Many people enjoy having a warm, comforting drink before bedtime. Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative. Some people choose to drink it at night since it contains ingredients linked to better sleep quality. However, there are also downsides to drinking almond milk before bed that need consideration.
What is almond milk?
Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. It may also contain thickening agents, emulsifiers, vitamins and minerals. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is lower in calories, protein and carbs. The exact nutritional profile depends on the brand, but a typical 8 oz (240 ml) serving provides (1):
|Vitamin E||4–9% of the RDI|
It’s naturally lactose- and cholesterol-free, making it a popular choice for vegans and those who can’t tolerate dairy. Many brands also add vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E to better match the nutritional content of cow’s milk.
Almond milk nutrition
Here’s a closer look at some of the main nutrients in almond milk:
Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is very low in protein. An 8-ounce (240-ml) glass typically provides just 1–2 grams (2, 3).
By contrast, the same amount of whole cow’s milk packs around 8 grams. This makes almond milk a poor choice post-workout or at breakfast time when your body needs more protein.
However, people who eat adequate protein from other sources throughout the day may not need as much at night. For them, the small amount of protein in almond milk is likely sufficient.
Almond milk is low in carbs, with only 0–2 grams per cup (240 ml) (1).
The lactose found in regular milk can cause bloating, gas and stomach discomfort in those who are lactose intolerant.
Given that almond milk is naturally lactose-free, it may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.
Although almonds are high in fat, commercial almond milk is relatively low in fat, providing just 2.5–3.5 grams per serving.
Much of the fat in almonds is removed when the milk is extracted. Moreover, many products use thickeners that dilute the fat content even further (4).
However, homemade almond milk retains more of the natural almond fat.
The healthy monounsaturated fatty acids in almonds have been linked to higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels and reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides (5).
Vitamins and minerals
Almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, including (6):
– Calcium: Excellent for bone health.
– Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage.
– Vitamin D: Important for immune function and bone health.
– Riboflavin: Needed to produce energy from food.
– Phosphorus: Benefits bone health.
Many commercial brands are also fortified with additional vitamins and minerals that are added during processing to better match the nutritional profile of cow’s milk.
Benefits of almond milk before bed
Here are some of the main benefits associated with drinking almond milk before bedtime:
1. May promote sleep
Almond milk contains several compounds linked to better sleep quality, including tryptophan, magnesium, calcium and melatonin (7, 8).
Tryptophan is an amino acid needed to produce serotonin and melatonin, two hormones involved in regulating your sleep-wake cycle (9).
Although levels are relatively low, almond milk contains small amounts of tryptophan.
Drinking it before bed may support your body’s production of tryptophan-dependent hormones.
Almond milk is a good source of magnesium, providing 7–13% of the RDI per cup (240 ml) (6).
Magnesium has been studied for its role in reducing insomnia symptoms and improving sleep quality (10).
This mineral is thought to activate neurotransmitters in the brain that promote sleep. It may also help regulate melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone (11).
Drinking almond milk provides 200–500 mg of calcium, meeting 25–50% of the RDI per serving.
Calcium is known to aid the brain’s manufacture of melatonin. Raising your intake before bed may help you fall asleep faster (12).
Some brands add melatonin directly to their almond milk products.
Melatonin is a hormone your brain releases in response to darkness to make you feel sleepy. It’s used as an over-the-counter sleep aid in supplement form as well.
If your brand contains added melatonin, drinking it before bed may promote sleepiness. However, more studies are needed.
2. May support heart health
Several components in almond milk may benefit heart health, including:
– Healthy fats. The monounsaturated fatty acids in almonds may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease (13).
– Potassium. Almond milk is a good source of potassium, a mineral linked to lower blood pressure (14).
– Vitamin E. This milk alternative provides vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Oxidized LDL is linked to atherosclerosis (15).
– Magnesium. Magnesium is associated with lower blood pressure levels, which may decrease heart disease risk (16).
Thus, incorporating almond milk into your routine may have protective effects on heart health.
Almond milk contains no lactose at all, making it safe for those with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance affects up to 75% of people worldwide. It’s caused by a lack of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose — the main carb found in milk (17).
Symptoms include gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
Using almond milk can help prevent these unwanted symptoms while allowing you to enjoy a milk-like beverage, especially before bedtime.
4. May support weight management
At just 35–60 calories per cup (240 ml), almond milk is low in calories.
Substituting almond milk for regular milk can be an easy way to cut calories each day, which may aid weight loss over time.
What’s more, almond milk contributes protein and fiber, both of which increase feelings of fullness that may prevent overeating (18, 19).
Almond milk contains no dairy at all.
This makes it a safe choice for those with milk allergies or sensitivities. Many people report allergic reactions to casein and whey, the two proteins found in milk.
There’s also some evidence linking cow’s milk to the development of acne. If you suspect dairy worsens your skin, it may be worth limiting or avoiding altogether (20).
Almond milk provides a tasty alternative without any dairy.
Downsides of drinking almond milk at night
Despite the potential benefits, there are some downsides to consider:
1. Contains oxalates
Like many other nuts, almonds are high in oxalates, a naturally occurring compound also found in vegetables like spinach and rhubarb (21).
Oxalates can bind to calcium to form kidney stones in some individuals. Those who are prone to kidney stones may want to limit foods high in oxalates (22).
