Is oat milk good for you? Are there any dangers of drinking oat milk? What's the bottom line on nutritional value? Nutrition Diva has the scoop on the hottest new non-dairy alternative.
Just when you thought there wasn’t room for one more in the case, a new non-dairy alternative has taken the world by storm: Oat milk. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of the newest contender.
Pros of Oat Milk
One thing that oat milk has going for it is a texture that’s close to that of whole milk. Unlike rice or almond milk, which tend to be thin and watery, oat milk has a creamier mouthfeel; this is a non-dairy alternative that you can actually use to lighten your coffee. And although taste is obviously subjective, the fuller flavor of oat milk has won a lot of converts.
Oats may also have an edge in terms of sustainability, especially compared with almonds. Another plus is a small amount of fiber. We’re only taking 1 or 2 grams per serving, but oat fiber has some unique benefits in terms of lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
With 2-4 grams of protein per serving, oat milk is lower in protein than cow’s milk or soymilk but higher than most rice and almond milk. Oat milk may also be a great option for those with nut allergies, for whom nut milks are off the menu.
See also: Which Milk Substitutes Are Best?
Oats are not a good source of calcium or vitamins A and D—nutrients that are typically supplied by dairy. However, virtually all of the oat milk brands I reviewed were fortified with calcium. Many also contained added vitamin D, and a few were fortified with a whole range of additional nutrients, including vitamins A and B12. As long as you're getting those nutrients from somewhere, they don’t necessarily need to be in your milk. But if you’re counting on your nondairy milk to be filling those gaps, check labels.
I put together a chart of several of the leading brands of oat milk, comparing their nutritional profile, cost, and ingredients. You'll find it on my blog at NutritionOverEasy.com.
Cons of Oat Milk
As is the case with all commercial nondairy milks, there’s likely to be a lot more in your oat milk than just oats. Manufacturers add varying amounts of sugar and salt. Some add thickeners, emulsifiers, and other flavoring agents. Some of the sweetened varieties have almost as much sugar as soda or juice! Be sure to seek out the unsweetened varieties.
Some of the sweetened varieties have almost as much sugar as soda or juice! Be sure to seek out the unsweetened varieties.
Be aware as well that not all brands of oat milk are gluten free. Although oats themselves contain no gluten, cross-contamination can be an issue. If you have celiac disease or are otherwise gluten intolerant, be sure to verify that your choice is certified gluten free.
How to Make Your Own Oat Milk
One way to control exactly what is and isn’t in your oat milk—not to mention save a whole bunch of money—is to make your own.
I’ve been making my own cashew milk for years. Like oat milk, cashew milk is thicker and creamier than rice or almond milk, and it’s easy to make at home. But oats are a lot cheaper than raw cashews. Although there’s still no substitute for cashews when it comes to making nondairy whipped cream, homemade oat milk may become my new standard. (My recipe for cashew milk and whipped cashew cream is on my blog at NutritionOverEasy.com.)
If you’d like to try making your own oat milk, start with one cup of old fashioned rolled oats. (Choose a brand that’s gluten free if that’s important.) Soak your grains for 15 to 30 minutes and then drain and rinse them.
Start by blending the soaked oats with two cups of water for 60 seconds at the highest speed your blender has. The result will be closer to whole milk or half and half. You can add more water until you have the thickness you desire. Four cups of water to one cups of oats will result in something similar to reduced fat milk.
You can add a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla extract, or a drizzle of agave nectar or maple syrup to enhance the flavor. You may also want to run it through a fine mesh strainer if your blender isn’t super high-powered.
A few caveats
Homemade oat milk is free of the thickeners and emulsifiers that are often added to commercial brands. That means it's likely to separate as it sits. If you add it to your coffee, keep a spoon handy to swirl it between sips. I also don’t recommend cooking with homemade oat milk. But it’s makes a great dairy-free alternative to pour over your cereal or lighten up your coffee,
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