Is Oat Milk Actually Healthy?

oat milk
Photo Credit: Marti Sans

December 1, 2020

By Sheela Prakash

If you were to ask us a couple of years ago if we’d be enthusiastically drinking “milk” made from oats and water, I’d have flatly said: Not a chance. Well, currently there isn’t just enthusiasm over oat milk, there’s pure exuberance. It’s the hottest alt milk on the market! You’ll find it in coffee shops and grocery stores. Trader Joe’s started selling its own version, and plenty of DIYers are making it themselves.

So what’s the deal with oat milk? And is it actually healthy? Here are the facts:

What is oat milk?

Oat milk’s story began in Sweden. A company called Oatly figured out how to make a non-dairy milk by grinding oats with water, adding natural enzymes to break down the starch, then straining. Eureka: Oat milk!

One cup of oat milk contains about 120 calories; 5 grams of fat (mostly unsaturated); 16 grams of carbohydrates; 7 grams of sugar; 2 grams of protein; and 2 grams of fiber.

It’s higher in calories that a lot of other alternative milks. By comparison, the average unsweetened almond milk contains about 30 calories per cup. But it’s quite similar to 2% cow’s milk, which contains about 122 calories in one cup.

It’s also higher in carbohydrates compared to almond milk, which contains about 1 gram of carbohydrates per cup.

And it’s generally higher in sugar, even though it’s unsweetened. That’s because some of the starch in the oats convert to sugar.

However, it’s also higher in fiber than most alternative milks, has more protein than alternative milks like almond and coconut, and is relatively low in fat.

What does oat milk taste like?

Oat milk’s naturally sweet flavor and rich and creamy mouthfeel are an easy sell: It tastes as close to cows milk as you’re probably going to get and even froths well, which is why coffee shops have welcomed it as an alternative to other non-dairy options in lattes and other milk-heavy drinks.

It’s not just coffee shops who are #teamoatmilk.

“In my own personal opinion, it has a much creamier texture and probably one of the tastiest non-dairy options out there,” says Alana Fiorentino, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in New York City. “The texture more closely resembles cow’s milk so it’s a much easier transition for people adding more plant-based foods to their diet.”

So, is oat milk healthy?

Well, that depends on what healthy looks like for you.

If you’re on a strict low-carbohydrate diet like Keto, are insulin sensitive, or are watching the amount of carbs in your diet, oat milk may not be the best choice. Also, while oats are naturally gluten-free, some can be contaminated with gluten, so if you’re following a strict gluten-free diet, you’ll want to double check the oat milk you’re buying is labeled as such.

However, if you’re less restricted and you’d like an easy way to get a bit of extra fiber in the morning, it may be a good option for you, especially if you’re vegan or allergic to nuts. Alana also points out that it’s  “easier on the environment compared to almond milk.”

All of this is to say: The best thing you can do for your health is to understand what you need to feel healthy. From there, you’ll be able to navigate new, trendy foods like oat milk and figure out if it’s right for you.