Nut Beverages, the facts.
Many of us have traded in dairy for plant-based alternatives, but how healthy are these “milks”? We spoke to nutritionist Pernilla Berg to find out.
There is a broad range of different nut beverages on the market, and many people think those are healthy as media often promote them as superfoods.
Almond, hazelnut, and cashew beverages are the most common ones, and most of those drinks are low in protein and rather high in fast sugars. If you choose a nut beverage without fortification you will end up with mostly fast sugars and a small amount of fat, the rest is water. However, the fat is of good quality originating from nuts high in mono- and polyunsaturated fat.
On the other hand, coconut beverages are also rather low in fat, but nearly all fat is saturated. A high intake of saturated fat raises the bad cholesterol independently of animal or vegetable origin. Saturated fat isn’t essential and there is no need to include too much of it in the diet. However, most foods contain a mix of different fatty acids where also saturated fat is included (even in vegetable oils). You will always have an intake of saturated fat, but make sure it’s lower than 10% of your total energy intake.
Nut and Coconut Beverages
One medical benefit of coconut oil is the high content of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCT derived from coconut and palm oil is quickly absorbed in the small intestine and can be of use for patients with special medical needs; ketogenic diet, fat malabsorption, liver diseases, and other medical conditions. Nevertheless, most people in Westernised countries would benefit from decreasing the intake of saturated fat to prevent lifestyle diseases. Coconut beverage is not a very nutritious drink, but it could be part of your diet if you have a healthy and balanced diet overall.
In addition to the nut and coconut beverages, there are more rare beverages made from hemp seeds or quinoa. Hemp beverages are higher in protein compared to regular nut beverages (similar to oat drinks), but it’s rather high in fast sugars. However, the protein quality is rather good and it’s high in essential omega-3 fat.
Neelakantan N, Seah JYH, van Dam RM. The Effect of Coconut Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Circulation. 2020 10;141(10):803–14.
Dr Pernilla Berg, Nutritionist
Pernilla Berg is a nutritionist with a PhD in molecular toxicology. She has been working in the field of nutrition and toxicology for the last 20 years as researcher, scientific advisor, dietary advisor, and freelance journalist for magazines. Her research was mostly focused on biomarkers for colon cancer and the impact of diet and gut health. The main focus today is vegetarian diet, gastrointestinal health, and sports nutrition. She also has a background as an elite marathon runner and loves to compete in mountain marathons. In 2006 her recipe book “Pillans Vegankokbok” was published.