There are plenty of reasons why almond and other non-dairy milks have become so popular. They’re vegan, made from natural ingredients (usually), and can contain several essential nutrients.
Whether you’re lactose or dairy intolerant, or just like the taste and texture, you may have wondered if there are benefits to drinking almond milk during pregnancy.
Here’s a breakdown of whether it’s better than cows’ milk, the benefits and nutrients, and also safety information about almond milk, too.
Is Almond Milk Good for Pregnant Women? Is It Healthy?
Almond milk is safe to drink during pregnancy. It’s much better for you if it’s both unsweetened and without added thickeners or artificial flavorings.
Brands can differ a lot, so always check the nutrition label before buying it to drink when you’re pregnant. Or, you could make your own (there’s a helpful video at the end of this article).
It is usually fortified, which is one of its benefits during pregnancy. It often has added calcium, and vitamins D and E.
It has approximately half the calories of cows’ milk (if it’s unsweetened), but this isn’t necessarily a reason to drink it if you incorporate cows’ milk into a healthy pregnancy diet.
The biggest benefit of it is if you’re lactose intolerant, or otherwise unable or unwilling to drink cows’ milk in pregnancy.
A deeper comparison of the two milks is below.
Almond Milk v Cows’ Milk During Pregnancy
Almond milk has some drawbacks compared to regular cows’ milk.
A study in Finland suggested that moderate cows’ milk consumption resulted in babies with fetal growth and healthier birth weight (source: Food & Nutrition Research Journal). No such studies have yet been conducted on almond milk consumption during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant, you may be aware that “drinking milk” is recommended due to its calcium content. It’s not often specified, but this usually means cows’ milk.
If you can’t drink cow’s milk for dietary or allergy reasons, then it can be a perfect substitute. However, if you CAN drink cows’ milk, then it’s still an overall better choice than almond milk.
This is because cows’ milk is a good source of protein (including essential amino acids), phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, and selenium (source: NutritionData).
In 2017 a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that almost all ‘alternative’ non-dairy milks were low in iodine. Cows’ milk is a good source of iodine, which is essential for fetal development during pregnancy (source: PubMed).
Therefore, if you choose to drink this kind of milk rather than cows’ milk, then ensure you’re getting enough iodine from other sources.
Which is the Best Almond Milk? Ingredients & Brands
Choosing the ‘best’ almond milk usually depends what you’re using it for. However, during pregnancy it’s a good idea to choose almond milk that is unsweetened, and has no added sugar.
This milk in its simplest form is just ground almonds and water, but many brands add other ingredients (besides sugar), such as thickeners in the form of gums or emulsifiers. Some are fortified, with added essential vitamins and minerals.
In general, during pregnancy you should opt for brands that are:
- Pasteurized or heat treated
- Contain no added sugar or sweeteners (labeled ‘unsweetened’)
- Fortified, if you prefer (usually calcium and vitamin D)
Avoid or limit consumption of almond milk that:
- Is high in added sugar. This adds unnecessary calories and will spike your blood sugar level – something that can be an issue, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- Contains gums or emulsifiers. Although safe in small amounts, one study identified gut problems caused by carrageenan, a common thickener made from seaweed (source: Palacky University).
Is Almond Breeze Good During Pregnancy?
This is a common question because Almond Breeze is probably one of the most popular brands of almond milk.
The same tips written above apply – choose unsweetened versions of Almond Breeze rather than the original.
Is Soy Milk or Almond Milk Better for Pregnancy?
If you’re avoiding cows’ milk because you have allergies, are lactose intolerant, or are avoiding dairy products, then your options include almond or soy milks (plus others like oat and coconut).
Soy milk is safe during pregnancy (source: NHS). It’s better to choose fortified, unsweetened versions as you would with almond milk.
Soy milk has more protein content than almond milk and is naturally low in fat (source: BBC Good Food). However, it’s still missing some essential nutrients found naturally in cows’ milk (like iodine), so you’ll have to get these from other dietary sources.
Can Pregnant Women Drink Unpasteurized Raw Almond Milk?
If you’re making almond milk at home and drinking it freshly made, then this shouldn’t be a problem as there’s little time for bacteria to grow.
However, as with unpasteurized juice, any almond milk that has been pressed and NOT heat-treated (i.e. ‘raw’) may carry a small risk of bacterial contamination. Unpasteurized products in the US like almond milk have to state this on the label (source: FDA), so take a look before buying.
A good clue as to whether this milk is unpasteurized or not is where it’s served – if it’s shelf-stable (stored at room temperature) it’s very likely to be heat treated or UHT (ultra-high temperature) treated and will be safe to drink during pregnancy.
If it’s in a fridge, then it may be a ‘freshly pressed’ almond milk and may need to be avoided, as it won’t have been subject to heat-treatment or pasteurization to kill harmful bacteria.
Almond Milk Ice Cream (and Drinks) During Pregnancy
If you want to eat or drink a product made from almond milk, it’s usually fine during pregnancy, depending on what it is.
For example, if you’re eating a vegan almond milk ice cream, that’s fine – the usual things to look out for when eating ice cream during pregnancy also apply to ice cream if it’s made from almond milk instead.
You can also drink flavored almond milk, such as chocolate almond milk, but be aware that such drinks often contain lots of sugar or sweeteners.
There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with having it occasionally, but it’s better to limit your intake of sugary drinks during pregnancy (source: PloS One).
Can Almond Milk Help with Pregnancy Heartburn?
If you suffer from GERD or heartburn, dairy may be one of the ‘triggers’, and a reason to choose almond milk over cows’ milk.
Because it’s lower in fat content and non-dairy, some people may find almond milk is better at not triggering heartburn or acid reflux, which are both common in pregnancy (source: PubMed).
Unsweetened almond milk has a relatively high PH of around 6.5 compared to other non-dairy milk, making it slightly alkaline (source: PubMed). This may help to explain why it seems to have a mild neutralizing effect on acid reflux.
However, there aren’t any conclusive studies into whether it might be better for heartburn, but if it works for you, there’s no harm in using it this way.
Drinking Almond Oil with Milk During Pregnancy
Although it’s not truly ‘almond milk’, some pregnant women have queried whether drinking almond oil (typically sweet almond oil) mixed with regular milk is safe during pregnancy.
There isn’t enough information on drinking sweet almond oil during pregnancy (source: WebMD). Sweet almond oil is frequently used in cooking or salad dressings so is likely safe in small food amounts.
However, some women take almond oil with milk in order to induce labor, but this is anecdotal and likely to be a myth. To date, there is no scientific basis or studies to back this claim up.
How to Make Your Own (Healthy) Almond Milk
If you’d like to drink almond milk in pregnancy and you don’t want to sift through all the brands looking for an unsweetened version, you could make your own.
So long as it’s stored properly and the sterilization is adequate, it’s safe to drink during pregnancy.
However, bear in mind that many commercially-produced almond milks are also fortified, so you won’t have the advantage of those added vitamins and/or minerals with homemade milk.
Here’s a simple recipe I like that you can make at home – I love that there are also ideas on how to use the pulp, so no waste!
If you’re incorporating more healthy food into your pregnancy diet, you may also like: