Have you ever been completely confused about which milk to choose from at the dairy section that isn’t harmful to your kidneys? Choosing milk when you have CKD can be tricky because of the high levels of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium found in dairy milk. Even low-fat milk at times may not be suitable for your dietary requirements. Hence, CKD patients are considering milk alternatives.
One of the most popular CKD milk alternatives in the market is almond milk. In this blog post, we will discuss almond milk, how it can benefit CKD patients and tips on choosing which almond milk to buy.
Why is Almond Milk Kidney-Friendly?
Almond milk has been around since the Middle Ages -- previously preferred by many over animal-sourced milk. What makes it so unique? This “nutty” and creamy-tasting milk is a dairy-free option for those who may be lactose intolerant. Moreover, it contains a balanced composition of proteins, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. Almond milk is also low in fat and does not contain cholesterol. It’s heart health-friendly and can also be kidney-friendly.
Regular dairy milk is often restricted in a kidney-friendly diet, as it contains a significant amount of, not only protein, but also phosphorus. Since the kidney cannot filter these nutrients properly, a large intake of high phosphorus-containing food could increase the level in the bloodstream and pull calcium out of the bones. This condition can lead to dangerous calcium deposits in the blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart. A few of the symptoms include joint or bone pain, loss of appetite, irritability or anxiety, fatigue, and other bone diseases. Notably, one cup of dairy milk contains 233 mg of phosphorus and 366 mg of potassium (see an alternative using almond milk for renal dieting).
Phosphorus and Potassium in Almond Milk
Approximately, a 100-ml cup or 3.38 oz. of unsweetened almond milk contains 31 mg of Potassium and 30 mg of Phosphorus. In addition, it has 173 mg of Calcium, 0.55 g of protein, 0.34 g of carbohydrates, and 1.22 g of Fat, contributing a total of 15 calories. However, you might want to check the food label at the back because this may vary depending on which brand of Almond milk you buy.
Homemade vs. Store-Bought Almond Milk
There can be two ways to obtain almond milk-- homemade almond milk or by buying commercially available almond milk.
When you enjoy time in the kitchen and looking into economical ways to fulfill your kidney diet, homemade almond milk is quite easy to prepare. The recipe below can produce 4 cups of almond milk (960 ml or 32.46 oz.). Some do prefer homemade recipes since flavor can be adjusted to one’s own personal preference.
Here is an almond milk recipe that you can follow at home:
- In a container, soak 1 cup of almonds uncovered in water for one to two days.
- Drain the water from the container. Afterwards, rinse the almonds.
- In a food processor, put 4 cups of fresh water together with the almonds.
- Strain the blended mixture using a cheesecloth.
- To add flavor to the milk, you may put a little vanilla, sweetener, or cinnamon. Consume the almond milk within two days.
In any case, if you prefer convenience to freshness, there's always store-bought or commercially available almond milk. Although store-bought almond milk may contain some added vitamins and nutrients that can also benefit the body, not all commercial almond milk can be considered healthy. This is because some almond milk brands are filled with highly processed ingredients that can negatively affect your health. With the surge of almond milk brands available in the market, it is essential that you take time to read nutrition labels and ingredients when choosing milk alternatives.
Beware of the Packaging
Most almond milk brands will claim to be "Healthy & Natural" when, in fact, they contain additives that should not be included in almond milk. Here are tips on what to look for when buying almond milk in the grocery store:
Healthy Almond milk should not be sweetened
Preferably, unsweetened almond milk is better to reduce the risk of developing diseases linked to high sugar intakes, such as diabetes and obesity. It is recommended that the sugar content of the almond milk is less than 5 g.
Healthy Almond milk should not contain gums and thickeners.
Gums and thickeners are typically used to improve shelf-life, texture, and appearance. In almond milk, it is commonly used to thicken the milk's consistency. Food products that contain gums and thickeners are considered to be highly processed and may increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal problems. Generally, the usual gums and thickeners used in non-dairy milk products are gellan gum, locust bean gum (also called carob bean gum), xanthan gum, guar gum, and carrageenan.
Type of Milk
(Serving Size: 1 Cup or 240 ml)
Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original Almond milk
Almond Breeze Vanilla Almond milk
Silk, True Almond Vanilla
All Plants, All Delicious: Other Milk Alternatives for CKD
Aside from Almond milk, there are other plant-based milk alternatives that CKD patients could try. Soy and rice milk are plant-based milk alternatives that are commonly found in grocery stores. Other plant-based milk products, like hemp milk, may not be a wise milk alternative for CKD patients as it contains high phosphorus levels.
Ideally, you must always check the label at the back of the product and note if the product contains high, moderate, or low amounts of sodium, phosphorus, or potassium. Look for Daily Value (DV) percentage of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus that is below 5%, which would mean that the product has low amounts of these minerals.
To read more about plant-based milk alternatives, check this link.
Almond milk can be a healthy milk substitute for CKD patients as long as it is low in sugar and sodium and does not contain any additives, gums, and thickeners. It is also (strongly) advised reading the nutrition facts label to ensure that potassium, phosphorus, and sodium are in moderate to low amounts. However, if you have nut allergies, you could certainly try other kidney-friendly plant-based milk alternatives, such as rice and soy milk (non-GMO). Enjoying a glass of warm milk is still possible even with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)-- just make it plant-based.
Can Almond Milk be called Milk?; Stall, S. - https://www.jrnjournal.org/article/S1051-2276(17)30071-7/pdf
Milk Alternatives (see almond milk's potassium content) for People with Chronic Kidney Disease; Kung, W. - https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/advice/milk-alternatives-for-people-with-chronic-kidney-disease
Almond Milk, Unsweetened Nutrition Facts; USDA - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1750338/nutrients
Almond Milk: Nutrition & Benefits; Szalay, J. - https://www.livescience.com/51695-almond-milk-nutrition.html
Choosing Healthy Almond Milk; Feed Them Wisely - https://feedthemwisely.com/choosing-a-healthy-almond-milk