Is Oat Milk Healthy Or Not? Here's What You Need To Know

It's delicious, but is it good for us?
Anastasiya Mihailovna via Getty Images

Since plant-based eating first arrived on our radars, oat milk has reigned supreme in coffee shops across the UK, and is a stalwart in our kitchen cupboards.

In fact, in 2020, Brits spent an estimated £146 million on oat milk, a rise of £72 million from 2019.

It’s clear we can’t get enough of the stuff. And it’s not hard to see why: it makes the perfect creamy foam for your flat white, it’s a delicious alternative to dairy milk if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, and it’s fairly affordable.

Plus, it’s good for the planet. Compared to cow’s milk, the production of oat milk reportedly produces 80% less greenhouse gas emissions and uses 60% less energy, and it also uses about 10 times less water than cow’s milk.

But recently, there has been some discussion online about whether or not oat milk is actually good for us.

Some say they’re concerned it has too much sugar. Others worry about the added oil and emulsifiers that help make oat milk so good for mixing into coffee.

So, is oat milk healthy?

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup (240ml) of unsweetened, enriched oat milk by Oatly (one of the leading oat milk brands) contains:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin B12: 50% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Riboflavin: 45% of the DV
  • Calcium: 25% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin D: 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 20% of the DV
  • Potassium: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 2% of the DV

So, oat milk is a great option that can help you meet your daily nutritional targets. However, it does contain more calories and carbs than almond or cow’s milk, and doesn’t contain as much protein as either of those either.

It’s good for your heart

Your daily oat milk is high in beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that turns into a sort of gel-like substance that binds to cholesterol and reduces its absorption into your body and can lower levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol.

One cup of oat milk can provide up to 1.2 grams of the fibre.

A review of 58 studies with people who had high cholesterol revealed that getting an average of 3.5 grams of beta-glucan daily for five to six weeks reduced LDL cholesterol by 4% and 2%.

It’s good for your bones

Commercial, store-bought oat milk is usually enriched with a range of vitamins, with vitamin D and calcium being among them — something that’s great for bone health and density.

We’ve all been told that drinking your milk is important for calcium, so if you’ve switched over to something plant-based like oat milk, you don’t need to worry about missing out.

It contains additives

There’s been some concern over additives in oat milks, specifically phosphates, according to Charlotte Martin, a registered dietitian, as brands have been known to add these in to prevent the milk from splitting in hot drinks.

Martin says the additive has been used and considered safe for a long time and “isn’t an issue”, unless you have kidney disease “in which case you may need to limit intake of minerals like phosphorous”.

What about sugar?

As oat milk is marketed as a healthy, alternative product, some TikTokkers have been alarmed to find out that amongst the ingredients list, which usually looks quite innocuous — oats, oil, salt and vitamins — this type of milk contains a high glycemic type of sugar called maltose.

It’s naturally created by the way the oats are processed, as enzymes are added to break down the oat starches, which turn into sugar.

Maltose can raise our blood sugar quite rapidly, so do we need to be concerned? Speaking to Insider, registered dietician Anna Sweeney says that the sugar in oat milk is mitigated by eating other foods alongside it.

“For example, having oat milk in a bowl of whole-grain cereal, along with some fibre, or in a smoothie with healthy fats and protein, is not at all the equivalent of drinking soda,” she says.

Go forth and enjoy your oat milk latte!