Almond milk, locally known as Sardai, is a traditional drink of summers in Pakistan. This energising and refreshing drink is prepared using a mixture of almonds, poppy seeds (khaskhash), hemp (hasheesh) and char maghaz (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, water melon seeds, cantaloupe seeds). All these ingredients are grinded manually or mechanically followed by blending with water and sugar and straining to separate the undesirable substances. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Peshawar this almond drink is known as ‘Thandai’ with some additional ingredients like cardamom and fennel seeds. This traditional and indigenous drink is wholesome, nutrition and also boosts up the memory.

Now a day, you can find sale of the drink while travelling on roadways across the country. It can also be taken as plant-based dairy milk substitute which is suitable for vegetarians who abstain from dairy products. However, it is not a suitable replacement for mother’s milk, cow’s milk or hydrolyded formulas for children under two years of age due to the low protein content. Unlike the normally used milk it does not contain cholesterol and lactose so it is an excellent alternative for people with milk allergies like lactose intolerance and also for those who suffer from gluten allergies, because it doesn’t contain casein a milk protein that is chemically similar to gluten. Almond milk taste differs from animal milk; it has its own unique flavor: light, nutty, crisp.

Unlike dairy milk it doesn't have to be set on ice to keep its integrity. This fact is excellent for road trips and camping trips. It combines the good nutrition values of seeds and nuts. Its individual ingredient possesses important health benefits. Sardai provides almost all macro- and micro-nutrients. The brief description of each is given below:

CARBOHYDRATES: Poppy seeds and almonds help in enhancing energy levels in human body, as they are a good source of carbohydrates. The other carbohydrate source comes from fibre, something that most other milk varieties do not provide.

PROTEIN: The protein in almond milk aids in body growth and repair. The only thing that cow's milk has more of than almond milk is protein; cow's milk has eight grams of protein per serving while almond milk has only one gram per serving. Hemp seeds carry all twenty amino acids including nine of the essential amino acids needed by the body. Amino acids play important in healthy nerve functioning that makes the nervous system to respond faster during activities like sports. It also functions in muscle building.

FATTY ACIDS: Poppy seeds are rich in oleic acid and linoleic acid that helps to lower LDL or bad cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol levels in blood. Hemp seeds contain essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids are very important in preventing depression, osteoporosis, heart disease, reduction in joint pain and memory loss. Poppy seeds and hemp seeds are helpful in effective digestion and have proven to be very relaxant. Poppy seed oil is beneficial in treating breast cancer.

VITAMINS: Vitamin A helps to keep our eyes functioning properly. Vitamin D and Calcium are two nutrients that work together providing us healthy bone and teeth. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are good source of Vitamin E that acts as antioxidant. These antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals; this makes the skin healthy and younger-looking.

Vitamin B12, also known as riboflavin, is found in abundance in almond milk. It helps the tissues of the skin, hair and nails to use oxygen. Riboflavin activates Vitamin B6; this nutrient helps new tissue in our eyes; skin and nervous system to maintain healthy growth, reproduction and repair. Niacin, also referred to as vitamin B3, aids in blood circulation resulting in healthy skin.

MINERAL: Almond milk also contains potassium, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and alleviate high blood pressure. It also has a low level of sodium per serving. Too much sodium increases our blood pressure. Magnesium provided by almond milk helps to increase bone and teeth density by allowing more absorption of the calcium and also show the improvements in heart health as well. Manganese works in the creation of bones, but also provides us with healthy growth in connective tissue.

Selenium helps to fight illness by supporting the functions of the immune system. Poppy seeds are also good source of calcium, and also provide iodine, zinc and copper which perform the role of body building and regulation.

The students of the National Institute of Food Science & Technology has developed instant iron fortified almond powder which can be used by blending with water and milk and/or can be sprinkled over deserts before serving. This fortified drink will help in alleviation of iron deficiency anaemia in Pakistan.

The writer is a student of MSc (Hons) Food Science & Technology under the supervision of Dr Mian Kamran Sharif at National Institute of Food Science & Technology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.