Look, I’m not a caffeine controller; whatever way you want to order your coffee is your business. After all, coffee is good for everything from your brain to your gut ― why should I police how you drink it?
However, if you’re choosing non-dairy alternatives for a creamy addition to your morning cuppa, you might not know that oat milk has an unusual effect on your blood sugar in comparison to other milks and alternatives.
Too much of a spike in your blood sugar can cause everything from cravings to sleepiness, poor skin, and insomnia ― and if you’re keeping an eye on yours, you might want to switch out your oat drink for another dairy option or substitute.
It’s not just about sugar
Technically, oat milk has less sugar per cup (7g) than dairy milk (11g). That’s a lot more than, say, unsweetened almond milk, which has about 2g of sugar per cup ― but again, less than full-fat milk. So, what’s the issue?
Well, part of it has to do with fibre. Sugars that are part of, or are paired with, a fibrous food are less likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar ― “Because the body is unable to absorb and break down fiber, it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar the way other carbohydrates can. This can help keep your blood sugar in your target range,” the Centre for Disease Control says.
On top of that, starches can work as a kind of secret sugar that turns into glucose over time ― and oat milk is pretty rich in those.
Fats can also help to stall your blood sugar release, too. “Fat, along with protein and fibre, slows digestion which also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and smooths out the glucose spikes they can cause,” so long as you’re balancing your meals and choosing healthier fats, Healthline says.
But oat milk has very little fat and, like fruit juice, is missing all the fibre from its original plant. That means that it’s got a bit more sugar than most other alternatives ― and no spike-smoothing factors, like fibre and fat, to help keep your levels stable.
No wonder Dr Edwin McDonald IV, associate director of adult clinical nutrition at the University of Chicago Medicine, says that “If you are looking for health benefits from oat milk, you’re better off eating oatmeal.”
So what do I do now?
If you love the dairy alternative, try eating something with protein and fibre before it to help prep your system from the slight bump in glucose.
Porridge has twice as much fibre per cup as oat milk, for instance ― pair that with a higher-fat milk or add some nut butter on top of it for a balanced meal before drinking your oat milk coffee.
Or, you can replace your beloved oat option with a fattier nut or dairy milk ― but if you’re trying to keep a lid on your blood sugar levels, a cup of coffee with oat milk might not be the best option first thing in the morning.