Ranking the best oat milk of 2020

Ranking the best oat milk of 2020
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Oat milk is made by soaking oatmeal in water, then filtering off the solid materials. Oat milk has a distinctive sweet taste and is lactose-free, but has a similar consistency to milk, and can even be steamed for lattes just like real cow’s milk.

Oat milk is one of a number of popular non-dairy substitutes, and in its natural form, it has a solid protein content and is low in sugar as well.

Looking for the best oat milk? Our researchers have ranked and reviewed the ten best brands on the market.

Rankings

1. Oatly Oat Drink

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Oatly Oat Drink is a super-simple and delicious oat milk that’s only got a few ingredients. Aside from the obvious (oatmeal and water), it has rapeseed oil for a creamier texture as well as calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients you’d get in standard fortified milk that also need to be added to oat milk.

Another reason it’s a great choice is for what’s not in it, which is added sugar. This oat milk is a great all-around pick and is our number one choice.

2. Pacific Natural Foods Organic Oat Milk

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Pacific Natural Foods Organic Oat Milk comes in a large 32 ounce carton and is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B2. It also has no added sugar, and is a good all-purpose replacement for dairy.

This oat milk uses gellan gum instead of vegetable oils to achieve a creamy texture, so if you don’t enjoy the texture of some of the other oat milk products on this list, give Pacific Natural Foods a try.

3. Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition

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Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition is quite similar to Oatly’s flagship oat milk, but has some additional ingredients to stabilize the acidity of the oat milk and to make it steam with a better texture.

It’s still got no added sugar, which is great if you enjoy lattes but are trying to keep your sugar intake low. Among the oat milks specifically made for lattes and other coffee or tea-based drinks, this is one of the best options.

4. Pacific Foods Vanilla Oat Milk

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With their vanilla flavor, Pacific Foods puts a sweeter twist on the standard oat milk taste. As one of the few oat milk manufacturers to offer a vanilla flavored oat milk, it’s pretty much the only choice if you prefer your non-dairy milk beverages to have a vanilla tinge.

Aside from the vanilla flavoring, it’s the same kind of oat milk you’d expect from Pacific Foods, with no sugar added and fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

5. Rise Brewing Company Oat Milk Latte

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If you’re getting oat milk to add to your coffee to make a latte, why not cut out the middleman? Rise Brewing Company Oat Milk Latte is a cold-brew nitro latte that uses oat milk as one of its primary ingredients.

It comes in a seven ounce can that you can easily store in your fridge and grab as you walk out the door.

At 12 grams of sugar, it’s a bit on the sweet side for people looking to keep their refined carbohydrate intake low, but it’s a decent choice for the occasional treat while still retaining the health benefits of oats.

6. Oatly Organic Creamy Oat

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Oatly has a real winner with their creamy oat milk, which serves as a fantastic replacement for single cream for people who can’t eat dairy.

Amazingly, it has no added sugar and uses a mixture of rapeseed oil, palm oil, and rapeseed lecithin to create a heavy, easily creamed solution that still has the distinctive sweetness of oat milk.

If you’re looking for something to replace cream in recipes, this is definitely the best option.

7. Elmhurst Milked Oats

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Elmhurst Milked Oats has an incredibly simple ingredients list, but it also has a few shortcomings. The biggest one for most people will be the added sugars; each serving has four grams of sugar added in the form of cane sugar.

While that’s not a huge amount of sugar compared to a soda or fruit juice, it’s still enough that people who are strict about added sugar might steer away from this product.

From a nutrient perspective, another issue is the lack of fortification with vitamin D and calcium. If you’re using oat milk to replace cow’s milk and other dairy products in your diet, you might not get enough calcium if it’s not added to your oat milk.

While the lack of fortified nutrients makes Elmhurst Milked Oats have fewer ingredients, many people might prefer an oat milk that is fortified.

8. Pacific Natural Foods Barista Series Oat Milk

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Pacific Natural Foods Barista Series Oat Milk is the latte-friendly version of Pacific Natural Foods’ oat milk product line.

It uses canola oil for additional frothiness and ability to be steamed. However, some users find that it leaves a bit of an aftertaste when steamed, which might be attributable to some of the ingredient choices that distinguish this oat milk from its competitors.

9. Alpro Longlife Oat Milk

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Alpro Longlife Oat Milk is a pretty standard oat milk, coming in a one liter carton and having been fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to distinguish it or set it apart from the rest of the competition, which lands it farther down in the rankings.

10. Quaker Frescavena Vanilla

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Quaker Frescavena Vanilla is an oat-based drink, but it’s far different from the other oat milks on this list. It’s much sweeter, relying on sugar for its flavoring, and delivers 17 grams of sugar per serving.

It also uses oat flour, which has been processed much more heavily than regular oats that are used to make standard oat milk.

From a health and nutrition perspective, it’s far outclassed by its competitors, which lands it at the bottom of the rankings.

Who Should Buy Oat Milk?

Oatmilk is great for individuals with allergies to regular dairy milk as well as nuts like almonds and cashews. Because it is low in calories it is also great for individuals who are dieting or trying to lose weight.

Oat milk contains beta-glucans which can improve heart health and can be great for persons with heart issues. It also helps with cholesterol so people with cholesterol issues may benefit as well.

Oat milk can also help with digestive issues so any persons suffering from IBS or other digestive distress can consume oat milk as part of their daily regimen.

How We Ranked

When analyzing oat milk products, we first analyzed the purity of the ingredients. Oats naturally contain sugar but some oat milks contain teaspoons of added sugar that make it very unhealthy for you. There are many natural alternatives such as stevia, that can provide a similar sweetness without excess calories. Any products that contained excess amounts of sugar were immediately eliminated. Products like Oatly Oat Drink ranked highly because they used all natural sweetness and flavorings.

We also paid attention to the consistency. Oat milk tends to have a thinner consistency than dairy milks and many companies try to use cheap vegetable oil to thicken it up, which is quite unhealthy. Products like Oatly Organic Creamy Oat ranked highly for using healthier potions to like palm oil to thicken up their oat milk.

Added vitamins and minerals was also an important factor to consider. Oat milk is made from strained oats, and a lot of the nutrients contained in the oats don’t make it into the mixture. This makes it important to fortify oat milk and as such, we ranked products that did so like Pacific Natural Foods Organic Oat Milk and Elmhurst highly.

One more thing we considered was the use of pure oats. People that buy oat milk are often trying to avoid dairy and other allergen products and so it was important that that oats were clean and allergen free. We preferred oat milk made from certified gluten-free oats to minimize any potential allergy issues. 

Oat milk benefits and side effects

Oat milk is one of a number of options for a non-dairy milk replacement for people who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy.

Along with other choices like flax milk, almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk, oat milk provides a liquid beverage that has some protein content, very little fat, and (when unsweetened) not much in the way of sugar either.

Often, oat milk is also fortified to include calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients that you would be getting if you were drinking cow’s milk.

A fortified oat milk means you can get the same nutrient value without any lactose or dairy.

Benefits

Oat milk is fairly low in sugar and high in protein. One issue that you’ll often run into when looking for replacements for cow’s milk is a beverage that preserves the nutritional value of real milk.

Dairy milk tastes sweet, but it’s because of the lactose, which is a form of sugar which is digested slowly and thus does not contribute to the spikes in blood sugar that are related to obesity, type two diabetes, and other problems associated with a high intake of simple carbohydrates.

At the same time, cow’s milk has a good bit of protein due to the whey protein and casein protein that are naturally present in dairy product.

Not all milk replacements offer the same kind of nutrients, but oat milk does. Oat milk’s sugar content is modest, at just shy of ten grams per eighth-ounce serving, and its protein content is modest as well, at about three grams of protein per eighth-ounce serving.

You do need to watch out for oat milk that has added sugar, though—while the highest quality brands use only natural ingredients and do not add any sugar to their oat milk, some other brands will add sugar to enhance the sweetness of oat milk.

This is more prevalent among oat milk products that are specifically aimed at being added to coffee to make lattes, but you’ll occasionally run into regular oat milk with added sugar too.

Most people, however, specifically enjoy oat milk because it does not require any added sugar to have a sweet taste to it, unlike non-dairy milk from almonds or flax.

Oat milk contains beta- glucans which can improve heart health. One of the distinct benefits of oat milk, as opposed to other sources of non-dairy milk, is its content of a particular type of complex carbohydrate that is found in the kernel of the oat grain called beta glucans.

