Is Oat Milk Bad for You? The Myths & Facts | Nutrition


It’s hard to believe a beverage as basic as oat milk could cause an outrage, but this coffee shop staple has certain social media influencers up in arms lately.

Haters claim oat milk spikes blood sugar and is nothing more than “starch juice.”

We asked a real expert—MyFitnessPal registered dietitian Joanna Gregg—to weigh in on the myths and facts about the controversial alt-milk.

Oat Milk and Blood Sugar

The concern about oat milk is understandable, because there are some confusing nuances about it. While most manufactures don’t actually add sugar as an ingredient, maltose, a type of sugar, is created by the oat milk manufacturing process.

“The maltose found in oat milk is digested more quickly than the sugars found in other milks which is the main reason it gets a bad reputation,” says Gregg.

It’s true that, as milks go, oat milk is pretty high on the glycemic index (GI), with a GI of 69. This number is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. It’s a scale from 0 to 100, with pure glucose assigned a value of 100. The higher the GI number, the more a food can potentially spike glucose.

For comparison, 1% dairy milk has a GI of 27.

But does oat milk really spike your blood sugar in some horribly unhealthy way? Gregg says probably not.

“The GI number is based solely on the food itself. If oat milk is consumed with food that has fiber, protein, or fat, any rise in blood sugar will be slowed down by these other nutrients,” she says. 

In other words, if you’re having a little oat milk in your coffee along with a balanced breakfast—say an omelet or avocado toast—it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

What About the Ingredients?

There’s another oat milk ingredient that’s raised a few eyebrows—oil.

 “It’s often added to provide a better texture,” says Gregg. It also acts as an emulsifier, keeping the milk from separating in your coffee.

“When consumed in the correct amounts, oil isn’t unhealthy and can be included in a healthy diet. The amount of canola oil typically found in oat milk is likely not a cause for concern,” says Gregg.

Though she doesn’t think oat milk is unhealthy, Gregg does point out that oat milk is a processed food. Processed foods are something you may want to limit in your diet overall.

“Almost all processed foods have added emulsifiers and other ingredients to make them more palatable,” she says. “The amount of these ingredients present in oat milk, when consumed in moderation, is generally considered to be safe.”

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How Does Oat Milk Stack Up to Other Milks?

Whether oat milk is the best choice for you depends on your preferences and situation. “For people with a lactose, nut, or soy allergy, oat milk is a great alternative,” says Gregg. She also points out that oat milk has beneficial nutrients, including beta-glucan and other phytonutrients and antioxidants.

“But  dairy milk is a much better source of protein than oat milk if that’s your goal, and dairy products are  a natural source of many nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamins, A, B12, and D,” says Gregg.

And if you’re closely watching your blood sugar for any reason, Gregg  says nut milk is probably a better choice than oat, especially if you aren’t combining oat milk with other foods.

So, is Oat Milk a Health Food?

Gregg says that oat milk is healthier than some beverages and not as healthy as others. It depends on what it replaces, what you eat it with, and how much you consume.

“I prefer to steer clear of classifying any food as a ‘health food,’” she says. “As with all foods, the pros and cons need to be weighed against your overall diet, preferences, and goals.”

The bottom line on oat milk, according to a registered dietitian?

“Oat milk can certainly be included in a healthy diet.”

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