Almond milk is vegan for the sole reason that it is a plant-based product.
However, vegans must be careful in adding almond milk brands to their carts. It is possible that vegan milk products still have animal byproducts to adjust the taste and nutritional contents of the milk.
Even as almond milk is derived from a plant source, it remains one of the most controversial products in the vegan community. Most people consider it vegan-approved, but there are also some who believe that almond milk doesn’t pass the standards for a legitimately vegan food product.
Why Is Almond Milk Vegan?
If we are talking about plain almond milk, then there is no doubt that it is vegan. Almond milk is extracted from almond nuts. These nuts are harvested from almond trees, which are mostly grown in orchards or plantations.
Even if almond milk is called milk, you should never doubt whether it is vegan or not. There is this notion that any food products that contain milk and other dairy goods are automatically non-vegan. Clearly, this is not the case with almond milk.
Almond milk, like other plant-derived milk products such as rice milk and soy milk, contains zero animal contents. Almond milk is made when almonds are crushed or ground then soaked in hot water for up to 48 hours.
Afterward, the white and creamy liquid will be visible from the soaked almonds. The crushed almond nuts are removed while the liquid extract is mixed thoroughly until the thickness of the liquid becomes consistent.
The white liquid extracted from the nuts is pure almond milk. See that there are no animal derivatives used in the process of making almond milk. It all depends, however, if a manufacturer decides to add non-vegan ingredients such as animal fats and protein to improve the taste and available nutrients of almond milk.
What Are The Differences Between Almond Milk And Animal-Based Milk?
Almond milk is a good vegan alternative to regular milk. Although, milk derived from animals is naturally-enriched with vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D. It is also a great source of protein.
Pure almond milk, on the other hand, lacks all the nutrients that regular milk has to offer. If you compare almond milk with cow’s milk, the latter wins in terms of essential minerals. Thus, milk manufacturers add these minerals to store-bought almond milk for it to become the perfect alternative to traditional milk.
The most common added nutrients to plant-based milk products such as almond milk are protein and calcium. Vegans do not need to worry about the source of these additional nutrients as they are also completely plant-derived.
With store-bought almond milk fortified with extra nutrients, it would now appear to be on par with regular milk. However, we have not yet mentioned all the perks of taking almond milk that will make the latter the real winner in this milk showdown.
For starters, almond milk has plenty of vitamin E that animal-based milk does not have. It also has a low-calorie count compared to traditional milk, which is perfect for those people who are focused on controlling their weight. One cup of almond milk contains only half of the total calories present in 1 cup of regular cow’s milk.
You must also know that almond milk contains 90% unsaturated fat, unlike traditional milk. People trying to keep their cholesterol levels in check for improved cardiovascular health can get a lot of benefits from taking products with unsaturated fat contents.
Almond milk sure sounds like the ideal vegan milk, but there are still reasons to remain cautious about the other extra ingredients contained in the milk package. While the added nutrients in store-bought almond milk come from plant sources, particularly soybeans, some manufacturers opt to add sweeteners and flavor enhancers as well. Most of the time, these additional flavors are not vegan-friendly. This will be explained further later on.
Advantages Of Choosing Plant-Derived Milk Over Animal-Based Milk
Traditional milk derived from animals is always thought to be the perfect source of building block nutrients for the body. However, its high level of unsaturated fat balances out all the pros of consuming traditional milk.
If you want to get the essential minerals present in regular milk, you can have them instead in plant-based foods such as spinach, kale, and cauliflower. If you prefer taking these minerals in the form of milk, you have your plant-based milk just sitting on the store shelves, waiting for you to pick them up.
Another great advantage of choosing plant-derived milk such as almond milk over traditional milk is the zero risk of developing digestive problems and nutrient malabsorption due to lactose intolerance.
People who are actually lactose intolerant have the best reason to switch to plant-based milk. This can also be their first step to being a full-fledged vegan.
Now, some people might tell you that animal milk is actually vegan because it is not made by slaughtering livestock animals. Milk is only extracted from them in farms that are allegedly cruelty-free.
In this case, you must be aware of the main difference between vegetarianism and veganism. Consuming food products that are not made of the remains of slaughtered animals is the concern of vegetarians. Vegans, on the other hand, are not only cautious about animal derivatives in their food.
If a food product is made by exploiting animals, then it is not vegan-friendly. In fact, veganism is not only exclusive to food as any products that require the exploitation of animals are refused by vegans.
It is a big win for the vegan movement to see more and more people switching to plant-based milk over the past couple of years. As a result, milk manufacturers have been creating more viable options for their vegan consumers.
Almond milk is one of the wonderful milk alternatives that are good for vegans. However, as we always know, choosing the right store-bought product requires a little bit of research to confirm if it really vegan-approved
Non-Vegan Ingredients Found In Almond Milk Products
Pure almond milk in itself is vegan. However, as mentioned in the earlier sections, store-bought almond milk already has added contents that may deem the product as non-vegan.
Almond milk is mostly made of water, almond extracts, added vitamins and minerals, natural thickeners, natural flavors, and sweeteners. Out of all these almond milk ingredients, sweeteners are the ones that you should be concerned about as a vegan.
When it comes to minerals, natural flavors, and thickeners, these are most likely plant-based. Milk manufacturers can get additional nutrients and flavors from other plant sources to include in almond milk. As for thickeners, they are basically carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, and locust bean gum, which are also completely derived from plants.
See to it that the sweeteners used in the almond milk product are all plant-based. While a product can be presented as organic and vegan, dairy can still be present in it in the form of dairy.
Some manufacturers will not clearly indicate in the packaging that the product has dairy. Read the back of the label or the allergen warning to confirm if the product actually has dairy ingredients.
Another non-vegan sweetener that could sneak into your almond milk is honey. Some of you might react that honey is vegan because it does not contain animal derivatives. However, it is made by exploiting bee colonies, forcing them to generate loads of beeswax every day.
Nonetheless, almond milk manufacturers are less likely to include non-vegan content in their products. It would be a waste of effort to produce milk that is supposedly vegan, only to add animal-derived products to it. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be a little cautious.
Why Almond Milk Might Not Be Suitable For Vegans
Growing Almond Trees Drains Too Much Water From The Environment
Almond plantations are known to require huge amounts of water. Almonds are a very thirsty crop, with an acre of mature almond trees needing around 1.3 million gallons of water per year to sustain them.
In fact, almonds are considered the second thirstiest crop in California, which are enough to drain the irrigation water supply in the state by 15 percent. Therefore, growing almond trees is believed by some people to be harmful to the environment. For some vegans, any practice that endangers the environment also endangers the animals that depend on it.
Exploitation Of Honey Bees To Pollinate Almond Trees
There is also a debate even among the vegans themselves if animal exploitation is actually involved in the production of almond milk. Like honey, almond milk could have also depended on the exploitation of bee colonies.
Almond nuts are made when the flowers in an almond tree are successfully pollinated by bees. Therefore, bees must play a huge role in the production of almond milk.
However, the extent of the exploitation of bees to harvest almonds is still up for debate. There are some vegans who believe that bees also get benefits from pollinating almond trees. Therefore, there may not be actual exploitation involved in the production of almond milk.
In a nutshell, almond milk is one of the most vegan-friendly milk alternatives that you can find. Just like in any other product, there are other ingredients in store-bought almond milk that are non-vegan, but these can easily be spotted by checking the label. Contacting the manufacturer or the supplier is also an option for you if you want to be extra careful.
There are many interesting discussions surrounding the status of almond milk as a truly vegan product. Regardless of these debates, consuming almond milk does not break any vegan rules that are acknowledged by the vegan community.