Is oat milk good for you? Oat milk benefits and nutrition explained

Read Time:   |  28th September 2022

It's delicious, sustainable and ethical, but is oat milk good for you? Here's everything you need to know about the hottest plant-based milk alternative.

It seems oat milk has become a champion among plant milks – it’s delicious, sustainable and ethical. But there’s a lot more to it so let’s dig deeper into the world of oat milks.

What is oat milk? 

Oat milk is a milk-like beverage made from soaked and blended oats, water and a tiny bit of salt. It may contain other ingredients in small amounts such as sunflower or rapeseed oil for creaminess, vitamins and minerals for added nutritional value and sometimes natural stabilisers for thicker consistency and prolonged shelf-life.

It has a mild, slightly sweet taste and works great in tea, coffee, cereal, smoothies or baking. 

Oat milk is considered one of the most sustainable plant milks because oats are grown locally, don’t require much water or fertilisers and are generally low-maintenance. Organic oat milk is the ‘purest’ version because organic farming means no dangerous pesticides were used.

Is oat milk good for you? 

Oat milk is certainly a healthy option and it’s good for you.

It’s an easy-to-digest, low-fat, low-sugar drink that supplies healthy fibre and contains nothing that could be bad for you. There’s literally no downside to oat milk! If you choose the variety fortified with vitamins B2, B12 and D, and calcium or even iodine, you’ll also be getting a healthy dose of these important nutrients.

Oat milk is easy-to-digest, low-fat, low-sugar and supplies you with healthy fibre. Image credit:

Oat milk is easy-to-digest, low-fat, low-sugar and supplies you with healthy fibre. Image credit:

Oat milk calories and nutrients

Just like any other milk, oat milk is a fairly watery liquid so around 90% of it is water and the rest is all the good stuff.

Different oat milk brands are quite similar in their calorie content – 100 millilitres contains around 50 calories or 200 kilojoules which is similar to semi-skimmed milk. However, oat milk is healthier because it has better fats, less sugar and more fibre!

In general, oat milk is very low in fat and the little fat it contains – typically 1.5 grams per 100 millilitres – is mostly unsaturated (the healthy type of fat).

On the other hand, cow’s milk contains mostly saturated fat (the unhealthy kind). Replacing saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated is important for heart health1.

When it comes to protein, brands vary with some oat milk containing 0.3 grams per 100 millilitres, others 1.1 grams. That’s less than for example soya milk, however, no one usually drinks any kind of milk specifically for protein.

Oat milk tends to be a little sweet because of the natural sugars in oats so manufacturers don’t usually add any sugar to the final product. Major oat milk brands all contain just over three grams of sugar per 100 millilitres, which is considered to be a low amount.

Lastly, there’s between 0.8 and 1.5 grams of fibre in 100 millilitres of oat milk – that’s a healthy addition to our diet because we need fibre for good digestive health. The recommended daily intake is 30 grams.

One particular type of fibre found in oats are beta-glucans – they are a type of soluble fibre and their regular consumption helps to reduce cholesterol levels2 and can help regulate blood sugar levels3.

Oat milk is very low in fat and contains soluble fibre which helps to reduce cholesterol levels and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Image credit: Yelena Yemchuk via Getty Images

Oat milk is very low in fat and contains soluble fibre which helps to reduce cholesterol levels and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Image credit: Yelena Yemchuk via Getty Images

Does oat milk have calcium? 

All fortified varieties contain 120 milligrams of calcium per 100 millilitres to match the content of cow’s milk. On the other hand, organic varieties are not fortified so those are not good sources of calcium for vegans. Always check the nutrition information label!

If you have oat milk with your tea, coffee or cereal, it’s a convenient way to up your daily calcium intake, so it’s a good idea to choose the fortified variety. However, if you use oat milk for baking or vegan pancakes, it’s probably not an everyday thing so you don’t necessarily need fortified oat milk for that.

Oat milk benefits

Oat milk has plenty of health benefits as outlined above and one more – it’s suitable almost for everyone because there are no common allergens in it! No dairy, lactose, nuts, soya or gluten. However, if you’re gluten-free, see the more detailed information below.

Oat milk is also environmentally friendly because oats are grown all over Europe and North America and so local manufacturers don’t have to transport them to factories from afar.

Oats don’t require much irrigation and are fairly easy to grow with reliable harvests, so they are a very sustainable crop. See below for a more detailed comparison.

If you’re looking for an ethical choice, oat milk is definitely it. The most ethical of all would be home-made oat milk because that requires no single-use packaging for the product and if your oats come in a paper bag, you can’t get much more low-impact than that.

Oat milk is environmentally friendly because oats don’t require much irrigation and are fairly easy to grow with reliable harvests. Image credit:

Oat milk is environmentally friendly because oats don’t require much irrigation and are fairly easy to grow with reliable harvests. Image credit:

Oat milk vs cow’s milk

In this comparison, oat milk wins by far! In terms of nutrition, oat milk has healthy fats, protein, fibre, is low-sugar and, especially the fortified varieties, high in vitamins.

