The days of shopping for a gallon of skim or two percent milk seem so quaint. Now, grocery store aisles are stocked with dairy alternatives made with everything under the sun.
Soybeans, almonds, coconut, hemp, and the list goes on. Oat milk isn’t a new option (studies in the late ‘90s were already looking at its health benefits). But it’s certainly having a moment.
Fans, and some of us here at Aaptiv, love oat milk for how creamy its consistency seems compared with other plant-based counterparts. But, besides texture, how is it different? And, is it actually nutritious?
Keep reading for a 101 lesson on how this dairy alternative is made, how to DIY a batch at home, and how oat milk’s nutrition breakdown stacks up to all the other plant-based options out there.
What is oat milk?
It’s as simple as it sounds. Oat milk is a dairy alternative derived from oatmeal. “You combine one part oats with two parts water, let the oats soak up the fluid, and then blend and strain. The remaining liquid is the oat milk,” explains Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D.N., owner of Active Eating Advice. It’s a fairly simple process you can try at home with any kind of oats. However, steel-cut oats or groats (the hulled kernels of grains like oats or barley) provide the best texture in the final product.
What’s good about it?
Unsurprisingly, considering its ingredients, oat milk packs more fiber than other milks. It has two grams of dietary fiber compared with zero grams in traditional cow’s milk. Soy milk is just slightly behind with one and one-half grams. And, it can be a welcome option if you’re allergic to dairy, are lactose intolerant, or if you can’t consume nuts. “Oat milk could be an alternative for those with nut or soy allergies. And it has a better nutrition profile than flax or hemp seed milk,” says Bonci.
Are there any drawbacks?
Oat milk contains more calories than most nut milks (130 per cup versus about 30 to 60 in a cup of almond milk, for instance, or 50 in coconut milk). If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, this isn’t the milk for you. Oat milk contains a whopping 24 grams of carbs per cup. That’s twice the carbs of cow’s milk. Soy milk contains a mere four grams per cup.
Oat milk has a fair amount of protein at four grams per serving. That’s half the protein in cow’s milk and soy, but more than nut milks. Still, says Bonci, “If you’re looking for a plant-based alternative, pea milk provides more protein.” You should also keep in mind, she says, that “the protein in oat milk is not complete. It doesn’t have all the essential amino acids. So, it would be important to add other foods over the course of the day to make sure that protein needs are met.” To punch up your protein, you might add some nut or soy butter to an oat milk-fruit smoothie, for example, suggests Bonci.
And, then there’s the price. If you’re choosing oat milk for the flavor or texture, but aren’t allergic or opposed to dairy, cow’s milk will be way easier on your wallet. “Oat milk is $0.64 a glass, while cow’s milk is only $0.26 a glass,” says Bonci.
What’s it good for?
If you opt for oat milk, you can, of course, sip it the same way you’d drink cow’s milk or any other non-dairy variety. But, because of its frothy, creamy consistency, it’s an especially popular pick for smoothies and your favorite coffee-house drink. Oat milk latte, anyone?
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