Is Oat Milk Really ‘Bad’ for You?

We ask the expert.

Photo by Franco Monsalvo / Pexels

Once upon a time oat milk was all the rage. Vegan or not, many of us decided to make dairy milk a thing of the past and switch things up.

The change was fun while it lasted, but must all good things come to an end?

These days, a lot of people (on TikTok, particularly) are saying that we actually shouldn’t be drinking oat milk, that it’s not the ‘healthy’ alternative we all thought it was, and that nutritionally, it’s not really that valuable comparison to dairy milk.

“Drinking oat milk is like drinking starchy water, it’s carbohydrate heavy,” “Oat milk will make you addicted to sugar,” “Drinking oat milk can lead to kidney problems…”

The list goes on.

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But just because something’s not ‘good’ for you, doesn’t mean it’s ‘bad’ for you either.

To find out more, we spoke to Isabelle Fagan, Registered Dietitian at Orla Walsh Nutrition, who says that classifying one food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can be a difficult task, and shouldn’t be what we think about when we think about food.

Can oat milk spike your blood sugar levels?

The main question that has spiked controversy online… pun intended.

And according to Isabelle, this sudden cause for worry around blood sugar spikes is unnecessary.

She says, “Those without diabetes and pre-diabetes shouldn’t be concerned about this. Our body is able to easily manage our blood sugars and keep them within a healthy range.

“These ‘spikes’ that social media are worrying us about are our body’s natural response to food after a meal – it’s the body’s natural way of regulating itself.”

Isabelle Fagan, Registered Dietitian at Orla Walsh Nutrition

So, yes, oat milk may cause a spike in blood sugar levels, however this is not unusual. In fact, it’s totally normal.

That being said, it is also important to be mindful of our overall sugar intake and to avoid foods with ‘added sugar’ by checking the list of ingredients on the food label, as “this is sugar that is not naturally occurring in food and had been added in processing.”

Most oat milk brands have no-added-sugar products too, so if you’re particularly worried about your intake, that’s always an option.

Is consuming oat milk risky for someone with kidney issues, or can it lead to problems with the kidneys when over consumed?

This subject matter is very complex, so naturally, we shouldn’t be getting our information from TikTok videos.

Anyone who suffers from problems with their kidneys is advised to eat fewer nutrients such as potassium, dipotassium phosphate, salt, and protein.

“Dairy contains high levels of phosphorus, so actually, people with kidney disease need to limit their intake so phosphorus doesn’t build up in their bodies and cause problems,” Isabelle says.

Consequently, people may look to oat milk as an alternative, although this is where you must be careful and check the label, as some brands add phosphorus to their food as a preservative.

Isabelle advises that “anyone who has kidney disease should speak with their kidney dietitian before including new foods in their diets.”

And for those of us with healthy kidneys? “There is currently not enough evidence to suggest that an excess consumption of oat milk can cause or create kidney problems in already healthy individuals.”

Good to know.

Does oat milk hold any nutritional value?

To be completely honest… not really.

“Unless fortified with vitamins and minerals, oat milk alone offers very little nutritional value,” says Isabelle.

“100ml of dairy milk contains about 3.7g protein while oat milk contains 0.2-1g protein per 100ml.

“Oat milk contains about 0.7-2 fibre per 100ml; meaning it can’t be classified as a source of protein or fibre in the diet.”

Isabelle also points out that vitamin B12 can be obtained from animal products, but not from oat milk.

It should also be noted that some oat milk is ultra-processed, with thickeners, stabilisers, and oil for textures and longevity.

So… should you swap out oat milk for a healthier alternative?

If you’re looking for a dairy alternative with nutritional value, that’s low in sugar, and if you have kidney problems then yes, probably.

But if none of the above applies to you, then there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy oat milk. You’re probably not going to have any issue with it unless it’s being over consumed, which applies to most things in life.

Drinking oat milk makes sense for so many reasons. It’s the ideal option for someone who is lactose intolerant, and its natural sugars make for just the right amount of sweetness in your coffee or tea.

Foods aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Their benefits or enjoyment levels can vary depending on your own health, lifestyle, and goals.

So if you like oat milk, keep drinking oat milk. Even though ordering it may still lead to the occasional eye roll from a barista…

… an iced, oat milk, caramel latte please! Haven’t heard that one before.

Words by Shauna Whyte