On the other hand, cow’s milk has mostly unhealthy fats, no fibre, some protein, is higher in sugar (lactose) and much harder to digest because many people are lactose-intolerant.

On top of that, cow’s milk also naturally contains hormones that may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer4. Oat milk has none of those.

When it comes to environmental impact of these milks, here’s a comparison table5:

Type of milk

Greenhouse gas emissions (kg CO2 or equivalent)

Water use (litres)

Land use (square metres)

Cow’s milk

3.0

628

9.0

Oat milk

0.9

48

0.8

Soya milk

1.0

28

0.7

Almond milk

0.7

371

0.5

Rice milk

1.2

270

0.3

Oat milk produces less than a third of greenhouse gas emissions compared to cow’s milk, requires 13 times less water and 11 times less land.

And, of course, oat milk is far more ethical than cow’s milk because it doesn’t exploit animals!

Oat milk vs almond milk

Both of these milks are a healthy choice, with small amounts of healthy fats, protein and fibre. Unsweetened almond milk has even less sugar than oat milk.

Yet, looking at the environmental impacts, it’s clear almond milk requires more than seven times as much water as oat milk. So from sustainability point of view, oat milk is a better choice.

Almond milk requires more than seven times as much water as oat milk, making oat milk the more sustainable choice. Image credit: Anna Gorbacheva via Getty Images

Almond milk requires more than seven times as much water as oat milk, making oat milk the more sustainable choice. Image credit: Anna Gorbacheva via Getty Images

Is oat milk gluten free?

Theoretically, oat milk should be gluten free because oats don’t contain gluten but practically, this isn’t the case. It’s because oats are often processed at the same sites as gluten-containing grains so there’s a high risk of contamination.

If you have gluten intolerance or allergy, you’ll need to check the product packaging to see if it declares it’s gluten free. If your oat milk doesn’t carry this label, it’s not safe for you to consume. However, every oat milk that is gluten free proudly declares this on the packaging.

Can you freeze oat milk? 

You can and it lasts about six months in the freezer but when it thaws, it will have a slightly grainy texture. You can minimise this issue by letting it thaw in the fridge and shaking the container vigorously before using it.

How long does oat milk last? 

Shop bought oat milk must be kept in the fridge after opening and should be consumed within seven to 10 days. Homemade oat milk only lasts about five days and must be also kept in the fridge.

Oat milk is widely available in supermarkets with plenty of brands to chose from. Image credit: SolStock via Getty Images

Oat milk is widely available in supermarkets with plenty of brands to chose from. Image credit: SolStock via Getty Images

Which are the main oat milk brands? 

Although some brands or varieties come and go, there are a few oat milk brands that are widely available across the UK:

  • Alpro Oat – fortified oat milk with some extra fibre, naturally sweet and low in fat. Alpro now also make Oat Growing Up drink for children from one year of age, specifically formulated to suit their needs.
  • Oatly – the original oat milk brand, Oatly offer several varieties. The classical one is fortified with all the usual plus vegan iodine, the barista version is creamier, perfect for coffee and also fortified, while the organic one is not fortified.
  • Moma – unsweetened and fortified oat milks, the barista variety is creamier and so higher in fat but works great in hot drinks.
  • Minor Figures – oat milk made with coffee in mind! They have three Barista varieties – Barista and Barista light are fortified and Barista Organic is not. Then, they have specialties, such a ready-made Mocha drink or Latté.
  • Rude Health – one of the pricier brands, their organic and barista oat milks are made with more oats so are creamier and neither is fortified.
  • Plenish – one for purists, Plenish organic oat milk is extra low in fat.
  • Provamel Oat – organic oat milks made with European oats.

Is there a downside to oat milk?

Unless you are intolerant or allergic to oats, there really is no downside to oat milk! It’s a healthy, sustainable and ethical plant milk that’s ideal for a wide range of culinary uses. Here’s to oat milk!

Thinking about going dairy free?

Here are 7 reasons why soy milk is better than dairy.

Featured image: AsiaVision via Getty Images

References

  1. Li Y, Hruby A, Bernstein AM, Ley SH, Wang DD, Chiuve SE, Sampson L, Rexrode KM, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Saturated Fats Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Oct 6;66(14):1538-1548.
  2. Sima P, Vannucci L, Vetvicka V. β-glucans and cholesterol (Review). Int J Mol Med. 2018 Apr;41(4):1799-1808.
  3. Zurbau A, Noronha JC, Khan TA, Sievenpiper JL, Wolever TMS. The effect of oat β-glucan on postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2021 Nov;75(11):1540-1554.
  4. Fraser GE, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Orlich M, Mashchak A, Sirirat R, Knutsen S. Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milks. Int J Epidemiol. 2020 Oct 1;49(5):1526-1537.
  5. Poore J, Nemecek T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science. 2018; 360 (6392): 987-992.

Written by

Veronika Charvatova

Veronika Charvátová MSc is a biologist and Viva! Health researcher. She studied MSc Biology and Teaching of Biology at the University of South Bohemia and is a Human Biology lecturer at the University of New York in Prague. Veronika has spent years uncovering the links between nutrition and good health and is an expert on plant-based diets.

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