Almond milk has long been a staple of vegetarian diets, but oat milk has captured a fair share of the non-dairy milk industry in the past few years. Why is oat milk suddenly so popular? When it comes to oat milk vs. almond milk, is one of them better for you?
Trends in the plant-based milk industry
More people are turning to non-dairy milk alternatives to use in their morning cereal and baked goods. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, have food sensitivities, or otherwise, don’t want to consume dairy, you may be curious about all of the different milk alternatives available.
Fortunately, there are many plant-based milk alternatives on the market today, even in mainstream supermarkets. Plant-based milk has been increasing in popularity in recent years, leading to many different options available on the shelves. In fact, the non-dairy milk industry is expected to exceed $34 billion by 2024.
Almond milk is a popular plant-based milk alternative, but it’s not an option for anyone who has a nut allergy or sensitivity.
Almond milk is produced by soaking almonds and then pulverizing in a blender until smooth. The resulting mixture is strained, creating a plant milk with a subtle taste that can be used in everything from cereal to baking. The leftover pulp either be discarded or used in baked goods.
Want to make your own? Here’s how to make almond milk.
Oat milk isn’t really new, but a number of new brands in the marketplace have brought to it renewed attention in recent years. Still, it might be harder to find it in your local supermarket compared to more popular dairy alternatives like almond milk and soy milk.
Oat milk is great for specialty diets because it’s dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free, as long as it’s made with certified gluten-free oats. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but because oats are often processed alongside wheat products, not all oat products are gluten-free. If you’re buying oat milk, make sure that it is in fact made with gluten-free oats.
Oat milk is also eco-friendly and results in little waste. The production process of oat milk is similar to almond milk: oats are soaked in water, mixed in a blender, and then strained. Because the oats are almost completely absorbed in the water, there is little leftover pulp.
Fancy giving it a shot on your own? Here’s how to make oat milk.
Nutrients in oat milk vs. almond milk
It’s hard to compare the nutritional content of different types of milk alternatives because different manufacturers use different ingredients. The following is a general comparison, but to see how different brands stack up, you’ll have to check the labels.
Oat milk has the highest carbohydrate content among plant-based milk substitutes. An eight-ounce glass of oat milk contains around 16g of carbs. So if you’re on a keto diet or otherwise aiming for low carbs, oat milk may not be the best option for you. Almond milk may have as little as 1g carbohydrates in one serving if it’s unsweetened.
Oat milk contains slightly more protein than almond milk and other nut milks, but not enough to consider it a good source of protein. It also doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids, so it isn’t a complete protein. One cup contains 2–3 grams of protein, compared to only 1g protein in almond milk.
If you’re looking for a plant-based milk that’s higher in protein, pea milk may be a better option. The protein content of pea milk is on par with cow’s milk and soy milk, at around 8g per serving.
Need more plant-based protein? Here are 15 of the best vegan protein sources.
Oat milk is also considerably higher in calories than almond milk. It contains 120 calories in one serving compared to only 60 calories in a serving of almond milk, so almond milk might be the better bet if you’re trying to cut calories.
The fat content in oat milk is double that of almond milk: 5 grams of fat in oat milk vs. 2.5 grams of fat in almond milk.
The sugar content will depend on whether the beverage is sweetened or unsweetened. If you’re on a low-carb diet or otherwise being mindful of your sugar intake, you’ll want to go with an unsweetened version.
Many non-dairy milks are fortified with essential nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be hard to get enough of those nutrients without eating fortified foods. Levels of these nutrients will vary by brand, so get into the habit of reading nutritional panels to find out what’s best for you if you’re looking to optimize your intake of specific nutrients.
Speaking of reading nutrition panels, always take a look at the ingredients, too. The healthiest foods are those that don’t contain a lot of chemicals or other additives. Unfortunately, just because a food seems healthy, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain harmful ingredients.
Store-bought oat milk may contain phosphates, common additives in processed foods that have been linked to kidney disease. Phosphates are often used in processed meats and fast food. If you’re eating these types of foods or you know you’re at risk of kidney problems, oat milk may not be the best dairy alternative for you. If you’re concerned about phosphates, look for a milk brand that doesn’t use them, or make your own.
How does it taste?
Taste may be a deciding factor for many people when selecting a dairy alternative. After all, if you’re looking for something to add to your morning coffee, you don’t want to ruin the flavor.
Oat milk has been described as creamy and tasty. It’s also said to blend well with coffee. If you’re using a sweetened version, you may not even need to add more sweetener when using oat milk in your coffee. It’s also said to work well in cooking or baking.
Almond milk, as could be expected, has a mild flavor with a hint of nuttiness. Different brands will have slightly different flavors, so you may want to try a few to find your favorite.