They been investigated for several decades for its beneficial effects on heart health, and fortunately for drinkers of oat milk, beta glucans are a type of soluble fiber, meaning they are retained in the solution when oats are soaked in water to make oat milk.

One study published in 1994 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of beta glucans from oats on the treatment of high cholesterol (1).

Twenty adults with high blood cholesterol levels were split into two groups, and randomly assigned either a liquid drink with beta glucans or a placebo drink to consume twice per day for four weeks. Then, the subjects switched treatments—the placebo group started taking the beta glucan supplement, and vice versa.

The results showed that the beta glucan was able to lower both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, which is known as a strong risk factor for heart disease.

A review article published in 2012 cited further studies indicating that beta glucans from oats lower bad cholesterol levels, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, and help with weight maintenance (2).

The evidence for the cardiovascular benefits of oat beta glucans is strong enough that regulatory bodies in both the United States and the European Union have approved marketing claims for oat products that discuss its heart health benefits.

The beta glucans in oat milk may also help with digestion and immune function by improving your gut bacteria. Reducing risk factors for heart disease isn’t the only thing that beta glucans can help with.

Research published by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013 in the journal Bioactive Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre indicates that beta glucans are also useful food sources for beneficial bacteria in your gut, which have a wide range of benefits ranging from better immune function to better digestion (3).

Longer chain beta glucans, which are not digestible by your body, are an excellent food source for the beneficial bacteria that live in your stomach and intestines; indeed, beta-glucans are occasionally found as ingredients in prebiotic supplements for exactly this reason.

A robust and healthy probiotic bacteria population in your gut is essential for maintaining proper immune system function and proper digestive function, so oat milk can be quite beneficial on both of these fronts.

Side effects

In principle, you could make oat milk with just two ingredients: oats and water. As such, its potential for side effects is essentially zero, setting aside people with rare allergies to oats.

Typically, you’ll see a few more ingredients in oat milk products, like calcium and vitamin D to fortify the vitamin and mineral content so it’s on par with regular cows milk, but these don’t add any additional potential for side effects.

Oat milk is quite safe even in large amounts for anyone, as long as they don’t have an oat allergy.

FAQ

What makes oat milk so popular? One of the things that make oat milk so popular is that it has the closest texture and taste to dairy milk compared to any of the non-dairy milk substitutes on the market. It’s made by soaking oats in water, and then blending and straining them which results in a thicker texture. Another reason people love it is because dairy has been recently linked to high cholesterol and blood pressure problems. These health concerns, along with an increase in the popularity of plant-based diets, have caused an increase in demand for these alternatives. Oat milk, has provides a great many health benefits while avoiding the pitfalls of dairy milks (3)

Is oat milk safe for allergies? Oats are a great alternative because, unlike soy and nuts, fewer people are allergic to oats. Oat milk does not contain lactose and is gluten-free as long as you purchase oat milk made from certified gluten-free oats.

What are the health benefits of oat milk? Oat milk is packed with tons of great vitamins and minerals including 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and 50% of your recommended daily value of vitamin B12. On average, one cup contains only 120 calories, 5 grams of healthy fat, and 16 grams of carbs. It also provides 46% of your recommended daily value of Riboflavin, 22% of the recommendation for Phosphorus, and 18% of your recommended daily dosage of vitamins A and D (4).

Despite not being dairy, it still contains 27% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium. It even has 6% of your daily value of Potassium and 2% of the amount of iron you should consume daily.

Does drinking oat milk give you the same nutritional value as eating oats? No, oat milk does not provide the same nutritional value as eating oats. Oat milk is made from strained oats, and a lot of the nutrients contained in the oats don’t make it into the mixture. Many of the oat milks on the market are fortified and enriched with additional nutrients, like vitamins A, D, B2, and B12. Oat milk tends also to contain more B vitamins than almond milk, which focuses on fortifying vitamin E instead. 

Does oat milk have carbs? Because of the fortification, oat milk does tend to have more carbs and calories than other types of milk, like dairy, soy, and almond. It does contain more fiber, though, so it’s a decent trade-off. It also has less protein than soy and other dairy varieties. 

