Jessica Bippen, MS, RD, sheds light on why oat milk has become such a popular plant-based milk for latte lovers everywhere. But is oat milk actually healthy? Plus: a homemade oat milk recipe.
Oat milk is in increasingly high demand. But how healthy is oat milk, really? Keep reading for a closer look at its nutrition facts compared to other plant-based milk options.
Why is oat milk so popular?
Oat milk is the hottest coffee-shop specialty. Why? Simply put, it’s delicious. It’s thick, creamy, and froths up like full-fat milk in a latte or cappuccino. In fact, it outperforms basically all other plant-based milks out there for its sublime froth factor. And we all know the froth is the best part of a latte!
Aside from the taste, the oat-milk craze has really taken off due to a genius marketing strategy from Swedish company Oatly. Oatly started selling their oat milk to coffee shops back in 2016, creating a sense of exclusivity since the milk wasn’t widely available in grocery stores.
Oatly is now sold in grocery stores across the US, and other companies are jumping on the trend. Large corporations such as Quaker and Silk even dipped into the oat-milk craze with product launches in early 2019.
Nutritional Value of Plant-based Milks
Before determining how healthy oat milk is for you, let’s first take a look at its nutritional value versus other plant-based milks.
Here’s how one cup of the most popular plant-based milks compare. (Keep in mind that nutritional information can vary greatly based on the brand.)
Oatly Oat Milk
- 120 calories
- 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat)
- 16 g carbs
- 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g soluble fiber
- 7 g sugar
- 3 g protein
Califia Farms Almond Milk
- 35 calories
- 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat)
- 1 g carbs
- 1 g dietary fiber
- 0 g sugar
- 1 g protein
Silk Cashew Milk
- 25 calories
- 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat)
- 1 g carbs
- 0 g dietary fiber
- 0 g sugar
- <1 g protein
Silk Organic Soy Milk
- 80 calories
- 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat)
- 4 g carbs
- 2 g dietary fiber
- 1 g sugar
- 7 g protein
Note: Most plant-based milks are also fortified with vitamins like D, A, B12, and calcium. If these nutrients are key factors in your selection of plant-based milk, be sure to check the label.
Oat Milk Nutrition
Here’s a deeper dive into oat milk’s nutrition facts.
As you can see, oat milk contains only three grams of protein. It’s less than the seven grams of protein in soy milk, but slightly more than milk made from almonds or cashews.
Otherwise, oat milk is pretty comparable to the other top dairy-free milk substitutions like almond and cashew. However, one disadvantage is that it’s much higher in carbohydrates.
Lastly, although oats are high in fiber, after processing them into milk, there isn’t much left. For that reason, oat milk contains only about two grams of fiber, which is similar to soy and almond milks. However, it does have the benefit of containing beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber that may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Oils in Oat Milk
Most of the oat milk on the market includes canola oil (aka rapeseed oil) as an ingredient. Canola oil is a low-quality omega-6 oil that’s also inflammatory.
While we need omega-6 oils, there’s a delicate ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s, and most Americans are getting much more omega-6 oils than necessary to keep that balance.
Another thing to be aware of is the sugar content. Oatly’s original has seven grams of naturally occurring sugar from the oats. The other varieties of Oatly and other brands like Elmhurst and Pacific Foods have added sugar, with Pacific Foods packing in a whopping 19 grams of sugar.
Is oat milk bad for you?
On top of the carb, oil, and sugar content noted above, there’s something else you should take into consideration before switching to store-bought oat milk.
Testing from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that oats are often contaminated with glyphosphate, the active chemical in Roundup herbicide. Yikes!
Here’s the deal: Many farmers spray non-organic oats with Roundup before harvest, which can then contaminate the oats and oat products. The World Health Organization considers glyphosate a probable carcinogen, so it’s not something you want to expose yourself to (let alone eat).
The good news? Tests show that organic oats are less likely to be contaminated. Some companies go as far as having their oats pass through third-party testing to guarantee their oats don’t contain glyphosate. Fortunately, Oatly is one such company that guarantees their oat milk is glyphosate-free.
In order to steer clear of any glyphosate contamination, look for oat milk that’s certified organic and glyphosate-free. Most companies will pride themselves on this fact if they have these certifications.
Lastly, your oat milk should ideally consist only of oats and water—and maybe some salt and fortification—but that’s it. Yet realistically, there aren’t many options available with this basic ingredient list.
Homemade Oat Milk Recipe
Homemade Oat Milk Recipe
To make sure you’re drinking the healthiest oat milk possible, consider making it yourself. Thankfully, this oat milk recipe is super simple.
The standard ratio for this recipe is a half cup of oats to two cups of water. However, you can vary it depending on how rich and creamy (or thin) you like your milk.
- 2 cup organic steel-cut or rolled oats
- 4 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- Nut-milk bag or cheesecloth
- Start by soaking your oats in water for at least 30 minutes.
- Drain and rinse to remove any sticky coating that forms.
- Once the oats are fully soaked, blend the oats with water and salt.
- Strain using a nut-milk bag or cheesecloth.
So is oat milk healthy after all?
While oat milk is delicious in a latte here and there, you’re better off opting for another plant-based milk in your smoothie (or if you’re drinking it by the glass).
If you can, learn how to make oat milk yourself. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and always read the label. Opt for organic oat milk with minimal ingredients, and if possible, no added sugar or unhealthy additives.