If you're avoiding cow's milk because it's giving you issues with bloating, acne, or congestion (or because you're vegan), there's no shortage of plant-based milks to choose from. Almond and soy are probably the most popular, with pea protein milk on the rise, but what about oat milk? This milk alternative seems to be popping up all over supermarkets and in coffee shops. We asked three dietitians to weigh in on whether it's healthy and how it compares to other dairy-free milks.
Is Oat Milk Healthy?
In general, one cup of oat milk contains 130 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, zero grams saturated fat, two grams fiber, and four grams protein (brands will vary). It offers 35 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium and 25 percent RDA for vitamin D. Compared to other plant-based milks, oat milk has less protein than soy (90 calories, nine grams of protein) but more than almond (30 calories, one gram of protein). It's also higher in calories per serving.
One thing oat milk has over other dairy-free milks is that some brands are slightly higher in fiber, "which is good for digestion and heart health," Stephanie Ferrari, MS, RDN, of FRESH Communications, said. And because it's soluble fiber, it can help "reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your bloodstream," registered dietitians Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition, told POPSUGAR.
What About Taste?
"We think oat milk is a great option to add to the repertoire of dairy alternatives for people who can't or don't want to consume dairy," Stephanie and Willow said. "It has a rich, creamy texture, which makes it seem closer to cow's milk, in our opinions, and froths up really nicely in things like lattes; it's been sprouting up at lots more coffee shops this past year."
When you sip on unsweetened oat milk, you might notice that it tastes a little sweeter than other unsweetened dairy alternative milks. Stephanie and Willow thought that was strange, "since oats contain carbohydrate in the form of starch, but not as sugar." They discovered that some brands "convert some of the starch to sugar via an enzymatic process," which makes the oat milk taste creamier and sweeter. That explains why when you look at the nutritional info for unsweetened oat milk, you'll see that it still has 17 grams of added sugars. For comparison, unsweetened almond milk has zero.
Watch Out For Added Sugar and Gluten
"It's important for people to understand that many milk alternatives, like oat milk, might contain added sugar," Stephanie said. So be a label reader and make sure there's no sugar added. Silk Oat Yeah plain oat milk and Pacific Organic Oat Milk are great options since they're unsweetened.
Stephanie added that if you're gluten-free, "make sure the oat milk is made with certified gluten-free oats. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but cross contamination can happen during processing." Some gluten-free brands are Oatly and Califia Farms Toasted Oats N' Almond Almondmilk.
You Can Make It at Home!
"Oat milk is super easy to make at home and affordable," Willow and Stephanie said. You can use organic oats if you're worried about pesticides, and go for gluten-free oats if you need to. You basically just add one cup of rolled oats and four cups of water to a high-speed blender, puree, strain, and enjoy! You can add a little vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a few dates to the blender for natural sweetness. Or add cocoa powder if you want chocolate oat milk. Yes, please!