Oat Milk vs. Almond Milk: How To Decide Which One To Use
- Oat milk is a plant-based milk alternative made from rolled oats. It is created by blending oats with water, then straining the mixture to create a smooth, creamy liquid.
- Almond milk is a plant-based milk alternative made from almonds and water. It is created by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to produce the nutty liquid.
- Oat milk is higher in most nutrients, including calories, carbs, fat, and fiber. However, almond milk is lower in carbs and calories, making it a better choice if you’re looking to lose weight.
Milk alternatives have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, especially among those looking to shrink their carbon footprint or scale back on their intake of animal products.
Oat milk and almond milk are two of the top picks for many plant-based eaters, thanks to their taste, texture, and widespread availability. But how do they compare and which is the better pick? We reached out to a few experts to understand how oat milk vs almond stack up in terms of sustainability, flavor, and nutritional value.
Oat milk overview
Oat milk is made by blending rolled oats and water, leaving a thick, pulpy liquid. This mixture is then strained, resulting in a nutty, slightly sweet beverage. Compared to other plant-based milks, oat milk also has a more creamy consistency, which works well swapped in for regular milk in a range of recipes, such as soups or smoothies.
A relative newcomer in the plant milk space, oat milk's rich flavor and velvety smooth texture make it a must-have among many coffee lovers looking for a vegan-friendly milk swap.
Almond milk overview
To make almond milk, almonds are simply soaked and blended with water. This mixture is then filtered using a nut milk bag, which helps remove any excess almond pulp to give the milk a smooth, light consistency that’s comparable to cow’s milk. Unsweetened almond milk tends to have a mild, nutty flavor, which makes a versatile addition to sweet and savory dishes alike.
Oat milk vs. almond milk nutrition
The exact nutrients found in oat milk and almond milk can vary depending on the specific brand, flavor, and ingredients. Some varieties may also be fortified, meaning that they contain added nutrients, such as B vitamins. However, for the most part, oat milk is higher in most nutrients, including calories, carbs, fat, and fiber.
However, oat milk is processed in a way that produces a natural sugar called maltose, which has a high glycemic index (read: it can cause your blood sugar to spike). This means that even if your oat milk doesn't have any added sweeteners on its ingredient list, it's still probably quite high in sugar—around 7 grams per serving.
|Milk||Oat milk||Almond Milk|
|Carbs||16 grams||1 gram|
|Fat||5 grams||3 grams|
|Fiber||2 grams||0 grams|
|Protein||3 grams||1.5 grams|
|Sugar||7 grams||0 grams|
|Vitamin B12||1.2 micrograms||0.8 micrograms|
|Riboflavin||0.6 milligrams||0.08 milligrams|
|Calcium||350 milligrams||422 milligrams|
|Phosphorus||269 milligrams||73 milligrams|
Which one’s healthier?
So how do oat milk and almond milk compare when it comes to nutrition?
Abby Cannon, JD, RD, CDN, an integrative dietitian and sustainability expert, tells mindbodygreen that she generally recommends almond milk over oat milk. She explains that almond milk tends to be lower in carbs, lower in sugar, and a smidge higher in calcium, even without fortification.
It's worth noting that there are some key nutritional differences between both these plant-based milks and cow’s milk.
“Substituting oat or almond milk for cow’s milk is not an even trade when it comes to nutrition,” says Cannon. “This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use either, but nutrition-wise, they aren’t the same.” Almond milk and oat milk each provide less than half the amount of protein and significantly less fat than cow’s milk4. Cow’s milk is also a better source of certain micronutrients5, including phosphorus and potassium.
Cannon also adds that not all types of oat milk or almond milk are created equal. “Brands use different ingredients in their alternative milks and some, not all, fortify them with additional nutrients not normally found in oats or almonds to make them more comparable to cow’s milk,” says Cannon. She points out that certain brands may also contain ingredients that you may want to steer clear of, including added sugar, gums, and fillers.
Most plant milks also contain added oils to help give them a smooth, creamy texture. Seed oils like soybean oil and canola oil (also called rapeseed oil) are highly processed and can be pro-inflammatory when consumed in high amounts. You'll want to avoid these and go with milks that leave the oils out or use healthier, less refined oils like olive oil.
Which one is more sustainable?
“From a water-use and land-use perspective, oat milk is a better choice, since it takes far less land and water to produce a gallon of oat milk compared to a gallon of almond milk,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian UCLA Medical Center and author of Recipe for Survival.
However, according to Cannon, the answer to whether oat milk vs almond milk is more sustainable isn’t quite so clear-cut. “Even though it takes less water to produce oat milk versus almond milk, we have to consider the entire life cycle of almonds and oats and the final products,” she explains.