Can I make my own oat milk? Yes, you can make homemade oat milk. To make oat milk, you will need to blend a cup of rolled oats or steel-cut oats with 3 cups of water. Next, pour the blended mixture over a cheesecloth which will separate the milk from the oats. Once you have strained and prepared it, you will want to store it in your refrigerator. Use a glass bottle to ensure that it will remain good for up to 5 days. 

How can I add some flavor to my oat milk if I don’t like it? If you’re not thrilled with the flavor, you can add ¼ teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of a flavor extract (like cinnamon, vanilla, or similar), or even some honey.

Is there anything I can do to fix the texture of oat milk? One of the usual drawbacks to dairy milk alternatives is that it isn’t going to be as close to the rich and creamy texture of actual dairy. This has a lot to do with the reduced fat content that occurs naturally by using healthier ingredients – as well as the extensive filtration system. If you stir in a little bit of your favorite heart-healthy oil, like coconut oil, you can thicken it just enough to achieve that rich and creamy texture of heavy cream. That makes it absolutely perfect for coffee and baking. 

Does oat milk offer as much nutritional balance as dairy milk? No, cow milk offers more nutritional balance than oat milk. However, if you’re lactose intolerant, you can’t drink cow milk, oat milk is alternative great option (5).

Where can you buy oat milk? Oat milk is available at most major retailers and grocery stores like Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods.

How can you tell if your oat milk has gone bad? Like other milk products, oat milk will expire. Does it get lumps in it and smell sour like when cow milk goes bad? You will see some similar signs and symptoms when your oak milk goes bad. The container might be puffed out at the seams, it will probably smell bad, and it might be different in color than it should be. 

Does Starbucks have oat milk? In 2019, Starbucks added vegan oat milk to its menu in a few cities including New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago. If it’s successful in those markets, Starbucks will consider offering it worldwide at all locations.

Do you need to refrigerate oat milk? Yes, oat milk is perishable and needs to be refrigerated. If you leave it out on the counter, it will spoil within a couple of hours, just like cow’s milk would.

Can you heat oat milk? Yes, oat milk can be heated. The consistency of the milk might thicken, but it’s perfectly safe to consume while heated. 

What are the side effects of oat milk? Oat milk can cause you to feel gassy or lead to bloating so it’s important to start small, adding only a splash to your coffee the first time. If you are feeling great, then slowly increase the amount you consume.

What type of oats should you use to make the best oat milk? You have a few different types of oats to choose from. Ideally, you would find oats that are as minimal processed as possible and organic, limiting the number of chemicals or preservatives added to them. 

What can oat milk be used for? Oat milk can be used any time cow milk is used, as it’s a suitable substitute for just about any recipe or drink. It can be used in coffee, cereal, or while cooking. 

Can you swap regular milk for oat milk? If you have a recipe that calls for milk, you can substitute oat milk very easily, as it’s just a 1:1 ratio. There should not be very many instances in which you would need to substitute at a ratio different than the amount of dairy milk that the recipe requires.

What does oat milk taste like? Oat milk tastes pretty similar to cow’s milk, and you might not taste much of a difference when you substitute it. Sometimes, it can be a taste a little bit thicker than cow’s milk. In certain recipes, it might taste sweeter than some other non-dairy milk like almond milk or coconut milk. 

Is oat milk expensive? Oat milk is not the most expensive non-dairy milk option. The primary ingredient in oat milk, oats, is generally fairly inexpensive, so the price for oat milk can stay consistently reasonable. 

Why does oat milk contain so much sugar? Oat milk contains the most sugars per serving of all the non-dairy milk because it’s made from a carbohydrate, oats, as opposed to a nut like almond milk. Carbohydrates naturally have more sugars than nuts or plants. 

Related Articles

Recap

Oat milk is a dairy-free milk replacement that has a number of unique health benefits linked to its beta glucan content.

These special complex carbohydrates can improve your heart health by helping you maintain your weight and decrease your cholesterol levels, as well as improving the quality of your gut microbiome by providing food to the beneficial probiotic bacteria in your body.

It’s a great option for people who are lactose intolerant but still want a sweet beverage that has some protein and isn’t too high in sugar.

Oat milk is free of potential side effects and provides a wide range of health benefits thanks to its beta glucan content, making it one of the best dairy-free replacements for milk.

For Body Nutrition’s #1 oat milk recommendation, click here.





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