Oat milk seems to be the newest trend as a milk alternative for weight loss, but is that truly the case?
Is this swap the reason those pounds you’ve been trying to shed just won’t come off?
In this article, we’ll cover what exactly oat milk is, pros and cons of it, and an understanding of how exactly we lose weight.
Depending on the situation oat milk may help with weight loss but is it the healthiest option?
Keep reading to find out a Registered Dietitian’s perspective on this common milk swap!
What is Oat Milk?
Oat milk is made by soaking oats in water, blending the mixture, and straining the solids from the liquid.
This leaves behind a slightly tan colored liquid resembling cow’s milk. There’s a fairly strong taste of oats with this “milk” as well.
Compared to it’s original counterpart, oat milk is relatively new. It was discovered in the 1990s while trying to create a milk alternative that is lactose-free.
However in recent years, oat milk has gained popularity. This is because it is thought to be a healthier alternative for weight loss, not because of an increase in the population’s inability to digest lactose.
Is there any truth behind this though?
What Needs to Happen to Lose Weight
Before we decide if oat milk is good for weight loss, we first need to understand how weight loss actually occurs.
Simply speaking, in order to lose weight there needs to be a calorie deficit so that our body’s use up stored energy (aka fat cells) in order to run properly.
This causes a physical loss of weight. However, there is a healthy way to go about this, as having too severe of a calorie deficit could be very detrimental to your health.
We get calories from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
We burn calories through our basal metabolic rate (the calories it takes just for our body to function), physical activity, and a small amount through diet-induced thermogenesis (the calories it takes to digest food).
An easy way to remember the concept of weight loss is: Energy in (calories) has to be less than energy out (calories burned).
So where does oat milk come into play?
Is Oat Milk Good for Weight Loss?
As discussed above, we get calories from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Oat milk counts as a carbohydrate.
One cup of oat milk contains about 90-120 calories depending on the brand, more calories if sweetened.
1% cow’s milk, also a carbohydrate, contains about 100-110 calories in one cup.
As you can see, their calorie content is pretty much in the same range.
So as far as energy in vs energy out, oat milk does not help lose more weight compared to drinking cow’s milk.
Along the same thought process, oat milk does not cause more weight gain over cow’s milk either.
So is there something else about oat milk that makes it better?
Comparing Oat Milk to Cow’s Milk
Low-fat (1%) or fat-free cow’s milk is the cornerstone of the Dairy group.
The Dairy group is one of the 5 food groups in MyPlate essential for a well balanced diet.
Low-fat cow’s milk is one of the best sources to provide our body’s with essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Oat milk, as well as many other plant-based “milks”, are not actually included in the Dairy group as their nutritional value does not match that of which low-fat cow’s milk provides.
One of the biggest differences between cow’s milk and oat milk is the lack of protein.
One serving of low-fat cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein whereas oat milk only contains about 1 gram.
Other essential nutrients are not naturally found in oats and therefore oat milk has to be fortified with them to even resemble the nutrition profile of milk.
So from an overall health standpoint, cow’s milk far exceeds oat milk in its natural ability to meet many of our daily requirements of critical nutrients.
Pros and Cons of Drinking Oat Milk
Oat milk is not inherently bad by any means, it just depends on the situation and why it’s used to determine if it’s a good or bad option.
Listed below are some pros and cons on if oat milk would be an appropriate “milk” choice.
Oat milk is a great alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in cow’s milk, it is not found in oat milk as oat milk is simply made with oats and water.
Oat milk is also a great option for those that suffer from a disorder called Galactosemia, an inability to digest galactose which is a component of lactose. Oat milk does not contain galactose.
Unsweetened oat milk is a good low calorie, no-added-sugar beverage to enjoy on an occasional basis.
Oat milk would not be an appropriate option for those with Celiac Disease as oats are a gluten-containing food and these individuals must follow a strict gluten-free diet.
Drinking oat milk as your only source of “dairy” could cause potential deficiencies in protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D as oat milk does not actually count as a dairy food.
Oat milk, in itself, will not cause weight loss.
How to Lose Weight (Healthfully) While Drinking Oat Milk
So we now know oat milk does not cause weight loss, but it can be incorporated into your weight loss journey in such a way that is beneficial to your health with the appropriate strategies in place.
If you are consuming oat milk as your main “dairy” product, whether for personal taste preference or because of a physical inability to drink cow’s milk, you need to be sure to get the essential nutrients oat milk is lacking from other food sources.
The following is a list of nutrients and foods you’ll definitely want to focus on if consuming primarily oat milk to ensure a well-balanced diet.
Calcium is a mineral needed throughout the entire lifecycle; for proper bone growth and development in children and, as we get older, to help prevent osteoporosis.
While some oat milks are fortified with calcium, not all are. So you want to be sure you are getting in enough calcium. Try incorporating more of the following if you are primarily drinking oat milk:
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Canned fish such as sardines
- Tahini paste (found in a lot of premade hummus dips!)
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
Potassium is another essential mineral that helps regulate muscle contractions, nerve signals, and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
It is commonly provided by our dairy intake, so be sure to add a few of these foods into your diet if only drinking oat milk:
- Any orange fruit or veggie (oranges, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, etc.)
Vitamin D works in conjunction with other minerals, such as calcium, by helping our bodies absorb more of it. This is why cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D.
So be sure to include some of these foods with those listed under calcium to get the biggest bang for your buck!
- Fortified cereals
- Canned Tuna
- Sunshine! (Sunlight doesn’t provide us vitamin D directly. It activates the vitamin D provided in these foods to a form our bodies can actually use)
Protein is the building blocks of our muscles. This includes not just our skeletal muscles, but our heart and digestive system as well. Getting in your daily recommended amount of protein is essential for overall health.
Oat milk is a very poor source of protein compared to cow’s milk, with only one gram to cow’s milk’s eight. So be sure to pack in the protein if drinking this milk alternative!
Oat milk is a relatively simple milk alternative with just two ingredients, oats and water.
Nevertheless, it must be fortified with nutrients in order to even come close to the benefits cow’s milk provides.
Depending on certain disease states or intolerances, oat milk may be a great alternative for those that can’t drink cow’s milk. These individuals must be sure to get their nutrition from a variety of sources to prevent any deficiencies.
We now understand that the concept of weight loss is as straight-forward as energy in must be less than energy out. But with practically equal amounts of energy in both milks, neither is a better option in this sense.
So from a Registered Dietitian’s perspective, to answer the question “Is oat milk good for weight loss?” the answer is that oat milk does not cause weight loss in of itself, but with the right strategies in place – oat milk can easily be incorporated into a healthy weight loss plan.
For overall optimal health however, if you are able to drink cow’s milk – by all means do it! It’s the main component of the Dairy group for a reason!
After all, as stated here in Culinary Dietetics like a broken record, we should always aim to eat foods in their most whole form and in moderation!