Is Oat Milk Healthy? Here’s Everything You Need to Know, According to a Nutritionist
Joining the ranks of almond, rice, and soy, oat milk is the latest trendy plant-based milk to take over supermarket shelves, cafés, and coffee shops everywhere — yep, even Starbucks! And since this vegan beverage is actually pretty tasty, it’s probably not going anywhere for awhile.
Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits of oat milk — including whether you should pick it over cow’s or almond milk the next time you’re ordering a latté.
What is oat milk?
Oat milk is a vegan alternative to dairy milk that’s made by blending water and oats, and then straining out the liquid. Some recipes call for soaking the oats for 30 minutes prior to blending in order to make the texture a little thicker, but others skip this step.
Is oat milk nutritious?
Here’s the breakdown of the nutrients you’ll find in unsweetened oat milks like the ones from Planet Oat and Oatly:
Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 90-120
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Total Carbs: 15-20g
- Total Sugar: 0g
- Total Fiber: 2-4g
- Protein: 2g
- Vitamin D: 20-30% DV
- Calcium: 20-30% DV
- Vitamin A: 20% DV
- Riboflavin: 10-45% DV
- Vitamin B12: 10-50% DV
- Potassium: 8-10% DV
- Iron: 2% DV
What are the health benefits of oat milk?
Oats are one of the best foods you can eat for a number of reasons. First, as a 100% whole grain, they’re filled with fiber, plant-based protein, B vitamins, and minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium. They’ve also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease thanks to a type of fiber called beta-glucan that’s been shown to improve cholesterol levels. This fiber also provides prebiotics, which fuel your body’s probiotics and help these friendly bacteria survive and thrive. Eating foods with beta-glucan has also been linked to improved immunity and gut health.
However, it’s still too early to say if the beta-glucan or other forms of soluble fiber added to oat milk during processing has all of the same effects as regularly eating oats. Some initial research has linked potential cholesterol-lowering benefits to beta-glucan in beverage form, but the advantages for your heart and immune system also depend on what else you eat each day (i.e., veggies, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, seafood, cheese, unsweetened yogurt, and 100% whole grains).
Is oat milk healthier than cow’s milk?
Store-bought oat milk often has a similar amount of vitamins and minerals as traditional cow’s milk. That’s because the FDA permits fortifying milk and non-dairy substitutes with vitamin D and vitamin A. One cup of fortified milk — either oat or cow — provides about 20% of your daily value for each. Manufacturers may also add vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin to oat milks to provide some nutrients found naturally in cow’s milk.
The two kinds also contain a similar number of calories (90-150) in a 1-cup serving, but oat milk has more carbs (15-20g versus 12g) and fiber (2-4g versus 0g) and less protein (2g versus 8g). The additional protein in cow’s milk may keep you fuller, longer, since it prolongs the digestion and absorption process in your GI tract.
That said, it’s crucial to check labels before you swap out a dairy-based option for a plant-based one, since marketing claims can make “vegan,” “lactose-free,” or “non-dairy” food products appear more nutritious than they actually are. Even oat milks labeled as “Plain” or “Original” can contain added sugar.
Is oat milk or almond milk better?
If you’re lactose free, how “good for you” oat milk is compared to almond milk and other plant-based alternatives depends entirely on two factors:
Are you choosing an unsweetened version? For both oat and almond milks, look for ones that say “unsweetened” on the front of the package, and check the nutrition facts label to ensure there’s 0g of added sugar per serving. Heads up: “Barista Blend” is another code for added sugar — it’s designed to have a creamier texture for milk foam in lattes.
How much of it are you drinking? If you love the taste of oat milk, then by all means pour an unsweetened version in coffee, tea, cereal, or homemade smoothies. But if you’re choosing oat milk for its perceived weight-loss benefits, know that it has slightly more calories than unsweetened almond milk, which can add up if you’re drinking it by the gallon or adding it to basically everything.