There's no denying it: Oat milk is making a splash in lattes and cold brews all over the country. But like every milk—dairy or plant-based—it comes with a few caveats. Before you pour, you might want to know some of the pros and cons of drinking this ultra-trendy bev.
The Pros and Cons of Drinking Oat Milk:
1. Could reduce cholesterol
If you're trying to watch your cholesterol, oat milk could be a fantastic option for you compared to some others. One study showed that participants who drank oat milk as opposed to the control (rice milk) had 6% lower LDL cholesterol after 5 weeks.
Oat milk has a creamy texture that's comparable to cow's milk, making it a popular substitute that's delicious in coffee drinks and smoothies.
It's true—non-dairy milk is way easier on the environment. Cows produce an insane amount of methane, for one thing. Then factor in the fertilizer, land for grazing, water for the cows, etc., and you have a real environmental impact.
Plant-based milk is not without footprint, either. Almond milk production, for instance, requires a lot of water itself. And one downside to commercially manufactured milk like oat milk is that they undergo a lot of processing, which in turn means a lot of energy use.
Alternative milk also requires a lot of transportation to make it to shelves and coffee shops, which has a very negative environmental impact as well, when you could easily buy a container of cow's milk locally from a number of sources. That being said, coconut milk is considered by many to be the greenest option. You can also make your own oat milk at home to cut down on packaging and transportation.
But the absolute most sustainable way to drink your morning joe? Make sure you buy responsibly-sourced beans for your coffee—and learn to drink it black.
4. Suitable for those with certain intolerances
If you're dairy-free or allergic to almonds, coconut, or soy, you may have found a friend in oat milk. Just be wary. Even though it's often touted as the allergen-friendly milk, it could still be dangerous to those with celiacs, or inflammatory to those with gluten sensitivity (more below).
5. Usually contains a little fiber
But not a significant amount, compared to eating whole oats, unless it's been put in as an additive.
Most oat milks contain sugar, both added and natural. Because there aren't yet a lot of brands to choose from, it can be hard to find an option that isn't sweetened, which is why you might want to opt for a different plant-based creamer instead.
2. May contain gluten
Although oats themselves are naturally gluten-free, a lot of oats have been processed on shared equipment that's been contaminated with gluten. As a result, if the oats used for oat milk aren't certified gluten-free, neither is your oat milk. And if you're avoiding or limiting the amount of grain you consume for autoimmune conditions or other reasons, avoid oat milk, as it could trigger inflammation.
3. Most contain canola oil
Who would have thought that the innocent-sounding oat milk could contain so many offenders? But look on the ingredients list, and you'll find that most oat milk contains significant amounts of canola or rapeseed oil, which can be highly inflammatory and is also likely to contain GMOs, as many canola oils are genetically modified and super processed.
4. Most contain pesticides
The USDA Pesticide Data Program found pesticide residue from 3 different kinds of pesticides on oats (see here for the toxicity data). Yuck! That includes pesticides that are known or probable carcinogens, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and toxins that could impact reproduction. Also included are pesticides that are toxic to honeybees—no bueno for the environment!
5. Not much nutritional value
Oat milk doesn't have the abundant calcium that dairy milk does, and what's more, most of the nutritional value from the whole oats do not make it to the final product. Some commercial brands will add vitamins and minerals back in after the fact, but that's something you can't do if, say, you're making it at home.
6. More calories
If you're watching your calories, know that even unsweetened oat milk has way more per cup (about 120-130) than unsweetened almond (40), coconut (50), skim (80), soy (80) or even rice milk (120).
7. More expensive
A gallon container of oat milk can be almost double the price of a gallon of almond milk at some retailers! That's quite an investment for an ingredient that usually just gets mixed into something else.
So there you have it, the pros and cons of drinking that oat milk your barista is currently frothing. It's delicious and creamy but has some negatives just like all the other options. For those of you who are gluten-free: Try making your own oat milk at home using organic oats that are certified gluten-free. And if you’re cutting your grains in general, opt for another sustainable variety, such as coconut milk.
The FitJoy Team
Our team likes to stay in the know and ahead of the game when it comes to eating, exercise, and wellness in general! We take the latest buzz in the nutrition world and make it easily translatable for your own life.