Is Oat Milk Good For You Or Just Super Trendy?

photographed by Kate Anglestein.
At first, "oat milk" sounded like a made-up hipster food straight from a Portlandia sketch, but in the past few months it's become very real. Baristas prefer using oat milk in coffee drinks, environmental advocates say oat milk may be more sustainable than almond milk, and people swear that it really tastes as good as cow's milk. While these are all very valid reasons to choose oat milk, many of us may be wondering whether or not oat milk is any better for you from a health perspective?
We all have different nutritional needs, so it's tough to say for sure. Given all the hype around oat milk, we asked two clinical dietitians, Melissa Bailey, MS, RD, LDN, and Liz Smith, MPH, RD, CNSC to give us the tea on oat milk. Here's what they had to say:
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How do you milk an oat in the first place?
There are a few different ways to make oat milk. Some people who DIY their own oat milk soak steel cut or rolled oats in water, blend them, and then strain them using a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Commercial oat milk is typically enriched with other vitamins and minerals, and will contain additives to prolong shelf life and make it sweeter.
In terms of nutritional content, how does oat milk stack up to other dairy alternatives?
Oat milk typically doesn't have a significant amount of protein or fat, although it does have a little more fat compared to almond milk. One serving of Oatly oat milk contains 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, while almond milk contains 1 gram of protein and 2.5 grams of fat per serving. (Fat in foods is not a bad thing, FYI.) Oat milk also has more sugar per serving than other types of milk, because it's made from a carbohydrate (which gets broken down into a simple sugar). Usually, it's just natural sugar from the oats, although you may want to check the label to see if there are any "added sugars."
Pretty much all dairy-milk alternatives contain vitamins and minerals — like calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and vitamin D — that have been added to it. However, if you make your own oat milk, then you're not going to get any of those vitamins at all. This isn't a huge deal, and shouldn't affect you nutritionally so long as you eat a balanced diet, but it is something to consider if you're committed to making your own.
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Is oat milk as good for you as, say, eating a bowl of oatmeal?
Unlike eating a bowl of steel cut oats, oat milk is strained, so you miss out on some of the fibre that you'd get from the whole grain kernel. Oat milk has some fibre like whole oats, but not a significant amount unless there's an additive. In other words, drinking oat milk is not the same as eating oats.
Who is oat milk best for?
Oat milk is great for people who have allergies to dairy, soy, or nuts, and those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. That said, oat milk is often processed with the same machines as wheat, so there could be cross-contamination that puts those with a wheat allergy at risk. You can use oat milk pretty much however you'd use other milk: in coffee, smoothies, or baking. But you should know that oat milk can be pretty expensive; a one-gallon carton is almost double the price of a gallon of almond milk at some stores.
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