only has three grams of sugar naturally. Considering that there is nowhere near one-half cup of almonds in store-bought almond milk, we must ask, where is all that extra sugar coming from? While the term “sugar” is often missing from ingredient labels on store-bought almond milk brands, what you’ll usually see instead is the phrase “evaporated cane juice.” It sounds natural and exotic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. As a spokesperson from U.S. Sugar stated, “All sugar is evaporated cane juice…they just use that for a natural-sounding name for a product.” Even the FDA has issued a guidance, discouraging manufacturers from using the term, believing that the phrase deceives people into thinking that they are consuming something healthier than they really are. You may think that you are getting something natural, but in reality, you’re just getting a bunch of added sugar.
Now that we’ve covered the tasty part, let’s cover the thickness. One of the scariest items on that ingredient list is carrageenan. Found in a lot of processed foods, carrageenan is a thickener derived from seaweed. Unfortunately, even though it is derived from such a nutrient-rich superfood, carrageenan can actually be really harmful to your body. While the FDA has declared it safe for consumption, many studies have shown that this additive can cause serious gastrointestinal problems, when consumed regularly. Your body recognizes carrageenan the same way it recognizes Salmonella – as an enemy invader that it must attack. This causes inflammation in your body, which leads to ulcerations. It’s even been linked to gastrointestinal cancer in lab animals. Not exactly something you want to be pouring on your cereal in the morning, is it?
While almond milk labels often claim to be chalked-full of vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E (nutrients found naturally in almonds), what they are actually chalked-full of is the synthetic versions of these vitamins. Synthetic vitamins are chemicals grown in a laboratory, and your body doesn’t recognize them like it does vitamins found in nature. Not only do these nutrient imposters have nowhere near the health benefits of the real deal, but they can actually cause health complications. For instance, the synthetic version of vitamin A (Vitamin A Palmitate) has been shown to be a contributing factor in birth defects, joint disorders, menstrual abnormalities, and osteoporosis. Vitamin D2 (vitamin D’s lab-grown imitator) is well-known for causing toxicity, with symptoms ranging from headaches to abdominal cramps. You know how so many almond milk brands advertise as being an excellent source of calcium? Well, that’s not exactly true. Rather than natural calcium, almond milk is supplemented with calcium carbonate, which has been associated with cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, kidney stones, and other serious health conditions. Also contributing to prostate cancer is di-alpha tocopherol acetate, a synthetic version of vitamin E that doesn’t come from nature at all, but rather from petroleum. That’s right. The same substance that creates kerosene and gasoline also creates a “vitamin” that you might be drinking every day. Not exactly the type of fuel we were looking for.
With so many dangerous additives hiding in your (barely) almond milk, it’s clear that your health is not a priority for these store-bought brands. So, what can you do? Make your own almond milk at home! Unlike its mass-manufactured counterparts, homemade almond milk is free of lab-rat killing ingredients, full of nature-based, health benefiting nutrients, and it tastes significantly better (even without all that added sugar). Plus, once you consider the nut to water ratio, it’s also a lot more cost effective.
Yes, almonds may seem expensive, and yes, you may be able to get that half gallon of almond milk for only a few dollars at the grocery store, but consider what you are getting. Remember, store-bought almond milk only contains about 2% almonds. That means that for, let’s say $2.99, you are getting roughly 0.64 ounces of almonds in that half gallon, which equals out to about $4.67 per ounce of actual almond content. Almonds typically run from about $7 to $15 per pound, depending on where you get them and whether or not they’re organic. If you use a 1:4 ratio of almonds to milk, that means that you are spending anywhere from $0.29 – $0.63 per ounce for actual almonds in the milk you juice yourself. Even if you use a whole pound of almonds to make a half gallon, you are still only spending between $0.44 and $0.94 per ounce. That’s definitely cheaper than the store-bought version, making homemade almond milk easier on both your body and your wallet.
