If you haven’t heard yet, you’re hearing it now; when it comes to non-dairy beverages, oat milk is quickly becoming the trendy, new favourite. But when it comes to its ingredients, nutritional properties and culinary performance, is it worth the buy?
Like most other plant-based milk, the basic recipe for oat milk involves just two simple ingredients: oats and water. What makes oat milk unique, however, is that it is nut-free, making it safe to consume by those who have nut allergies. Oat milk is also safe to enjoy by those who are gluten-sensitive, as oats are inherently gluten-free. Certified gluten-free varieties are also available for those who need to take extra precautions.
To this basic recipe, manufacturers may choose to also add in other ingredients such as salt, sugar or vanilla extract. Preservatives and emulsifiers are also sometimes mixed in to help improve the milk’s shelf life and texture.
Furthermore, as with most other plant-based milk on the market, oat milk is typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D. When plant-based milk is fortified with such nutrients, it becomes more nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk, which is essential for those who entirely opt to drink non-dairy beverages in place of cow’s milk.
Also similar to cow’s milk is oat milk’s caloric density. Per cup, most other plant-based milk is significantly lower in calories, as well as, slightly lower in protein and fibre. Aside from soymilk, the protein content of plant-based milk, including oat milk, is generally very low. Oat milk is therefore not considered a good source of protein.
While the fibre content of plant-based milk is also generally low, the slightly higher amount found in oat milk is valuable for two reasons. Time and time again, research has found that most North Americans fail to meet their recommended daily fibre intake, which ranges between 25-38g, depending on your gender. Because of this, any opportunity to boost one’s fibre consumption, such as switching from almond to oat milk, could be considered worthwhile.
Another reason why the slightly higher fibre content in oat milk is so valued is that it provides the body with a specific type of fibre, called beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are abundant in oats and research has suggested that their regular consumption can particularly help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Now that you know how oat milk stacks up against cow’s and other plant-based milk nutritionally, it’s time to consider another important factor before putting it in your shopping cart- its taste! Oats naturally have a subtle, sweet flavour and because they can be blended to a finer crumb, oat milk ends up having a creamier, more fuller-bodied flavour and texture compared to other plant-based milk.
Because of these unique properties, oat milk is considered to perform much better in baking recipes as well as when used to make espresso drinks. When it comes to using plant-based milk in coffee, a common complaint is that the coffee’s acidity and heat cause the milk to separate. While oat milk is no exception, its popularity has led to the release of specialty, barista blend varieties. For coffee shop-quality enjoyment, phosphate is added to this version of oat milk, and it helps to buffer the coffee’s acidity and prevent separation.
With all of this in mind, remember that making oat milk yourself is likely to lead to a more flavorful finished product. Depending on how you plan to add it to your diet, making your own may be worth the time and effort. Because of manufacturers’ attempts to save on ingredients, store-bought plant-based milk generally tends to taste more watered down compared to their homemade versions. To make oat milk at home, check out this recipe.
Buy or Pass?
All in all, oats have a lot to offer nutritionally, and oat milk appears to lend a better quality in taste and texture. Furthermore, compared to other non-dairy beverages, its unique properties suggest it to be more versatile in how it can be successfully incorporated into one’s cooking and diet. For these reasons, oat milk’s rise to fame seems fair and trying it out yourself is highly recommended.