Is Oat Milk Healthy? Here's What You Need to Know About the Most Popular Alt Milk
It's everywhere, but is this non-dairy milk here to stay?
The world of plant-based milk is no stranger to waves of popularity. Once upon a time, soy milk stole the show, but it was eventually bumped aside by almond milk. Coconut and rice milk have also shared the spotlight, but lately, oat milk has taken centerstage. In fact, some might say that oat milk is everywhere these days. Oat milk brands like Oatly, Willa, and Planet Oat have been all the rage, making appearances at cafés and grocery stores alike. Even big box stores like Costco and Target are producing their own versions, making the trendy drink as accessible as cow's milk.
But is the oat milk hype actually worth it, and is it here to stay? To find out, we tapped dietitians to learn more about craze and the health benefits of oat milk.
Is Oat Milk Good for You?
The short answer: Yes. "Oat milk has a powerful nutrient profile that will nourish and satisfy [the body]," says Valerie Agyeman, R.D., women's health dietitian and founder of Flourish Heights. For starters, oat milk offers about three to four grams of protein per one cup serving. "[This is] not as high as regular cow's milk or soy milk, but more than almond or coconut milk," explains Agyeman. Oat milk also contains more carbohydrates than other milks, meaning it can be a great source of energy, she adds. And while the production process of oat milk strips some fiber from the oats, "oat milk has about two to three grams of fiber per cup, which is more than your typical almond milk," notes Agyeman. What's more, store-bought oat milk is often fortified with nutrients like vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin D, she says.
According to the USDA, one cup Oatly oat milk contains 120 calories, three grams protein, five grams fat, sixteen grams carbohydrate, two grams fiber, and seven grams sugar.
Does Oat Milk Have any Disadvantages?
There's no such thing as a perfect food (or drink), and oat milk is no exception. "Oat milk may contain a [high amount] of added sugars, especially in flavored options," explains Agyeman. "Luckily, unsweetened versions are equally as delicious without the added sugars." You can determine if an oat milk is unsweetened by looking at the front of the carton, which should have the word "unsweetened" on the label. Some brands also add small amounts of additives, such as gums, oils, and stabilizers. If you're trying to avoid additives and other synthetic ingredients, Agyeman suggests checking the product labels and finding brands with simpler ingredient lists.
If you have a history of diabetes or high blood sugar, the high carbohydrate content of oat milk might be a downside. As mentioned above, the production process of oat milk strips some of the fiber from the oats. Fiber is important because it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, which increases your blood sugar slowly. But since oat milk has less fiber than actual oats, the carbs in oat milk will cause faster blood sugar spikes than whole oats, says Megan Byrd, R.D., registered dietitian and founder of The Oregon Dietitian. That said, "[if you're] concerned about blood sugar spikes, oat milk may not be the best option," she notes. In this case, Byrd suggests reaching for lower carbohydrate alternatives like almond or coconut milk instead.
Why Is Oat Milk So Popular?
Oat milk's claim to fame extends beyond its nutritional profile. As Byrd notes, "the biggest draw to oat milk seems to be the consistency." It's creamier and richer than other plant-based milks, making it an excellent option for decadent dairy-free lattes and satisfying smoothies. The taste of oat milk is also a winner, adds Agyeman, as it's slightly nutty and sweet. And while the popular beverage certainly doesn't taste like cow's milk, it's delicious in its own right.
In the allergy department, oat milk also comes out on top. According to Byrd, it's an ideal option if you're allergic to soy, nuts, or coconut, which are the main ingredients used in other alt milks. "It can also be gluten-free if the oat milk is made in a certified gluten-free facility," says Agyeman, making it a great option if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
As for the future of oat milk? According to Agyeman, the popular beverage will likely become a staple product. "While it's a hot and trendy food, I believe [oat milk] will become a norm in many cafes and home kitchens because of its taste, versatility, and nutritional profile," she says. Byrd seconds this notion, adding that although it will stay popular, new alt milk options will likely join its ranks. In the meantime, we'll raise our glasses to oat milk, everyone's favorite non-dairy beverage.