If coffee shops are any indication of which milks are “so hot right now,” oat milk is definitely the one to watch. Soy milk was the top milk alternative in coffee shops for years. Almond milk became such a hit that even dairy drinkers would order it for their iced latte sometimes. Other shops experimented with coconut milk, cashew milk, and even macadamia milk.
And then came oat milk. Like other plant-based milks, oat milk is made by soaking and grinding up steel-cut oats with water, and then straining it out through a cheesecloth.
Oat milk is frothier and creamier than almond milk. It’s got a more neutral flavor than soy or coconut milk. It’s more affordable than macadamia milk. It’s easy to see why oat milk is such a hit.
If you thought it was just a flavor thing, think again. Oat milk has a few key health benefits that will make you want to keep drinking more.
1. Oat milk is allergen-friendly.
If you don’t have any food allergies, this one might not seem like a big deal, but for others, it’s a game changer. Cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, and cashew milk each contain one of the most common allergens, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: soy, dairy, and tree nuts.
Imagine setting up a coffee table for your office meeting but having three different employees with three different allergies. The easiest option is to set out one milk that’s accessible and safe for everyone (as opposed to spending your budget on four different milk options).
Until the rise of oat milk, the only options were rice milk or flax milk, which aren’t easy to find in stores and not creamy enough for coffee, anyway.
2. Oat milk has almost no saturated fat.
Switching from cow’s milk to oat milk can save you from a lot of saturated fat, especially if you order a whole milk latte every day. Saturated fat can raise LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and increase your risk of heart disease. Learn more about what cholesterol numbers mean here.
Eight ounce of whole milk (the default option for a latte) contains five grams of saturated fat. Oat milk, on the other hand, contains just 0.5 grams of saturated fat. That’s a big difference, considering the American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat to just 11 to 13 grams a day.
Many latte lovers have strayed away from soy or almond milk since they don’t get quite as creamy as whole or even skim milk. Oat milk is a different story, though. It’s not uncommon to hear baristas recommend oat milk lattes, thanks to their ultra creamy, ultra cozy mouthfeel. Frothy latte without the saturated fat? Yes please.
3. Oat milk contains fiber.
Few milks—whether from a plant or a cow—contain fiber. Oat milk ranks at the top when it comes to fiber content. The proof is in the numbers:
Skim cow’s milk contains 0 grams of fiber per cup.
Coconut milk contains 0 grams of fiber per cup.
Almond milk contains 0.5 grams of fiber per cup.
Soy milk contains 1 gram of fiber per cup.
Oat milk contains 2 grams of fiber per cup.
Switching to oat milk can help you get closer to the daily 25 (for women) to 38 (for men) grams of fiber, as recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Most Americans fall short of this number, which can cause a number of problems: Adequate fiber intake is linked to lower calorie consumption (because fiber increases satiety during meals), better weight management, lower cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and better digestive health.
4. Oat milk uses WAY less water to produce than almond or cow’s milk.
When safe and clean water is available, communities enjoy better air quality, a higher crop yield, and (of course) healthy drinking water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Producing different kinds of milk can require vastly different amounts of water.
For cow’s milk, in addition to providing water for the dairy cattle, you also have to consider the water to make the feed for the cattle. A 2011 study found that producing one liter of soy milk required about 300 liters of water, but producing one liter of cow’s milk required around 900 liters of water.
To make plant-based milks, water is blended with the nut, bean, or seed to liquefy it. It also takes water to grow the plant itself, and different plants require varying amounts of water. Compared to other crops used to make plant-based milks, oats consume the least amount of water, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Choosing a sustainable option can help ensure that healthy food and water is available for years to come.
Plus, you know, oat milk just tastes good.