Oat milk is a popular vegan-friendly dairy-free milk substitute. This article details how oat milk is made, what’s in its nutritional makeup, and the various oat milk benefits you can enjoy if you include it in your regular diet.
What Is Oat Milk?
Oat milk is made by soaking whole or steel-cut oats in water, blending them together, and then straining them through either cheesecloth or a specially developed nut milk bag. The straining separates the milk from the leftover oats. While the pulp retains the bulk of the protein and fiber contained in whole oats, oat milk is nevertheless valued for its lack of allergens.
When it comes to oat milk vs. almond milk, cow’s milk, or soy milk, the winner is oat milk not just because it’s digestible by those with nut, dairy, or soy allergies (among others), but also because it contains beta-glucans, a soluble fiber with possible benefits for heart health.
Because oats tend to absorb more water than nuts, the final product of oat milk also tends to have more oat particles in it, providing a creamier milk texture that’s perfect for an oat milk latte. To make up for the loss of nutrients due to straining, oat milk is often enriched with calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D before reaching grocery store shelves.
The Top 5 Oat Milk Benefits
If you’re wondering is oat milk good for you, the answer is yes. Here are the health benefits of oat milk you can expect with every serving.
1. Oat Milk Has Superior Nutritional Content
Here is an example of oat milk nutrition facts based on a 1-cup serving of fortified, unsweetened Oatly brand oat milk.
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Dietary fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin B12: 50% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
- Riboflavin: 46% of the RDI
- Calcium: 27% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 22% of the RDI
- Vitamin D: 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 18% of the RDI
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 2% of the RDI
Though oat milk is lower in protein than soy and dairy milks, oat milk has cow’s milk beat when it comes to fiber content (cow’s milk has 0 grams of fiber), and the same with soy milk (1 gram of fiber). Oats come with other vitamins and minerals like thiamin, folate, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and copper, so a cup of oat milk naturally contains some amount of those nutrients as well.
2. Oat Milk Is Soy-Free, Nut-Free, Lactose-Free, and Vegan
Not only is oat milk an excellent choice for those allergic or intolerant to nuts, soy, or dairy, but it’s also safe for those with a gluten intolerance or even celiac disease, so long as it’s been produced from certified gluten-free oats. The reason for this precaution is because while homemade oat milk is gluten free, commercially produced oat milk may be processed in the same factories that process gluten-containing grains, thus contaminating the oats. Check the label for an assurance that your product has been produced without gluten-containing contaminants, or skip the worry and make your own oat milk at home (there’s instructions at the end of this article—read on!).
3. Oat Milk Is Uniquely High in B Vitamins
Often fortified with B vitamins like riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin B12, oat milk tends to contain more B vitamin content than other milk alternatives (while almond milk tends to have more vitamin E content). B vitamins have been shown to improve mood, strengthen skin, hair, and nails, and counteract oxidative stress.
4. There Is Cholesterol-Lowering Potential in Oat Milk
The beta-glucans contained in oat milk help reduce blood cholesterol levels. During digestion, beta-glucans take on a gel-like consistency in your gut and bind to cholesterol, reducing its absorption in the body. This is true of overall cholesterol and particularly the “bad” LDL cholesterol that leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
One study found that consuming 3 grams per day of beta-glucans lowered LDL cholesterol between 5-7%, and another study observed that men who drank 3 cups per day of oat milk over a 5-week period reduced their total blood cholesterol levels by 5%. Just 1 cup of oat milk can contain up to 1.3 grams of beta-glucans.
5. Oat Milk Helps Improve Bone Health
Because oat milk is fortified with vitamin D and calcium, drinking it can help benefit your bones. A lack of calcium can lead to hollow bones and an increased risk of fractures and breaks, not to mention osteoporosis. Calcium is essential for forming and maintaining bone density, and vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium in your digestive tract. A lack of vitamin D is just as dangerous as a lack of calcium intake, because without it you may still suffer from a calcium deficiency, putting your bones at risk.
Especially for those who are lactose intolerant, getting adequate calcium from a milk alternative is essential. The vitamin B12 content of oat milk also promotes bone health by supporting bone mineral density, making oat milk a triple-hitter when it comes to bone strength.
Here are a few potential downsides of consuming oat milk.
- Oat milk could be high in sugar: Especially if the brand you get is sweetened or flavored, there may be sugar added.
- Gluten-free is no guarantee: You can’t assume there hasn’t been cross-contamination with gluten-containing substances unless the product is certified gluten-free, but even then, those with celiac disease may not want to risk it.
- Fortification makes a difference: Choosing to make your own oat milk at home with gluten-free oats means that all the nutrients added to commercially produced products won’t be there, including many of the vitamins and minerals mentioned previously.
- Oat milk may not be enough for children: While oat milk is generally safe for babies and children, it may not have enough of the nutrients contained in breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk that children need to grow so rapidly. Consult your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about serving your kiddos a milk alternative.
- Consuming can be costly: Oat milk is usually more expensive than cow’s milk, so if your budget is tight, you may want to forgo oat milk, or make it at home to save money.
How to Make Your Own Oat Milk
Luckily oat milk is pretty easy to make at home. Start with certified gluten-free oats, blend 1 cup of oats with 3 cups of water, and then strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, separating the milk from the oat pulp. Store your homemade oat milk in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can even flavor it using natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or vanilla extract.
All Aboard the Oat Milk Boat
When it comes to milk alternatives, oat milk has a lot to offer, including being naturally vegan and all-allergen-free. Not only do fortified brands provide you with superior B vitamin content, but also the calcium many people take for granted when consuming dairy products. Whether it’s due to allergies or vegan lifestyle principles, oat milk is a choice that makes sure you don’t miss out on any of the essential nutrients you need.