The increasing popularity of improving health and fitness in recent years has led to some great cultural shifts. Most notably, it has been the shift in major retail stores (and the creation of new speciality stores) to include healthier alternatives to their shelves. From tofu replacing a hamburger, to zucchini replacing spaghetti, there’s an alternative out there for everybody.
One of the biggest ever-expanding alternative foods to come out of this are milk alternatives – something you’re probably already aware of (if you aren’t already using one of them). Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and others have become extremely popular in the past few years.
One dairy-free milk that has yet to hit the limelight is oat milk, which is exactly what it sounds like. Much like how almond milk is just almonds and water, oat milk is oatmeal (usually instant but steel cut can work too) that has been soaked in water, blended up, and sifted through a cheesecloth.
In this article we’ll be talking about why oat milk can benefit you, possibly more than other milks, as well as how you can make it yourself.
Oat Milk Benefits
When we’re talking about the oat milk from a carton, it comes with a lot the same, and some additional vitamins not added to cow’s milk. This means a very good amount of:
- Calcium (usually around 25% of our RDA per serving)
- Vitamin A (20%)
- Vitamin D (20%)
- Riboflavin (45%)
- Vitamin B12 (10%)
- Phosphorus (10%)
- Potassium (4%)
- Iron (2%)
These numbers will vary and are mostly fortified with the majority of these vitamins, much like dairy and other nut milks.
When it comes to oat milk’s macronutrient profile, a normal 240ml serving contains around 130 calories, 2.5g of fat, 24g of carbs (roughly 2g from fibre and 10-19g from sugar) and 4g of protein.
Compared to dairy milk (let’s say 2%), the calories and fat are about the same, the carbs are about double, and the protein is about half. Compared to the average almond milk, oat milk contains 50 more calories, twice the carbs, and 3g more protein.
It’s important to note that these numbers are calculated based on the fortified and branded oat milk with added sugar. We’ll get into the nutrition of homemade oat milk a bit later…
As for the benefits, fortified oat milk contains more calcium than dairy and almond milk, which of course help keep bones and teeth strong. It’s less well-known that as an electrolyte, calcium is also important for proper nerve function and cognition processing.
Along with vitamin D also found in oat milk, the two nutrients work together to increase absorption rates of each other and provide additional benefits such as lowering blood pressure, the risk of diabetes, and maybe even cancer (but more research needs to be done in these areas).
Vitamin A is great for eye health, but since it is an antioxidant it also works to remove free radicals in the body that can do all kinds of damage. Oat milk also contains other trace minerals that shouldn’t be discounted, as iron, phosphorus, and potassium are all important to keep us healthy.
The one big benefit that should be mentioned are molecules that are found in oats, known as beta-glucans. This polysaccharide is extremely beneficial to our bodies. To start, research has shown that beta-glucans are able to lower bad cholesterol, decreasing risk of a heart attack or stroke. Next, beta-glucans can actually stimulate the immune system – staving away illnesses.
There is even some evidence to show beta-glucans can help with digestive health, decreasing bloating and IBS symptoms. Overall, this complex sugar is one you want to get on a daily basis for overall health and well-being.
How To Make Your Own Oat Milk
Unlike trying to make nut milk, oat milk is an extremely simple process and is easy to do at home. All you need is one part oats, four parts water (whether you’re using 100ml or 500ml), and a blender.
Let the oats sit for 30 minutes in the water so they can absorb the moisture in the blender, and add any sweetener/extract/spice you would like to enhance the flavour. Blend for about a minute, but do not over blend. A creamy consistency is what you want, and over blending might make the oat milk end up slimy.
After it is blended well, transfer it to a sealable container and filter it with a cheesecloth or through some kind of very thin towel. It will last in the refrigerator for about a week and you can add it to protein shakes, as a replacement for milk in baked goods, or just drank straight.
The nutrient profile isn’t quite as impressive as the branded version, but it does contain fewer calories, sugar, and fat. A 240ml serving contains around 70 calories, 0.1 gram of fat, 7.5 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of protein. Keep your oat milk cold, and shake before consuming like you would a nut milk.
Take Home Message
There are so many different milk alternatives nowadays, with most likely more to come in the near future. Oat milk might not be the new almond or dairy milk, as they all have nutrients that will appeal to different people with different lifestyles. But there’s nothing wrong with a good combination of both! Since one is not inherently better than the other (dairy milk included), you might enjoy one type of milk with cereal, but not with your smoothies and vice versa, so you can experiment a little.