So, what do you need to make your own almond milk? Most people are intimidated by the idea of making their own nut milk, picturing some complicated, labor-intensive project involving all sorts of special machinery. In reality, pretty much all you need is a juicer! You can’t use just any juicer, though. You need a slow juicer, such as a masticating juiceror a cold press juicer. These juicers work slowly, pressing the ingredients to save the most nutrients, and are tough enough to handle just about anything. If you don’t already have a slow juicer, making the investment may seem a bit daunting. Once you consider the numerous health, taste, and financial benefits of homemade almond milk, though, you’ll see that a one-time purchase of a quality juicer is well worth it. Good quality slow juicers usually start at around $220, and go up into the $1,000+ range. That’s not to say you need to drop a couple of grand for a juicer – a $300 juicer will work great. Slow juicers also work infinitely better than centrifugal juicers when it comes to juicing leafy greens and other juice-resistant fruits and veggies, so you will get much more use out of it than just making nut milk (as if that wasn’t enough of a reason on its own).
Other than a juicer, all you’ll need is a colander for draining and rinsing the almonds, a sealed container for storing, and something to strain the almond milk. Many people prefer to use a nut milk bag for straining, which is usually the easiest and most effective method for getting the most milk out of your almonds. The bags typically cost between $9 and $15, are easy to wash, and can be used again and again. Or, if you don’t have a nut bag on hand, you can always use cheesecloth, a tea towel, or even a fine mesh strainer will do the trick. That’s it!
Now, let’s get to the good part – how it’s done. There are many different recipes and variations out there, but all incorporate the same basic process. To make a basic batch of almond milk, first soak the almonds in a sealed container in the refrigerator overnight. The almonds need ample time to soak to soften up before the juicer can efficiently process them. Soaking also reduces the amount of phytic acid in the nuts, making it easier for your body to digest. After soaking, use the colander to rinse the almonds thoroughly until the liquid runs completely clear. Next, add water to your nuts. For one cup of almonds, you can add anywhere from two to four cups of water. The more water you add, the more watery your milk will be. Many people prefer a 1:3 ratio. Next, ladle your almonds slowly into your slow juicer, along with the water. Once all of your almond-water mixture is juiced, you can make the milk even smoother by straining the milk. If using a milk bag, cheesecloth, or similar method, place the milk inside, and with clean hands, squeeze every last bit of milk out. While it isn’t necessary to strain your almond milk, many people prefer to, as it gives the milk a smoother texture. That’s all there is to it! Aside from the time it takes to soak the almonds, you can have delicious, homemade almond milk in a matter of minutes. It can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Want to add some extra flavor to your almond milk? Sweeten it up with a natural sweetener, such as honey, agave, or pure maple syrup. A little bit goes a long way, and it is sure to be much tastier and healthier than the “evaporated cane juice” found in the store-bought varieties. Or, add some dates and/or vanilla beans to your almonds while they soak, and put them right in the juicer with your nuts. You could also add some cinnamon or sea salt. This is your chance to get creative, and come up with a flavor that you love. Change up each batch, and get some variety in your week. Tracee Sloan of JuiceRecipes.com has some great tips and recipe suggestions, found here. You could also try adding fruit or ginger root, as is done in this video. Use a combination of natural ingredients to make some delicious chocolate almond milk, as is shown here. Start experimenting to find out which flavors delight your taste buds.
One concern many people have with juicing is the amount of byproduct that is created. True, your juicer can’t get 100% of the almonds turned into frothy milk, but that doesn’t mean it has to go to waste. Rather, it just means you get double the product! With a slow juicer, the byproduct comes out mostly dry, and it can easily be stored in the freezer for use in breads, cakes, granola, and even to make your own almond flour! So, not only are you getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to your almond milk purchase, but you are getting the added bonus of an awesome gluten-free baking ingredient with many uses. Click here for some ideas on how to use your leftover almond meal.
The almond isn’t the only nut that you can make into a tasty, nutritious beverage. If almonds don’t float your boat, you could always try cashews, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans. Each have their own special set of health benefits, and their own unique nutty flavor. Coconut milk is also very popular these days, and like almond milk, it is much healthier, tastier, and cost effective to make it at home, rather than buying it in the store. One of the healthiest and least expensive alternatives is oat milk. Yes, you can make a delicious, nutrient-filled, protein-rich milk from oats, right in your juicer! Find some of our favorite recipes for various milks below, and start juicing to find the right one for your family!