Oat milk is one of those things that once you try it, it's hard to stop. It's the creamy and oh-so-delicious mix-in your daily latte has been craving. But it's also one of those things that's so good...you have to wonder if there's a catch. How can something that seems this healthy taste this good? Is oat milk good for you, or are we all just playing ourselves?
What are the benefits of oat milk?
Because oat milk is relatively new, the USDA hasn't produced a standard for oat milk nutrients. For reference, here's the nutrition info for one cup of Oatly.
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 16 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Sodium: 0.1 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 7 grams
Beyond the nutritional profile, oat milk has a decent amount of benefits to offer, including:
1. It has fiber (unlike other milks). Oat milk has more fiber in comparison to other alt-milks and cow's milk. In a recent episode of You Versus Food, Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, explains this is thanks to beta glucan, "a super dietary fiber found in oats that's been celebrated for its cholesterol-lowering properties." Specifically, it's been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, AKA the bad kind which has been associated with heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems.
2. It's full of vitamin B. The healthy slow-digesting carbs found in oat milk deliver B vitamins, which aid in red blood cell production and the conversion of food to energy. Beckerman says this provides you with sustainable fuel and energy to get you through your day.
3. It's (usually) higher in protein compared to other alternatives. The protein count varies from brand to brand, but generally, Beckerman says that oat milk has more protein than other alt milks. (For example, almond milk has only 1 gram of protein per serving.) However, it still does not compare with cow's milk, which is the gold standard at 8 to 9 grams per cup.
4. It's a great option if you have food allergies. Alt-milks were off the table for lots of people with food allergies for a long time—people who have nut allergies couldn't partake in almond or cashew milk, and people with soy allergies had to skip the soy milk. Oat milk is friendly to both of those allergy types, and if you get gluten-free oat milk (since oats can be cross-contaminated with gluten), it's safe for people with Celiac disease or a non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Are there downsides to oat milk?
Generally, oat milk is good for you. But as with any food product, you should check the label on whatever kind of oat milk you buy since some brands sneak in added sugar or oils to maintain structure and viscosity, Beckerman says. (Good to know!) But if your go-to brand is a little on the sweet side, Beckerman says you shouldn't sweat it too much: "It's such a small percentage added to the beverage and really shouldn't deter you from adding a splash or two to your coffee."
Also, if you need to eat gluten-free, definitely make sure the brand you're buying is certified gluten-free. While oats by nature are GF, they're often processed in plants that also process wheat, rye, and barley. And looking for organic or certified non-GMO oat milks are also a good idea, since oats are often contaminated with glyphosate, a pesticide and possible carcinogen.
Oats (and thus oat milk) also contain phytic acid, a form of phosphorous typically found in foods like legumes, nuts, and oats. People hate this stuff because it's considered an "anti-nutrient" that makes it harder for your body to absorb other nutrients, Beckerman says. But if you eat a balanced diet, phytic acid shouldn't be an issue, she says—and a small amount of phytic acid have protective effects for your heart.
How to make it yourself
The only surefire way to ensure your oat milk is additive-free is to make it at home using organic, gluten-free oats. All you need to do to DIY oat milk, Beckerman says, is to soak oats in water in the fridge overnight, blend them, and then strain them. That's it. If you want a better recipe, check out this perfect recipe that Oh She Glows shared with us.
"Oat milk has some pretty nice stuff going for it," Beckerman says, "so I think we're ready to make it official." Count me in.
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