almond-milkINDEPENDENCE, Mo. — From gluten free products to kale … everyone is aware of the trendy health products that make it to the shelves in food markets.

In 2011, almond milk saw a large increase in popularity with Americans. The product is widely viewed as the healthy alternative to cow’s milk, but should it be?

Nutrition and Health Education Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Office in Jackson County Kelsey Jeter, took it upon herself to answer this question in her article, Almond Milk – Health or Hype? According to Jeter, almond milk has benefits, but may not be a true ‘alternative.’

“Regular milk is going to have, you know, all you nutrients,” Jeter said. “So it has calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, and they all help improve bone health and manage blood pressure.”

Jeter said numerous reasons contribute to the growth in popularity of a product. Specifically with almond milk, lactose intolerance and other milk allergies could be the start of the product’s popularity.

Almond milk has several key health benefits. According to Jeter, almond milk normally has fewer calories than cow’s milk. That, however, can also be misleading. If a consumer purchases sweetened almond milk, those calories are often ’empty’ calories.

“Those will all have a lot of added sugars in them,” Jeter said. “Any added sugar is going to be empty calories that your body really doesn’t need, whereas cow’s milk might have some natural sugar in it, but it won’t really have the added sugars that the almond milk has.”

Other benefits of almond milk include a natural source of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant for the body. Jeter said almond milk also has a high content of omega 3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol.

But still, with all the debate the question still stands, is it health or is it hype?

“My answer would probably be, you know, just doing what’s right for you,” Jeter said. “Checking the food labels … you know, almond milk can be healthy but it’s not a direct substitute for cow’s milk because of the low protein content. it does have other health benefits though, so I wouldn’t say it’s unhealthy. Just check the labels; make sure you’re getting all the nutrients that you need.”

To hear the full interview with Kelsey Jeter, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist at the University of Missouri Extension, click play below: