This plant-based milk is the hottest new coffee shop addition, but is oat milk actually good for you?
Oat milk tastes delicious, and people can't get enough of a non-dairy milk that tastes comparable to whole milk (especially in coffee.) But what are the benefits of oat milk? And, despite being delicious, is it actually healthy for you?
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Fans of plant-based milks are aware of the demand for nut-based milks. Almond milk, in particular, has created a strain on environmental resources as farmers race to harvest nuts just to process them into milk. It's one of the first things that Cooking Light's Nutritional Director, Brierley Horton, MS, RD, pointed out about oat milk—the true benefit may be that oats are more ubiquitous than nuts, and could serve as a "greener" option for a plant-based milk compared to nuts.
An investigation by Mic shares that Oatly actually works to provide scraps of unused oats to third parties in order to make the most of their product, making it a much more sustainable product than many nut-based milks which require lots of resources to grow and then to process.
But what about nutrition? Horton took a look at three of the leading oat milks on the market currently—Elmhurst's oat milk, Thrive Market's oat beverage, and Pacific Foods' vanilla oat beverage—and compared them to other popular nut-based milks on the market.
More on plant-based milks you should know about:
"Oat milk has more calories than, say, almond milk. And even more so than skim milk, but it's actually not too far off from a 1 or 2 percent milk from a calorie standpoint," Horton says. "But oat milk does have fewer grams of fat than a few leading almond milk brands, including Silk."
Where oat milk may outshine other plant-based milks is not such a surprise: fiber. "Oat milk also delivers a little bit of fiber, with 1 to 2 grams per serving," Horton says.
But the calorie counts and sugar levels can vary among bottled oat milk products. For example, Elmhurst's product contains 4g of sugar and 100 calories for a full 8-ounce serving: Thrive Market's oat beverage, on the other hand, contains 110 calories and 13g of sugar for the same amount. If you can get your hands on it, Oatly's variety packs 120 calories into a cup's worth of oat milk alongside 7g of sugar.
And because oat milk is largely being produced by major manufacturers for the first time, there's no evidence of any sugar-free varieties yet, unlike many other sugar-free, nut-based milks (i.e.: Silk unsweetened almond milk).
Horton says it's best to enjoy oat milk in moderation if you're buying it from the store, but also suggests a hack to make sure your oat beverage is as healthy as it can be. The secret? Making it at home.
We've previously published guidance on how to make your own oat milk at home: keep each half cup of oats to 2 cups of filtered water, soak steel-cut grains for at least 30 minutes before blending, and don't forget to strain through a cheesecloth to eliminate clumps. You can also customize this simple recipe with as much added sugar as you'd like, as well as any flavoring you prefer.
The bottom line: Oat milk is undeniably delicious and a great addition to your breakfast bowl or cup of joe, but you could be adding extra calories and sugar if you buy pre-packaged versions. The best solution is to make your own batch at home to control just how rich your oat milk actually is.
The All-Inclusive Guide to Oat Milk vs Almond Milk
Both oat milk and almond milk are smooth, eco-friendly alternatives to cow's milk, but there are a few key distinctions between them.
When you&aposre a newbie to the dairy-free beverage world, a barista asking you if you&aposd prefer oat milk or almond milk in your latte feels exactly like your high school calculus teacher calling on you to solve a derivative. You stare up at the menu, let out a long "ummmmm," and your mind races through the pros and cons of each option. After roughly 30 seconds, you sheepishly mutter "almond?" and hand over your credit card.
To save yourself from looking like the "Confused Math Lady" meme in the middle of Starbucks, read on for the differences in nutrition, taste, and environmental impacts between the two dairy alternatives. Trust, it&aposll help you settle your oat milk vs almond milk debate once and for all.
What are the health benefits of drinking oat milk?
Nicole Magryta, RDN, author of Nourish Your Tribe, says most oat milks contain one to three grams of fiber per serving (which is a little more than an alternative milk like almond), but also contain more calories and carbohydrates. In other words, you're kind of coming out even unless you're buying fortified oat milk from a supermarket.
"The health benefits of the milk itself are not necessarily from the oats and water, which offer marginal benefits, but from the fortified nutrients added during processing," says Magryta. "[Micronutrients like] vitamins A, D, B12, B2 and calcium are added so the product can be a close nutritional substitute for dairy milk."
What about homemade, unfortified oat milk… is there any point to drinking it? Yes, but mostly only if you need to avoid cow's milk because of an allergy or want to support a more sustainable alternative, says Magryta. Because sensitivities or allergies to oats are uncommon, oat milk gives people with dietary restrictions on soy, dairy, or nuts another beverage alternative.
How to order the new oat or almond milk drinks:
A grande-sized oat milk latte at Starbucks has 2g of fiber and 1g of protein, which is something to note, but not worth celebrating, Horton says. There's about 270 calories in the drink at this size, which isn't alarming, but the 28g of sugar and 42g of carbohydrates overall may be more of a strain on your daily diet. If you do try Starbucks' oat milk latte, Horton says you may be able to make the drink marginally healthier by removing the toasted honey topping, which should lower its sugar counts. "If you're new to oat milk, you'll want to keep the honey syrup in it &mdash in my personal opinion, you'll need time for your palate to adjust to oat milk that has no added sugar in it," Horton advises. "If you've been drinking oat milk for a while, ask them to remove the honey topping as well as the honey syrup, as this will drastically lower the sugar counts in your drink and make it a better choice overall."
But if you're on a strict diet for the month, a grande almond milk flat white drink is the best choice to maintain weight loss. Horton says her first tip is to remove the added honey syrup here, since the almond milk is already sweetened when it's added to your coffee, and most of the 24g of sugar in this drink is added. "This drink isn't offensive at 170 calories, which is equal to a decent sized snack or a portion of your breakfast, especially if you pair it with a lower-calorie option at mealtime."
The Bottom Line
Can oat milk be part of a healthy diet? Sure, as long as you do your homework, and especially if you’re just adding a touch to your coffee here and there. (You shouldn’t be chugging it alongside every meal water is best for that!) Choose a brand with a simple ingredient list, and check the sugar content. Avoid flavored versions (like chocolate and vanilla) to steer clear of added sugar. Try to buy organic if it’s available. And then enjoy that creamy, frothy vegan cappuccino.
What your preferred milk says about your health and what you could be lacking
Do you take your coffee with oat, almond, soy or dairy milks?
Which milk are you pouring into your morning brew? Image: iStock Source:BodyAndSoul
Nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill weighs up the dietary pros and cons of each of our fave milk types so you don't have to.
Milk and plant based ‘milks’ have become one of the most diversified drinks on our supermarket shelves.
There&aposs oat, almond, coconut, hemp, pea, macadamia and soy, to goat, sheep, A2, organic, full fat, lite, skim and more but let’s sip on those just for a moment.
The question is, how does the milk you choose affect your nutrition?
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Oat milk has become hugely popular most recently as a dairy, soy, lactose and nut free milk alternative that still maintains that milky, creamy flavour.
It’s a great alternative for those with nut or dairy allergies and intolerances, but not advisable for coeliacs or gluten intolerant. Oat milk does contribute a small amount of fibre to your daily intake, more so than other plant or dairy milks.
However, oat milk, until fortified (which you can’t achieve if making at home), lacks certain nutrients you’ll find in a soy or dairy milk such as protein, vitamin B12 and calcium.
If you’re drinking oat milk then ensure you choose a fortified option and / or pump up these key nutrients which oat milk lacks through other dietary sources and supplementation.
If your diet is having a makeover and calcium rich sources of food and vitamin D are low then consider a calcium and vitamin D combination supplement such as Healthy Care Ultra Calcium Plus Vitamin D 150 Tablets Online at Chemist Warehouse® made with high quality ingredients, locally, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
There are so many types of plant-based milk to try. Image: iStock Source:BodyAndSoul
Almond milk now sits prime in most fridges and barista’s bench tops ready for those with low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy, soy and gluten-free preferences. And with that. almond milk ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
However, I𠆝 suggest that if almond milk has been your only choice of milk in the fridge to date, it’s time to get some variety in there with a few other plant based options. Whilst it’s great to have so much ‘low/ free’ in your milk, you’ll miss key nutrients that are important for your health.
Consider adding a good quality soy milk (unsweetened and without additives) for protein. And, if you aren’t on top of your calcium rich foods (sesame, tahini, leafy greens, broccoli, dried figs) then considering a calcium supplement such as Healthy Care’s Super Calcium Complex which contains high quality calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K may be well worth your while.
What type of milk is your go to? Image: iStock Source:BodyAndSoul
If soy milk is your jam you’re likely old school (like me…) and love the nutty flavour of the original plant based alternative to dairy milk. Soy milk trumps other plant based milks for its amino acid profile (protein) which is similar to that delivered by cows and other dairy milk.
Likely where people are more wary of soy however is due to the presence of phytoestrogens, which in some instances can mimic the action of oestrogen and weaken the body’s natural oestrogenic activity. This is however dependent on a number of factors, as well as the individual, and of course the actual quantity of soy you’re consuming.
My recommendation is always to keep things in balance by including but not over-doing it. If you love soy in your latte then enjoy it, but change your milk choice or opt for a long black on your next coffee. Soy can be a great milk option but like with all things, a moderate intake is best.
Are you a dairy only person? Image: iStock. Source:BodyAndSoul
Dairy milk : Cow, goat, sheep
Dairy milk from cows, goat and sheep has a diverse range of nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K, which are all beneficial to our health. However, dairy doesn’t always fit within people’s ethical or dietary philosophies or cannot be consumed due to intolerance and allergies.
Fortunately we do have a number of non-dairy options to choose from now, so there is plenty of choice. However, whether dairy or plant based, calcium which is what milk is most touted for lacks Vitamin D. The key role of vitamin D is to support the absorption and conversion of calcium into its active form in the body.
Unfortunately these days with people consuming less dairy and less sunlight (working extended hours and staying indoors with digital media entertainment) Vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly common. This puts us at risk of developing age related diseases such as osteoporosis.
I’ll always recommend first doing blood tests to determine your Vitamin D status and if deficient look at your lifestyle ( a little bit more sunshine please!), diet and consider a high quality and dose of Vitamin D such as Healthy Care’s Vitamin D3 1000IU to replete your Vitamin D stores, promote calcium absorption, improve bone density and support your endocrine system too.
Disclaimer: Vitamin supplements can only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. To determine what is right for your specific needs consult a health care practitioner.
Jacqueline Alwill is a nutritionist, author and founder of Brown Paper Nutrition. Follow her on Instagram.
What's The Healthiest Milk? Here's What Nutrition Experts Say
So many questions crop up in the milk aisle: is dairy cancelled now? Does almond milk taste watery? Do you go for oat or soy? What the hell is “mylk” anyway? Turns out it’s just another name for a plant-based milk, which we Aussies spent $212 million on in 2017, according to IBISWorld. But not all milks are created equal.
Switching up your milk options because of a vegan diet? Here are the celebs who are also fans of eating plant-based.
“As they’re mostly made up of water, many plant-based milks have little nutritional value,” says Skye Swaney, an accredited practising dietitian at Shift Nutrition. “Compared to cow’s milk, they contain a lot less of every other nutrient apart from fibre.” Doesn’t stop us loving them, though. So, to help you max your nutrition, we’ve put together an expertbacked milk guide. Pour over this, people.
1. Lactose-free Milk
If cow’s milk gives you tummy pains or wind, losing the lactose can be smart. “Lactose-free milks are simply regular cow’s milk with the addition of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down the sugars [lactose] in milk that some people can’t tolerate,” says Swaney. It has the same – or occasionally a slightly sweeter – taste than regular milk, and you can sub it into any recipe that needs milk because it has the same texture and nutrients. Side note: you can also get lactose free cream, yoghurt and custard.
Try it: Zymil Lactose Free Milk 1L, $3
2. Cow’s Milk
Dairy is still our most popular drop in this space, according to the Australian Health Survey, but if your mates are giving up moo, should you be too? “It’s a personal choice,” says Swaney. “There are concerns about the impact of cattle and dairy farming on our environment. However, some plant milks come with their own environmental concerns.” Cow’s milk naturally contains calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals, which generally have to be added into plant milks. Bottom line: if you don’t have a genuine milk allergy, there’s no reason to avoid it.
Try it: Aldi Organic Full Cream Milk 1L, $1.79
3. Coconut Milk
You’re probably already drinking this in your smoothies and straight from the carton. Coco milk is made from filtered water and coconut cream. It’s #vegan, #paleo and #dairyfree, but look beyond the sexy logos and read the ingredients list. Robbie Clark, an accredited practising dietitian at HealthBank, recommends choosing one that’s unsweetened and has minimal preservatives, stabilisers and additives. “Coconut milk does contain more fat than other milk alternatives, but [this includes] medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), a type of saturated fat that may benefit weight loss, satiety, body composition and metabolism,” he says.
Try it: Vitasoy Coconut Milk Unsweetened 1L, $3
4. Almond Milk
This low-kilojoule choice is close to taking soy’s crown as the most popular plant milk, according to IBISWorld. It’s made from almonds so it must be good for you, right? Um, not always. “Most almond milks only contain around three per cent almonds, and many feature additives such as sugar, flavouring and thickeners,” says Swaney. Look for one that has as few ingredients as possible. It’s pretty low in calcium, too, so be mindful, especially if you’re pregnant when your recommended intake of the bone-boosting mineral is higher. Also take note, planet lovers: it takes five litres of water to grow one almond (that’s a lot).
5. Soy Milk
There was a time when soy was considered the only alt milk for your AM latte. “Studies show that after cow’s milk, soy milk is nutritionally the best choice,” says Clark. “In Australia, most soy milks are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.” There have been concerns around reports linking soy to hormone and fertility issues, but the science is very mixed, with research also highlighting its health benefits. Swaney reckons it’s totally fine to include soy milk in your diet in moderate amounts, while pros at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health say enjoying soy several times a week is all good. As with other plant milks, be mindful of the sugar content. Clark also recommends including other calcium-rich foods in your diet, such as raw seeds, tahini, sardines, tinned salmon, legumes, dark green leafy veg, tofu and edamame.
Try it: Coles Organic Soy Milk 1L, $1.60
6. Oat Milk
This gets a tick for tasting like your porridge bowl and creating less of a carbon footprint than some other plant-based milks. Nutrition wise, it packs less protein than dairy and soy, but more than other plant milks. “It also tends to be enriched with the nutrients found in oats such as B vitamins, folate, calcium and beta-glucans, which is a type of fibre that can help to lower cholesterol,” says Swaney. Plus, because oats absorb water more easily than nuts, more oats end up in the final milk product, giving it a creamier consistency without the need for added thickeners. Use it for anything you’d normally use cow’s milk for.
Choosing Your Ingredients
Rolled oats are the best type of oat to use for oat milk. They give a creamier end result than steel cut oats. As for quick oats, these are too processed, and often yield an unpleasantly slimy milk. If you are on a gluten-free diet, be sure to seek out oats labeled gluten-free.
You can add ingredients to oat milk for a sweeter consistency or a flavored version. Try adding two pitted, roughly chopped dates to the oats in the blender, or stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or maple syrup after the milk has been strained. Or try chocolate milk by adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder! You can blend a little bit of coconut oil into your oat milk, which will give it a richness that is more like the commercial versions.
Is Oat Milk Healthy? We Consulted a Registered Dietitian to Learn About the Trendy Milk Alternative
Have you tried oat milk? If you are hesitant to try it either because you're not sure if you'll enjoy the taste as much as almond or cow's milk, or you're wondering if it's actually healthy for you, fret no more. Lauren Hoover, RD, MS at SHIFT in Chicago, lends insight on whether or not oat milk may be a good milk alternative for you.
Is oat milk a healthy milk alternative?
"For individuals who don't tolerate dairy products, oat milk is a suitable milk alternative," says Hoover. Aside from those who are lactose-intolerant or have another kind of intolerance to milk, oat milk is another great milk substitute for individuals who follow a vegan diet.
"When looking at the macronutrient profile, oat milk has about 4 grams of protein per serving," she says. "For comparison, this is lower than the 8 grams of protein in cow's milk, but higher than some other popular milk alternatives, including almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk."
