What Is Oat Milk — And Is It Even Good For You?
Sorry, almond milk. But the newest non-dairy milk on the scene, oat milk, is more popular than ever.
You can’t scroll through your feed without seeing influencers and bloggers ‘gram pics of their oat milk lattes and smoothies. But according to Judith Dodd, registered dietician and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, oat milk is here to stay.
“Oat milk is the new non-dairy star of the month, likely to rival coconut, almond, cashew, soy, and rice,” she says. “It’s lactose-free, smooth, and naturally creamy but not overkill sweet.”
Oatly was one of the first brands to enter the spotlight, but more companies are jumping on the oat milk bandwagon and more “barista blends” have launched, too.
So if your local coffee shop isn’t making oat milk lattes yet, it will be soon. Oat milk is just part of life now—and everyone (even non-vegans!) wants to get in on the trend. But should you really buy into the hype?
What is oat milk?
Oat milk is, well, exactly what it sounds like: a non-dairy, vegan milk substitute made from oats. At its most basic form, oat milk is made of oats and water blended together, then strained to create a smooth, creamy liquid. Some brands fortify theirs with extra vitamins and minerals (or add flavours and sweeteners).
Is oat milk nutritious?
Nutrition labels vary between brands, so not all oat milks are created equal. Some, for example, have more sugar than others, depending on added flavours and other factors.
Here’s an example of what you’ll get in one cup of plain oat milk:
- Calories: 130
- Fat: 2.5 g
- Saturated fat: 0 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Carbohydrates: 24 g
- Sugars: 19 g
- Fibre: 1.9 g
- Sodium: 115 mg
You’ll also get around 35 percent of your recommended calcium intake per cup, and about 10 percent of your daily recommended iron intake. Again, those numbers vary per brand based on how the milk is fortified.
According to Dodd, oat milk also contains small amounts of plant-oils, which are heart-healthy unlike the saturated fats found in dairy milk. Plus, oat milk is generally free of allergens like soy and nuts, making it a good dairy-free alternative if you have food allergies. Oats are also usually gluten-free, although you should still check the label before purchasing if you have Celiac disease or another kind of gluten intolerance.
In general, Sandra Grant, a registered dietician, says that oat milk usually has less sodium per cup than other non-dairy choices. For example, soy milk has around 124 mg of sodium per cup, and almond milk has 186 mg per cup, as compared to oat milk’s 115 mg.
According to Dodd, oat milk is higher in fibre than dairy, soy, and almond milks at nearly two grams per cup (compared to soy’s 1.5 grams per cup, and dairy milk and almond milk’s zero grams per cup).
It still doesn’t hold a nutritional candle to cows milk, though. “Unfortunately, oat milk is much lower in protein, and slightly higher in calories when compared to dairy milk of a similar fat content,” says Grant.
Nutrition aside, the reason you opt for a certain type of milk or alternative is almost as important as what’s in it: “[Is it] something to add to your coffee or tea, add to your cereal, enjoy as a beverage or smoothie? Use in a recipe? Oat milk seems to have a lot of advantages,” says Dodd.
READ MORE: Is Almond Milk Good For You?
How do I use oat milk?
Think of oat milk as the tofu of milks. It has a neutral taste that works well in a lot of different foods. Try baking with it, stirring it in your coffee, or cooking other grains (like farro) in it, suggests Cheryl Mitchell, food scientist at Elmhurst Milked.
And if you want to really double down on your oats, Mitchell recommends pouring oat milk on top of your oatmeal. “This gives a double benefit of the soluble fibres and nutrition, and keeps your digestive tract in great shape,” she says.
According to Dodd, it’s crucial to check the expiration date on all cartons before consuming. Once opened (even if it’s shelf-stable), refrigerate it right away.
How to make oat milk:
If oat milk hasn’t yet come to a grocer near you, pick a rainy day and DIY it.
1. Pick your oats. Old-fashioned or rolled oats are likely to blend more easily, compared to say, steel cut oats. “You may want to be sure that the oats used are labelled gluten-free if there are a health issues for Celiac or wheat allergies,” says Dodd. While she says oats are naturally gluten-free, there can be cross-contamination if wheat or rye are processed in the same equipment or air space, where grain dust in the air is likely to be present.
2. Soak the oats. This isn’t necessary if you’re using a high-speed blender, but if your blender is on the weaker side, soak them in the refrigerator for three to four hours, she says.
3. Strain and squeeze. Dodd says to pour the mixture in a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, and squeeze into a durable container like a mason jar.
4. Repurpose the leftovers. Once there’s no more liquid coming from the nut bag or cheesecloth, Dodd says you can either compost the oat pulp or use it as fibre-rich mulch. “I could see using it as a filler in meatloaf, vegetable patties, tuna or salmon patties,” she says.
5. Consume. Always shake the mixture before using to guarantee a smoother texture. Dodd says to feel free to add your favourite type of sweetener or vanilla extract.
6. Store it safely. Store-bought brands are shelf stable until opened, then last seven to 10 days after opening in the refrigerator (depending on the package expiration date). But homemade oat milk only lasts two to three days (at most) in your fridge so it’s best enjoyed ASAP.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com