If you’re considering making the switch from milk to plant-based milk, you might be wondering how oat milk compares nutritionally. There are many reasons you might consider making the switch – lactose intoleranceEnvironmental concerns, animal welfare and simple curiosity to name a few.
For many, choosing the best milk alternative is a growing challenge. A look at the supermarket shelves shows that the range is constantly expanding and more and more brands are offering plant-based products. Corresponding statistics (opens in new tab)Oat milk is currently the second most popular plant-based milk alternative in the US, right after almond milk.
But how nutritious is oat milk? And how does it compare to other plant-based alternatives? Read on to find out everything you need to know.
Oat milk: nutritional information
|Nutrient/ 240ml||Amount Per Serving (1 cup)||% Daily Value|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.6mg||45%|
|Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)||1.2 µg||50%|
How long does oat milk keep?
Just like cow’s milk, oat milk can be divided into two categories: UHT (Ultra High Temperature)/Shelf Stable and Fresh/Refrigerated. The UHT drinks undergo extensive heat treatment to increase their shelf life, while the chilled ones do not, making them less stable at room temperature. Therefore, they have different best-before dates and storage policies.
Shelf stable oat milk typically has a shelf life of six to 12 months. The refrigerated ones tend to have a much shorter expiration date, usually a few weeks after they’re made, and only stay fresh for about a week after opening.
When refrigerated, UHT oat milk is ready to consume approximately seven to ten days after opening the carton or bottle.
What Are the Health Benefits of Oat Milk?
Many people start their day with a steaming bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast food — filling, relatively inexpensive, and easy to combine with other ingredients, such as: bananas, apples and nuts. This staple food also has many health benefits.
According to a comprehensive review published in the Food diary (opens in new tab), regular consumption of oats can contribute to lower cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar metabolism, a healthier immune system and a more balanced gut microbiome. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing it heart diseaseDermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and some forms of cancer.
These health-promoting properties are due to a number of important nutrients found in this food. Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber, as well as many vitamins, minerals and biologically active compounds such as beta-glucans and avenanthramides. Beta-glucans are a fraction of dietary fiber that have been shown to improve several cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health indicators, as described in a review published in nutritional assessments (opens in new tab).
Avenanthramide, a type of phytonutrients specific to oats, may also have a long list of potential benefits. According to a recent article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (opens in new tab)Avenanthramides can help reduce inflammation, soothe and fight skin irritation free radicals and prevent the development and spread of various types of cancer. They can also contribute to weight loss and muscle recovery.
But does drinking oat milk have the same benefits as eating solid oats? Naturally, some compounds may be more dilute and less effective in liquid form. So far, not much research has been done in this area, but the results from preliminary studies are promising.
A study published in Annals of nutrition and metabolism (opens in new tab) The aim was to compare the effects of oat milk, soy milk and cow’s milk on plasma lipids, glucose, insulin and antioxidant status. After four weeks, participants who drank oat milk showed an average 4% decrease in total cholesterol and a 9% decrease in “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. At the same time, researchers from nutrition today (opens in new tab) point out that adding oat milk to a diet that already contains oats does not appear to have any additional effects on its own, despite some benefits.
Oat milk vs almond milk
Oat milk and almond milk top the sales charts in the US. So knowing how the two compare can come in handy the next time you go grocery shopping. The production process is similar in both cases: almonds and oats are soaked in water, blended and sieved to remove most of the solids. After this phase, many companies fortify their products with calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
However, if you care about sustainability, you should consider that oats and almonds have different ecological footprints. Growing and harvesting almonds requires much higher water usage as described in Global food security (opens in new tab) Diary.
From a nutritional standpoint, there will be some degree of variation among different products, especially when they are sweetened or flavored. Still, in their raw form, both oat and almond milks don’t contain much fat, sugar, or fiber. The biggest difference between them is their calorie content. Oat milk is high in high-energy carbohydrates, with up to 20g per serving, while almond milk can contain as little as 1g of carbohydrates per cup.
Oat milk also provides up to three times more protein. So if you’re looking for something more substantial, oat milk might be a better option. But if cutting calories is your priority, opt for almond milk.
They also differ significantly in taste and texture. Oat milk is much thicker and creamier than almond milk. It can also be sweeter and have a richer mouthfeel. Almond milk, on the other hand, is more watery and has a more nutty aftertaste.
Both options work well in teas, coffees, protein shakes, and fruit smoothies. However, in baked goods and desserts, oat milk may perform better due to its carbohydrate content.
Almond milk is gluten and soy free, making it a viable option for people using almond milk celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or soy allergy. However, people with nut allergies may need to stay away from it. Pure oat milk is safe for celiacs, but there is a high possibility of cross-contamination during the production process, so you may need to ensure that the oat milk of your choice is clearly labeled as gluten-free.
Is oat milk unhealthy?
The research is clear – oats are very nutritious and good for our health. There isn’t nearly as much evidence regarding oat milk, but it’s likely that it has properties similar to solid oats, albeit perhaps less pronounced due to its high water content.
Still, there are some risks and considerations to consuming oat milk. Due to their beta-glucan content, oats can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, and stomach cramps in certain individuals. Since beta-glucans are water soluble, they are also present in milk.
Another aspect to consider is the sugar content in oat milk. Solid oats are high in complex carbohydrates, but the milk production process can cause them to break down into smaller molecules. If the milk is additionally sweetened, this further increases its sugar content.
Finally, although not very common, some people can suffer from an oat allergy. For these individuals, it is best to avoid oat milk altogether.
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