26 Mar 2016
What’s the Deal with Low FODMAP Almond Milk?
I hear it all the time … how is it that almond milk is OK on the low FODMAP diet, but almonds themselves are not .. how exactly does this work?
While we’re not exactly sure why this is, it would appear that like tofu, the processing of almonds into the form of almond milk helps break down some of the FODMAP content. While this process doesn’t involve fermentation, the amount of almond “pulp” (what contains most of the indigestible fibre) that results after you create almond milk should give you an indication that what is left in the actual milk is not that much.
Almond milk actually use to be a common drink in medieval Europe. As with most “trends” almond milk is making a huge reappearance, even making its way into mainstream shopping aisles! Good quality brands (not what you’ll find in mainstream supermarkets) make their milk by simply blending almonds with some water, perhaps a little Himalayan sea salt. Of course you can do this yourself provided you have a high-speed blender, however if (like me) you’re pressed for time, then it’s important to have a fail-safe alternative you can know and trust. I use the Luz Almond company’s original cold-pressed Almond Milk, and have never looked back. Their milk tastes just like my home made milk, and the price is reasonable given the quality too.
The milk itself is slightly beige in colour, a little more watery than cow’s milk or coconut milk yet still boasting a nutty, creamy texture.
Recently, the UK Institute of Food Research found finely ground almonds contain potential prebiotic properties that could help boost digestive health by increasing the levels of certain beneficial bacteria in the stomach. Due to its natural high fibre content, almond milk is often prescribed as an alternative to dairy, even in those who are not lactose intolerant, as a way of treating constipation.
While almond milk is inherently low FODMAP, I do find a big difference in my symptoms when I “activate” the almonds prior to blending. What does this mean? Simply soaking the almonds in some filtered water for up to 6 hours, then discarding the soaking water and rinsing with clean filtered water before blending. This removes the phytic acid (phytate) – i.e., the storage form of a plant’s phosphorus, and antioxidant to the seed in times of oxidative stress. When something that contains phytic acid – e.g., an almond, is eaten, phytic acid binds to minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, and manganese in the gastrointestinal tract, unless it’s reduced or nullified by “activation” (i.e., soaking them prior to remove the phytic acid). Companies such as Luz Almond, only use activated nuts, which is why you can notice a big difference between the flavour & digestive aftermath compared to something like a store-brought UHT almond milk. It is also important to note many of these “healthy milks” you can find in the long-life section of supermarkets nowadays contain stabilisers, sweeteners, and other nasties. Half the time I’d almost prefer people drink regular cow’s milk! Skim the ingredients lists – if you see numbers or long words that you’ve never heard before, put the carton back down!
There are several reason I love mixing up my milk repertoire with a range of plant-based options (including almond, sesame, pumpkin, macadamia, rice, gluten-free oat) … but I always seem to come back to good old almond milk. Why? Well …
- Taste: After macadamia and coconut milk, almond milk is one of the creamiest options … and given I’m not Rockefeller, macadamia milk is a luxury vs. a regular occurrence.
- It is a great source of calcium: while different varieties will vary, almond milk can provide up to 30% of your recommend daily intake of calcium, as well as up to 25% of your daily vitamin D requirements – vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is often lacking in the diets of vegans, so two thumbs up from a nutritional perspective. Together, calcium & vitamin D work to ensure your bones & teeth remain healthy into old age
- It’s better for heart health: being plant-based, there’s no cholesterol or saturated fat in almond milk. This is what distinguishes it from other yummy creamy plant-based milks like coconut. While the saturated fat found in coconuts cannot be compared to the saturated fat found in say, a chunk of steak, it is still not something that should be consumed in large quantities over a regular basis. Almond milk is high in the best type of fats – omega fatty acids (i.e., what is found in fish), which aids in the prevention of high blood pressure & heart disease
- It won’t mess up BSL (blood sugar levels): almond milk (especially Luz Almond’s natural or homemade almond milk) is low in carbs, meaning it won’t increase blood sugar levels to the point of most other milks
- The B vitamins (e.g., riboflavin & iron) help to build & strengthen muscles
- It is a great source of fibre, important for maintaining regularity & promoting bowel-related health issues
- It is a lactose, low FODMAP & gluten free alternative – perfect for those of us with sensitivities (most of us with digestive issues)
- It contributes to glowing skin: almond milk is a great source of vitamin E, also known as “the beauty vitamin” in that it contains antioxidant properties essential to your skin’s health (protecting you from UV damage)
- It contributes to shiny hair: again, thanks to the high vitamin E content
- It’s better for weight management: naturally lower in calories (around 100 per cup), it makes a great substitute to cow’s milk
So there you have it! If you haven’t already, check out The FODMAP Friendly Vegan eBook, where many of the recipes include almond milk. You’ll also find a bunch of resources, recipe, exercise, and equipment guides.
Who says being a vegan means you can’t enjoy milk & cookies hey?! 😉