What Is Oat Milk? Benefits, Nutrition & How To Make It
Once the new alternative milk in town, oat milk has quickly become one of the most popular nondairy beverages. By now, you've likely seen it make appearances in your coffee shops, grocery stores, and even Instagram feed. Whether or not you've jumped on the oat milk craze, you may still have a few lingering questions about this popular product (Is it healthy? How is it even made?). To get the lowdown on oat milk, mindbodygreen chatted with a few savvy nutritionists.
What is oat milk?
Like other nondairy beverages, oat milk is a vegan alternative to cow's milk. Similar to its nut-based counterparts, oat milk is made by blending water and oats together, then straining the mixture to produce a creamy liquid that looks a fair amount like the milk you drank growing up.
While it's pretty easy to make your own oat milk at home (more on that below), a number of brands also offer oat milk and oat milk products. A few that have hit the shelves over the last few years include Oatly, Califia, Elmhurst, Planet Oat, and Silk Oat Yeah!, to name a few.
Is oat milk healthy?
"That depends. You want to make sure you're going for a minimally processed, unsweetened product," says Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN. "Keep an eye out for preservatives and stabilizing agents on labels, as well."
Oat milk nutrition varies depending on the brand, and whether or not the product is sweetened or flavored. "Some store-bought oat milk is also fortified with many of the same vitamins and minerals as cow's milk, such as calcium, vitamin D and B12," says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.
The USDA hasn't created standard nutrition information for oat milk, but as an example of the nutrition breakdown, here's what you'll find in one serving (8 fluid ounces) of Califia unsweetened oat milk:
- Calories: 100
- Fat: 7 g
- Sodium: 100 mg
- Carbohydrates: 9 g
- Sugar: 2 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Calcium: 245 mg
"Because it's fairly low in protein, make sure that you're working protein into your meals and snacks as needed," says Cording.
How does oat milk compare to cow's milk or other nondairy milks?
"For people who thrive on a dairy-free diet, it's a great alternative thanks to its versatility," says Cording. "It does offer more protein than almond, coconut, and rice milk but a little less than pea protein or soy milk."
That said, "if you get plenty of protein from elsewhere—and most Americans get more protein than they need—oat milk can be a healthy swap, especially if you have trouble digesting cow's milk, are looking to eat more plants, or just prefer the taste of oat milk," says Moon.
As far as how it compares to cow's milk, "Oat milk doesn't contain the same level of nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein," says Largeman-Roth. "Cow's milk is nutrient-packed and is a great choice, as long as you can digest it."
What are the benefits of oat milk?
"It's a great nondairy alternative for people who are lactose intolerant or avoiding dairy for other reasons," says Cording.
"Oat milk is also a good choice for people who are allergic to tree nuts or soy and are looking for a plant milk that they can use in multiple ways, such as in their coffee and in recipes," says Largeman-Roth. "I recommend it to clients who find other plant milks to be too thin and watery tasting."
"It can also be a gluten-free option if the oats are certified gluten-free," says Moon. "Perhaps the most unique benefit of oat milk is that the special fiber in oats, beta-glucan, is also in oat milk," she adds. "Beta-glucans help lower cholesterol to improve heart health."
Plus, oat milk is a potentially healthier option for the planet than other milk alternatives. "Because oat crops have a smaller environmental impact than dairy, almond, and soy, oat milk is also a more sustainable option," says Cording.
How to make oat milk.
Another draw of oat milk? Its ease of preparation at home. Unlike nut milks, it requires no soak time, and the base ingredients are much cheaper than almonds or cashews. Making your own oat milk allows you to have the freshest product and lets you avoid any undesirable ingredients.
Ready to make your own oat milk? This video shows you the simple two-step process. You can also find the full recipe below.
- 1 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary)
- 3 cups filtered water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Dash of vanilla extract (optional)
- Blend all ingredients until very smooth (we recommend using the vanilla only if you'll be consuming your oat milk in sweet, not savory, preparations).
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, nut-milk bag, clean dish towel, or triple-layered cheesecloth, reserving liquid.
- Store in fridge until ready to drink, for up to a week.
It's important to keep in mind that homemade oat milk won't have the added vitamins and minerals many fortified commercial products offer, and it may not have as long of a shelf life, says Cording. "But making smaller batches to last a few days will help you avoid food waste while knowing you're nurturing your body with whole foods."
How can you use oat milk?
One great quality of oat milk is its versatility. "Because it has a nice mild flavor and smooth texture, it works very well in coffee and tea beverages, in smoothies, and in baked goods where you'd normally use milk," says Cording. "Unsweetened varieties can also be used in savory dishes."
"It's my go-to for overnight oats because it provides a ton of creaminess," says Largeman-Roth. "If you want to use regular milk, it's a simple swap."
Just be mindful to include protein from other sources in your meals, recommends Cording, "whether that be through plant or animal sources."
For anyone who can't consume dairy, soy, or nuts, oat milk is a fantastic alternative to other nondairy options or cow's milk. Just remember that it lacks the protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D you'd find in conventional milk, so be sure to get those nutrients in your diet from other sources.
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