Almond milk during pregnancy: is it a good option?

Non-dairy “milks” are the latest health trend to hit all major grocery stores and your favorite coffee shops, but what about almond milk during pregnancy? 

Is adding almond milk to your smoothie the best option for your body and your baby? 

Many people make the switch from dairy milk to almond milk because of dietary or allergy concerns, but some who continue to drink dairy milk may just want to add variety to their diet or enjoy it because of the taste or consistency. 

Regardless of the reason you drink almond milk, we are covering everything you need to know here.

Is almond milk safe during pregnancy? 

There is no research on almond milk during pregnancy as it is still a relatively new product on the market. 

Almonds themselves are safe and quite a nutritious option for pregnancy due to their healthy fats, vitamin E and fiber content, but what happens when we turn them into liquid?

To make almond milk, you simply need almonds and water which lends to believe it is safe during pregnancy. However, not all almond milks are created equal.

For consistency, added flavor, and extended shelf-life many beverage companies put various preservatives or food additives in their almond milks. Some of these are completely harmless, but others have shown potentially negative effects.

One particular food additive, carrageenan, is used to thicken, emulsify, and extend the shelf-life of certain products. It is often found in vegan or vegetarian products since it is derived from plants.

A few studies have found a possible link to increased inflammation and gastrointestinal issues with excessive consumption of carrageenan and so, the National Organic Standards Board removed it from the list of approved ingredients (1, 2).

There may also be other “gums” which are used for the same reasons as carrageenan but provide no nutritional value.  

At the end of this article, we will discuss what to look for when purchasing almond milk at the store.

Is almond milk good for pregnancy?

As previously stated, there is no research on drinking almond milk during pregnancy. 

While almond milk can certainly fit into a healthy prenatal diet, it is important to note cow’s milk and almond milk are nutritionally not the same. In fact, most non-dairy milks do not share the same nutrition properties as cow’s milk (3).

Some almond milks are fortified with nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium making it a good choice for those who are allergic or sensitive to cow’s milk.

Fortified or not, almond milk is not a source of protein, iodine, or selenium so ensure you are getting plenty of these three nutrients elsewhere. 

Almond milk contains fewer calories, less sugar (if unsweetened), less protein, and fewer nutrients than cow’s milk. 

A “lower calorie” food can quickly become appealing, but pregnancy is generally not a time when we want to “count calories” or intentionally choose “low-calorie” foods. 

And, although cow’s milk does technically contain more sugar and therefore, more carbohydrates, this is naturally occurring.

Overall, almond milk can fit into a healthy prenatal diet and an unsweetened, potentially fortified option could be perfect for those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity. 

Almond milk vs. cow’s milk nutrient breakdown

Replacing all your dairy milk with almond milk is not a direct swap as you can see. 

Below are the nutritional values of both dairy milk and almond milk for an 8 oz. or 1 cup serving. 

Almond milk, unsweetened, unfortified (4)

  • Calories: 37
  • Fat: 3 g 
  • Protein: 1 g 
  • Carbs: 1 g 
  • Fiber: < 1 g 
  • Sugar: < 1 g
  • Calcium: 481 mg
  • Vitamin D: 0 g
  • Vitamin B12: 0 g
  • Potassium: 163 mg
  • Choline: 0 mg

Whole cow’s milk (5)

  • Calories: 149
  • Fat: 8 g 
  • Protein: 8 g 
  • Carbs: 12 g 
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 12 g 
  • Calcium: 276 mg
  • Vitamin D: 127 IU
  • Vitamin B12: 1.1 mcg
  • Potassium: 322 mg
  • Choline: 35 mg

Dairy from cows naturally provides many nutrients important for pregnancy such as protein, calcium, iodine, vitamin B12, probiotics, and more, so if you aren’t allergic, it is beneficial for you and for the baby during pregnancy.

What about other non-dairy milks during pregnancy?

Soy milk is a popular non-dairy beverage that has been around for ages, but more recently we have seen practically everything be liquified. 

Other non-dairy “milks” include: 

  • Oat milk 
  • Cashew milk
  • Rice milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Pea milk
  • Hemp seed milk
  • Flaxseed milk

All of the above are safe to consume during pregnancy, but again contain a wide variety of nutrients likely not equivalent to cow’s milk. Like anything else, moderation is key. 

Tips for purchasing almond milk

As stated above, all kinds of milk are not created equal nor are all kinds of almond milk. Below are some things to consider when reviewing almond milk options during your next grocery trip.

  • Choose unsweetened varieties to limit added sugar intake
  • Choose an organic option, if you can
  • Find one with two simple ingredients: almonds and water
  • Or, pick one without carrageenan
  • If you’re worried about nutrient intake, choose one that’s fortified

Alternatively, you can always make your own almond milk! 

There are a number of recipes floating around the internet touting it’s easy and has a delicious flavor.

The Bottom Line 

There is currently no research on almond milk during pregnancy, but due to the nature of the product it is safe to consume in moderation.

Since almond milk is not equivalent to cow’s milk in the way of nutrients, it is important that you make sure you are getting these nutrients elsewhere in your diet.

When purchasing almond milk during pregnancy, make sure to avoid added sugars and unnecessary additives such as carrageenan. 

By Lauren Gannon, Dietetic Intern and Ryann Kipping, RDN, CLEC | Owner & Founder

 

 

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