In the world of non-dairy milk, almond milk sales reign supreme over all other options. But which plant-based milk is best? We're breaking down the drawbacks and health benefits of almond milk and soy milk to determine the superior choice.
In America, soy milk was the only game in town for years. The plant-based milk alternatives market is blowing up and continuing to multiply, paving the way for almond milk to become the most popular vegan milk choice on the market.
But does almond milk deserve the top spot?
The high levels of soy milk proteins seem to make almond milk nutrition pale in comparison.
While the protein in almond milk is relatively low, it does contain healthy unsaturated fats, essential in any good diet. The production of almond milk is bad for the environment compared to other non-dairy milk crops, like soy and oat.
We're going to fully break down soy milk vs. almond milk taste, health benefits, uses, and the environmental impact so that you can make a well-informed choice!
Almond milk vs. soy milk nutrition
Here's a breakdown of almond milk and soy milk nutrition facts and macronutrients.
- Almond Milk
- Soy Milk
- 60 kcal
- 80 kcal
Almond milk calories per cup are a little lower than soy milk, at 60 and 80 kcal, respectively, so if you're looking for a low-calorie alternative, almond milk wins this race.
Soy milk carbohydrate levels are low, making it an excellent choice for low-carb diets over the naturally higher carbs in almond milk.
Soy also contains seven times the protein as almond milk, which is especially important for vegan diets that are naturally a little lower in protein.
Almond milk protein is almost non-existent, at just 1g per cup of this nut milk.
Almond milk contains high levels of monounsaturated fats, which help maintain good heart health, cholesterol levels, and promote weight loss.
Does almond milk have calcium? Fortified varieties do! Some positive almond milk side effects come from the nutrients almond milk is usually fortified with - specifically calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
One downside to this almond milk substitute is it's unsuitable for anyone with almond or tree-nut allergies.
Is soy milk good for you? Soy milk is a high-protein, nutrient-dense plant milk that's great for your health.
Soy milk contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as the soybean is high in both. These two essential fatty acids may reduce harmful cholesterol levels.
One of the benefits of soy milk ingredients is isoflavones. Isoflavones are known for their antioxidative properties to protect the body's cells.
Taste and uses
Use almond milk almost anywhere you'd use traditional cow's milk - in your coffee, cereal, smoothies, or in a cold glass, all on its own.
Almond milk has a delicious naturally sweet, nutty flavor, but it doesn't taste quite as good in coffee as other substitutes for milk. It doesn't froth well enough to create a good cappuccino foam, as it's lower in fat than the whole milk most baristas use.
Almond isn't the best choice for baking as it's thin and watery and can negatively affect the texture of your loaves of bread, muffins, and other baked goods.
Soy milk tastes great in just about anything, but some people find almond’s taste a little better than soy's. However, soy milk's texture is far superior - it's thicker and creamier.
Soy milk is a common component in non-dairy cheese products, available in a wide variety of flavors, textures, and formats.
Soy milk is also the base for making all tofu. Tofu-makers heat soy milk and add a coagulating agent, which thickens the milk into soybean curds. Manufacturers then press these curds into the blocks we see at the grocery store.
Soy makes a much better choice for baking substitutes, as its texture most closely mimics cow's milk and will yield the best results for you.
Is almond milk bad for the environment? The almond plant certainly has a reputation for being a problematic crop, and it's not the most environmentally-friendly plant milk on the market.
The almond crop requires a ton of water to grow, exacerbated by the location of the world's largest almond producer - drought-stricken California. Growers use 15 gallons of water to produce 16 almonds, an embarrassingly low rate. Farmers also ship honey bees to pollinate their almond crops, leading to a high bee death rate, which some vegans find exploitative.
Soy crops require much less water than almond crops and fix nitrogen in the soil, keeping it enriched for future crop growth.
The only downside to soy production is the sheer volume, which we primarily turn into livestock feed. Farmers tend to clear-cut precious rainforests to make room for this and other livestock feeding crops, demolishing some of our most important ecosystems.
Other milk alternatives
These two types of milk aren't the only game in town. Here are a few other favorite plant milk varieties:
- Oat milk, the best frother for lattes;
- Rice milk, an excellent choice for anyone with food allergies;
- Coconut milk, a nutrient-rich and sweet alternative;
- Hemp and flax milk, both environmentally-friendly options;
- Cashew milk, the creamiest nut-based milk;
- And hazelnut milk, which helps reduce greenhouse gases instead of contributing to them.
Our absolute favorite is oat milk, which we think tastes better than both almond and soy. See our comparison of oat milk vs. almond milk.
Final verdict: Soy vs. almond milk
Should you choose soy milk or almond milk? Both are relatively healthy options for any plant-based or omnivorous diet. Soy milk is a little higher in calories, but it's also much, much higher in protein and antioxidants.
Some find almond milk's taste a little more agreeable, but soy's texture is much more creamy and rich.
Almond farming displaces honeybee populations and uses a massive amount of precious water in a drought-stricken land. At the same time, soy farmers cut down irreplaceable rainforest land to make space for soy crops.
There isn't a clear answer here, but based on sustainability, texture, and nutrition, we choose soy milk over almond.