When your diet is solely (or even predominantly) plant-based, it's all the more important to make sure you're getting enough protein to sustain energy, facilitate muscle repair, and avoid illness. Some brands of almond milk, for example, only contain 2 grams of protein per cup—half of what the average glass of oat milk will yield.
Hoover also points out that oat milk often contains more carbohydrates than traditional nut milk, and as a result, is more calorically dense. While a cup of unsweetened almond milk typically consists of just 30 calories, one cup of unsweetened oat milk contains about 100-130 calories. So if you're trying to shed a few pounds, oat milk may not be the best option for you.
"I find oat milk a bit creamier and comparable to cow's milk, so it is one of my favorites, personally," says Hoover.
Are there any ingredients in oat milk that could cause gastrointestinal stress?
Have you ever looked on the back of the carton of almond milk and wondered exactly what xanthan gum or locust bean gum was? Ingredients such as these gums and even carrageenan are used as a stabilizing and thickening agent in various foods, including non-dairy products. Without these ingredients, the texture of your milk alternative may feel a bit grainy or not as smooth. However, it's possible that some of these stabilizers could be irritating your gut, so it's important that you're mindful of the ingredients that are swirled into milk alternatives.
"Some of the common fillers and gums that are added to milk alternatives have been shown to cause gastrointestinal distress [such as] bloating and gas," says Hoover. "Since ingredients can vary based on the brand or type of oat milk, it is best to look at the ingredient list on the nutrition label for possible irritants, including artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and gums."
This is especially important if you have a known intolerance to one of these additives, but generally, most people don't experience these symptoms.
In general, why should you opt for the original or unsweetened version of milk alternatives?
Unfortunately, milk alternatives that are marketed as healthier are sometimes chock-full of added sugars. Of course, the more sugar that's in a product, the higher the carb content and calories will be. Hoover suggests noshing on a complex carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit rather than getting a sweet fix through a simple carbohydrate such as refined sugar that's added to flavored milk alternatives.
"As we know, oat milk already contains a higher carbohydrate content, so keeping added sugars to a minimum is recommended," she adds.
RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.
Do you have a favorite brand or flavor of oat milk that you recommend?
"I like Oatly oatmilk because it has 3 grams of protein and polyunsaturated fats to help increase satiety," says Hoover.
She also admits her main pull to Oatly is the taste, and she recommends prioritizing that aspect just as much as the protein content when perusing the various brands of oat milk in the grocery store. Think about it this way: if you're going to drink it in a smoothie or in a glass by itself, wouldn't you want to enjoy the taste?
Would you say oat milk is healthier than cow's milk?
"I would not say that oat milk is healthier than cow's milk, they are just different," Hoover explains. "Cow's milk has more protein and also is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Oat milk can be a great alternative for those that are unable to tolerate dairy or milk."
What other milk alternatives do you recommend?
If cow's milk is out of the question, Hoover recommends soy milk primarily because it contains 7 grams of protein per cup and houses all nine essential amino acids. Another great alternative is pea milk, which contains 8 grams of protein, as well as all of the essential amino acids, which is important because the body cannot make these on its own and they must be acquired through diet.
"Overall, plant-based milk alternatives are nutritionally inferior to cow's milk, so if you are able to tolerate cow's milk, that would be my recommended preferred choice," Hoover adds.
How to Drink and Use Oat Milk
Beyond a thicker consistency, the slightly sweet flavor of oat milk is pretty great too. "Its creaminess makes it popular to drink, such as in oat milk lattes and cappuccinos. It can also be used in smoothies, creamy soups, and baked goods," says Gans. Try it for yourself: Elmhurst Unsweetened Oat Milk (Buy It, $50 for 6, amazon.com) or Pacific Foods Organic Oat Milk(Buy It, $36,amazon.com).
You can also use oat milk in the same way you might use cow&aposs milk or other plant-based milk when cooking. "You can use oat milk as your liquid in pancakes and waffles or in place of regular milk when making mashed potatoes or casseroles," says Jones. While you might not want to down a glass of oat milk every day, it could be a great dairy-free milk that&aposs easy on the stomach and provides an immediate source of pre-workout energy. (Up next: This Homemade Oat Milk Recipe Will Save You So Much Money)