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Q I’ve heard a lot lately about plant-based milks, es­pe­cially al­mond milk. Should I make the switch to them? Me­lanie, via email

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - NEWS - Cather­ine Sax­elby Food­watch Ac­cred­ited Prac­tic­ing Di­eti­tian

Your ques­tion is a timely one, given the pop­u­lar­ity lately of plant-based milks. Made from ground al­monds, al­mond milk is low in carbs, pro­tein and kilo­joules, and has a pleas­ant nutty flavour that makes a nice milky cof­fee (think al­mond latte).

If unsweet­ened, it can be used as a sub­sti­tute for reg­u­lar milk in many recipes. How­ever, most com­mer­cial al­mond milks have vanilla flavour added, ac­com­pa­nied by a lit­tle sugar or a sweet­ener like agave.

Compared to full-fat cow’s milk, al­mond milk has al­most no pro­tein or fat, twice as many carbs, and lit­tle cal­cium, un­less it’s been for­ti­fied. Think of it as skim milk but with­out the pro­tein or cal­cium. Even when for­ti­fied, its cal­cium is not as well ab­sorbed as that of cow’s milk.

Al­mond milk comes into its own if you’re allergic to both dairy and soy, or if you fol­low a ve­gan diet. Just re­mem­ber that it is not at all equiv­a­lent nu­tri­tion­ally to reg­u­lar milk. So if you drink it a lot or give it to chil­dren, buy one that’s cal­cium-en­riched.

This is an edited ex­tract from the Com­plete Food and Nu­tri­tion Com­pan­ion by Cather­ine Sax­elby (Hardie Grant Books; RRP $39.99). Avail­able in stores na­tion­ally.

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