Ask Keri: Everyone’s talking about oat milk. Is it healthier than other plant-based milks?
Keri Says: Oats are an incredibly nutritious cereal grain, and oat milk can be a healthy plant-based milk choice. It all depends on the brand and variety, so you’ll have to read ingredient lists carefully.
Like all plant-based “milks,” some contain too much added sugar or other unhealthy additives, and it’s also currently hard to find an organic version.
But woah: oat milk is SO trendy right now. In fact, it’s in such high demand that companies can’t keep up with production, and oat milk shortages occur all the time. (Who could have predicted?!) In other words, it’s worth getting the facts about the of-the-moment dairy alternative, now. Here’s what you need to know.
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Oat Milk Nutrition
First, the nutrients you want: In general, oat milk usually contains three to four grams of protein per serving. That’s a lot less than soy milk but significantly more than almond. While oats are high in fiber, it loses some when it’s processed into milk, so you end up with about two grams, which is pretty much equal to what you’d get in soy or almond. You’ll almost always get a small dose of important minerals like calcium and iron, and some brands, like crowd-favorite Oatly, also fortify the beverage with vitamins like D and A.
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In terms of things on the nutrition label you need to look out for, sugar is key. Oatly doesn’t add sugar to the original, but it clocks in at seven grams of sugar per serving from the oats. Elmhurst Milked’s version has five grams per serving, but it’s almost all added sugar. (The difference in sugar from the oats has to do with different processing techniques.) Pacific Foods’ oat milk, meanwhile, contains a whopping 17 grams per serving.
And then the ingredient list: Most popular brands are pretty clean, with oats and water as the main ingredients and then sometimes salt and added vitamins and minerals. Oatly adds a tiny bit of rapeseed oil to its milk, but it’s less than two percent.
Finally, most of the popular brands—with the exception of Pacific—don’t use organic oats, which is a bummer. If you’re gluten-free, you should also look for the term on the packaging. Oats are naturally gluten-free but are often processed in facilities that lead to cross contamination.
Oat Milk Flavor and Benefits
Here’s the thing: The reason everyone started going totally crazy for oat milk has nothing to do with nutrition facts. It’s just delicious.
If you’re a vegan or just someone who’s trying to cut back on dairy but you love a frothy, creamy latte, oat milk has a consistency similar to cow’s milk that beats out all of the other plant-based competitors—from soy and almond to hemp and rice. Not only is it oh-so-creamy, it has a naturally sweet flavor (oh hey, oats!) that also is just a little more…milky…than the others.
Another bonus: If you normally opt for almond milk, oat might be slightly better for the planet, since oats are a much more efficient crop that can be grown with way less water than almonds.
The Bottom Line
Can oat milk be part of a healthy diet? Sure, as long as you do your homework, and especially if you’re just adding a touch to your coffee here and there. (You shouldn’t be chugging it alongside every meal; water is best for that!) Choose a brand with a simple ingredient list, and check the sugar content. Avoid flavored versions (like chocolate and vanilla) to steer clear of added sugar. Try to buy organic if it’s available. And then enjoy that creamy, frothy vegan cappuccino.