Everything You Need to Know About Oat Milk

While the alt-milk aisle is overflowing with options, oat milk continues to be a top pick. Find out whether it's 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 that 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 line the shelves of pretty much any grocery store's refrigerated aisle. 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.

Oat Milk, Explained

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," adds Jones. (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's nutrition measures up to other varieties of dairy and plant-based milk: A one-cup serving of oat milk — for example, Oatly Oat Milk (Buy It, $5, 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. 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," explains Gans.

Oat milk has less sugar than cow's milk (12.5 grams per cup), but more than unsweetened nut milks such as 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," adds Gans. 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 and increase satiety.

"Oats also contain the B vitamins thiamine 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 fine since it's providing energy through these carbs and fiber as opposed to fat, which can typically be the case with most nut milks, she explains.

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 the labels. "If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you'll want to be sure it was made with certified gluten-free oats. 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," explains Gans.

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. Oat milk can be used 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. Brands such as Elmhurst Unsweetened Oat Milk (Buy It, $41 for 6, amazon.com) or Pacific Foods Organic Oat Milk (Buy It, $32, amazon.com) are often easy to find in grocery stores. (Up next: Make These Vegan Milkshakes When You Want a Creamy Treat.)

Updated by Isadora Baum
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