However, more research is needed to determine whether almond milk consumption is linked to an increased risk of kidney stones.
One eight-year study found that swapping cow’s milk for plant-based milks like almond milk had no effects on kidney stone risk or occurrence (23).
2. Low in nutrients
Although almond milk contains micronutrients like vitamin E, overall it’s low in many nutrients compared to cow’s milk.
One cup (240 ml) of whole milk packs (24):
– 149 calories
– 8 grams of protein
– 8 grams of fat
– 13 grams of carbs
– Calcium: 276 mg (28% of the RDI)
– Potassium: 322 mg (9% of the RDI)
– Phosphorus: 205 mg (20% of the RDI)
As you can see, cow’s milk contains much more protein, calcium and phosphorus in just one serving. Thus, those with increased nutrient needs or limited diets shouldn’t rely solely on almond milk.
3. Contains carrageenan
Some brands of almond milk contain carrageenan, a food additive used to stabilize foods and thicken their consistency (25).
Controversy surrounds this compound, as animal studies link it to issues like intestinal inflammation, nutrient malabsorption and increased tumor growth (26).
Yet, research in humans is limited, and no evidence proves carrageenan causes harm.
Regardless, if you want to avoid carrageenan for any reason, be sure to check the ingredient list and select a brand that doesn’t contain it.
4. High in calories
Although almond milk is generally low in calories, some flavored varieties can pack in added sugar and calories.
For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of chocolate almond milk may contain (27):
– 150 calories
– 7 grams of fat
– 22 grams of carbs
– 12 grams of sugar
Flavored almond milk can mimic the taste of sweetened dairy milk, but you may end up consuming more calories than you bargained for.
Stick to unsweetened almond milk and use it to complement foods like oatmeal, smoothies and coffee to keep calories in check.
5. May contain gums or oils
Thickeners like gums, emulsifiers and oils are commonly added to almond milk to improve texture and prevent separation.
While these ingredients are considered safe in the amounts added to foods, some people want to limit their intake.
If this applies to you, examine the ingredient list carefully rather than just opting for unsweetened almond milk.
For example, carrageenan is used as a thickener and allowed even in products labeled as organic.
6. Mostly water
Almond milk is made of just 2% almonds, while the rest is water (28).
Some brands also add thickeners like carrageenan that dilute the almond content even further (29).
For this reason, almond milk lacks the nutritional punch of almonds, which are packed with healthy fats, fiber, plant-based protein and dozens of micronutrients.
If you’re looking to increase your intake of nutrients found in almonds, you’re better off eating almonds rather than almond milk.
7. Contains phytic acid
Similar to other nuts, almonds contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that reduces absorption of minerals like iron and zinc (30).
Although the phytic acid content of almond milk is likely low, it’s something to keep in mind if you struggle with low iron levels or follow a mineral-rich diet.
Preparation methods like soaking or sprouting almonds before making almond milk can help reduce phytic acid levels (31).
8. May be high in sugar
Flavored varieties of almond milk often pack in added sugar to enhance taste.
Chocolate and vanilla almond milks may contain 12–15 grams of added sugar per 1-cup (240-ml) serving, accounting for nearly 25% of your daily needs (32).
Consuming excess added sugar has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cavities (33, 34).
Stick to unsweetened almond milk or limit flavored options to avoid consuming unhealthy amounts of added sugar.
9. May cause digestive issues
Some people report digestive issues after drinking almond milk, including bloating, cramping and an upset stomach.
These effects may arise in those with an allergy or intolerance to almonds.
What’s more, the high fiber content of almonds could potentially aggravate the gut in some people, especially when consumed raw (35).
That said, almonds contain digestive enzymes that may actually support healthy digestion (36).
If you experience any negative effects, try switching to a different brand or type of nut milk.
How to make almond milk at home
It’s incredibly simple to make almond milk at home with just 2 ingredients — almonds and water.
This recipe makes 4 servings of homemade, unsweetened almond milk:
– 1 cup (145 grams) raw almonds
– 4 cups (950 ml) water
– Pinch sea salt
– Dates, maple syrup or honey to sweeten (optional)
1. Soak almonds in 2 cups (950 ml) of water overnight or for 8–12 hours to soften. Rinse.
2. Drain soaking water and transfer almonds to a blender. Add remaining 2 cups (950 ml) fresh water and salt. Blend until smooth, at least 2 minutes.
3. Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain milk into a large bowl, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
4. To sweeten, blend strained almond milk with dates, maple syrup or honey. Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Be sure to use raw almonds rather than roasted, as roasting destroys some of the enzymes needed to release the milk naturally from the almond flesh during soaking.
Straining is optional but results in a milk free of almond pulp that has a smoother, creamier texture.
The bottom line
Almond milk makes a tasty, plant-based nighttime beverage free of lactose, cow’s milk proteins and calories.
It provides nutrients like calcium, vitamin E and magnesium that may promote better sleep, heart health and digestion.
However, almond milk is low in other nutrients, so it shouldn’t replace cow’s or fortified plant milk in your diet.
Flavored varieties can also be high in added sugars. To maximize benefits while minimizing downsides, opt for unsweetened almond milk in moderation.
As with any new food, keep an eye out for any digestive issues after using almond milk and discontinue use if any intolerance symptoms arise.
Overall, unsweetened almond milk can be a nutritious addition to your evening routine to help support your overall health.