What Is Oat Milk and Is It Healthy?
While the alt-milk aisle is overflowing with options, this beverage continues to be a top pick...but should it be? Find out whether oat milk is good for you, according to experts.
Non-dairy milk may have begun as a lactose-free alternative for vegans or non-dairy eaters, but the plant-based beverages have become so popular even dairy devotees count themselves as fans. And today, the options are endless: almond milk, soy milk, banana milk, pistachio milk, cashew milk, and more. But there's one beverage on the block that continues to get attention from nutritionists and foodies alike: oat milk.
"Almost all non-dairy beverages may be 'hot' right now because of the interest in plant-based diets," says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., author of The Small Change Diet. Oat milk is particularly accessible, as it's cheaper to make than nut milk and may be more environmentally friendly, explains registered dietitian Kelly R. Jones M.S., L.D.N. But what is oat milk exactly? And is oat milk good for you? Keep reading for those answers and more about this dairy-free beverage.
What Is Oat Milk?
Oat milk consists of steel-cut oats or whole groats that are soaked in water, blended, and then strained with a cheesecloth or a special nut milk bag. "While the leftover oat pulp has the bulk of the fiber and most of the protein in the oats, the liquid or 'milk' that results does have some of the nutrients in oats," says Jones. "Because oats absorb water more easily than nuts, when blended well enough, more of the food itself winds up passing through the cheesecloth, giving a creamier texture than nut milk without added ingredients." (Fan of oats? Then you've got to try these high-protein oatmeal recipes for breakfast, stat.)
Oat Milk Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits
Is oat milk healthy, though? Here's how oat milk nutrition and oat milk calories measure up to other varieties of dairy and plant-based milk: A one-cup serving of oat milk — for example, Oatly Oat Milk (Buy It, $13 for 4, amazon.com) — provides about:
- 120 calories
- 5 grams total fat
- 0.5 grams saturated fat
- 2 grams fiber
- 3 grams protein
- 16 grams carbohydrates
- 7 grams sugar
Plus, "oat milk contains 35 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium, and 25 percent for vitamin D," says Gans. "Compared to cow's milk and soy milk, it has less protein; however, compared to other plant-based beverages, i.e. almond, cashew, coconut, and rice, it has more protein."
Oat milk has less sugar (7 grams per cup) than cow's milk (12.5 grams per cup), but more than unsweetened nut milks like unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk, which only have 1-2 grams of sugar per cup.
Plus, oat milk is the clear winner when it comes to fiber. "Cow's milk has 0 grams fiber, almond and soy have 1 gram of fiber per serving — so oat milk with 2 grams of fiber is the highest," she adds. Oats contain a type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, which can help lower your blood levels of LDL cholesterol and, in turn, reduce your risk of heart disease, according to a 2018 review. Research has also found that beta-glucan can help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite.
"Oats also contain the B vitamins thiamin and folate, the minerals magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals in trace amounts," says Jones.
Oat milk does tend to be higher in carbohydrates, but that's okay because it's providing energy through these carbs and fiber as opposed to fat, which can typically be the case with most nut milks, explains Jones.
Of course, oat milk is also a good choice for anyone who's allergic or intolerant to dairy and/or nuts, according to Jones. Oat milk tends to be safe even for people who have a gluten intolerance. But, to be sure, you must read labels. "If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you'll want to be sure it was made with certified gluten-free oats," says Jones. "While oats are gluten-free in nature, they're often processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing grains, which contaminates the oats with gluten enough to cause a reaction in those with celiac or a serious intolerance."
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's 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's 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)