This entails where almonds/ oats were grown, how they were grown, and how far they traveled to get to the end consumer. “Almonds from California, for example, are grown under sustainable practices; the farmers have reduced water usage, embraced zero-waste farming practices [by re-using hulls as feed, livestock bedding, etc.], and supported the honey bees," she notes.
With that said, it largely comes down to your personal preferences and priorities when deciding which option is right for you. Regardless of which one you reach for, however, Hunnes notes that both can be an eco-friendly alternative to conventional cow’s milk in terms of water and land use.
Which one should you choose?
Oat milk and almond milk each come with their own set of pros and cons. Still, there are several scenarios where one may be a better choice than the other. A few examples include:
In coffee: Oat milk
Because of its creamy consistency and slightly sweet texture, oat milk is a more popular mix-in for coffee drinks, like lattes. Oat milk is also beloved by baristas thanks to its mild taste, which won’t overpower the flavor of coffee in your cup.
In smoothies: Either
Both almond milk and oat milk can be a good addition to smoothies. Almond milk is thinner and lower in calories and carbs, which may make it a better choice for light smoothies, like this apple-cinnamon green smoothie. Meanwhile, oat milk brings a thick texture, which works well for more filling smoothie recipes, including this fiber-rich wild blueberry oat smoothie. If you're going to put oat milk in your smoothie, be sure to add a source of protein and fiber as well, to balance out the maltose and keep your blood sugar levels from spiking.
For weight loss: Almond milk
If weight loss is your goal, almond milk might be a better choice as it contains fewer calories, Hunnes tells mindbodygreen. “However, oat milk will be more satiating since it has more fat,” she adds, meaning that it might help keep you feeling fuller for longer between meals.
For blood sugar management: Almond milk (unsweetened)
According to Hunnes, unsweetened almond milk may be your best bet for blood sugar control, as almond milk contains a fraction of the carbs and sugar found in oat milk. However, she also points out that other high-protein plant milks (such as pea or soy milk) are even better for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels in the long run.
For sensitive stomachs: Almond milk
Almond milk is a little lighter than oat milk and lower in fiber, meaning it may be easier on your stomach. However, either can be a good substitute for cow’s milk if you’re lactose intolerant or have difficulty digesting dairy products.
- Avoid added ingredients and seed oils: “Choose brands that make their oat and almond milks out of simple ingredients,” recommends Cannon. She says that many brands sneak in added sugar or other ingredients like gellan gum, locust bean gum, and natural flavors, noting that barista blends are some of the most common culprits. Avoid pro-inflammatory seed oils like rapeseed, canola, and soybean oil in your milk.
- Go local: In terms of sustainability, Hunnes recommends opting for locally grown varieties of oat milk or almond milk from small family-run farms if possible.
- Look into the company: Cannon notes that you can also check a specific brand’s stance on sustainability before you buy. Review this sustainable food purchasing checklist for an idea of what to look for.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is oat milk easier on the stomach than almond milk?
Almond milk is lower in fiber than oat milk, which might make it a little easier to digest. However, both can be a great swap for cow’s milk to ease digestion, especially if you find that dairy upsets your stomach.
Is oat milk healthier than regular milk?
According to Cannon, swapping oat milk for regular milk isn’t exactly an even trade. Though oat milk can be an eco-friendly alternative, cow’s milk is higher in protein and several essential nutrients, including phosphorus and potassium.
Which milk is best for an anti-inflammatory diet?
Though many people believe that dairy can drive inflammation, some research actually suggests that milk may help ease inflammation. While more studies are needed to compare the anti-inflammatory effects of cow’s milk with oat milk vs almond milk directly, preliminary research suggests that both almonds and oats might also help reduce markers of inflammation.
Oat milk and almond milk are both great options if you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint or ditch dairy from your diet. The nutritional differences between both are pretty minor, but almond milk is lower in carbs and calories, making it a better choice if you’re looking to lose weight or keep blood sugar levels steady. On the other hand, oat milk has a creamy consistency that works especially well in smoothies or lattes.
Whichever type you decide to go with, be sure to choose a brand that boasts a short list of ingredients and prioritizes sustainability to maximize the potential benefits, for both your health and the planet.
Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and writer based in San Francisco. She holds a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and an undergraduate degree in Dietetics.
Rachael works as a freelance writer and editor for several health and wellness publications. She is passionate about sharing evidence-based information on nutrition and health and breaking down complex topics into content that is engaging and easy to understand.
When she's not writing, Rachael enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, reading, gardening, and spending time with her husband and dogs.