Is it us, or has the milk aisle in the supermarket changed? Instead of the sea of green or blue plastic bottle tops calling us into a veritable dairy palace, we’re now seeing a myriad of cartons with pictures of oats and even no-milk cows staring at us from the shelves.
With £105 million in sales last year alone, oat milk is now the Wagyu of the non-dairy industry. However, compared to good old dairy milk, which has an estimated £3.2 billion market share, it’s still the smaller brother of what is most undeniably a growth industry.
We’ve always been told that milk from cows is excellent for protein and calcium and is packed full of nutrients, including vitamin B12 and iodine. It also contains magnesium, which is essential for bone development and muscle function, alongside whey and casein, which play a role in lowering blood pressure.
So why is a third of the population moving to oat milk? We take a look at the science behind the frothiest of substitutes.
What is oat milk?
Oat milk is simply oats and water soaked, blended and strained. That’s it. It can easily be made at home (see recipe), kept in the fridge and added to coffee or cereals at leisure.
Many of us, however, want the convenience of picking up a carton of the white stuff at our local supermarket as and when without the pfaff of soaking and straining.
Mass-market oat milk is produced similarly but with added enzymes, flavourings and ingredients to increase its shelf life. Oil (usually sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil) is then added to increase the fat content of the liquid creating a thinker texture that resembles the look and feel of milk. Finally, sugar and or flavourings are also added depending on the product.
With its creamy consistency and mild taste, oat milk is super-versatile, and unlike many of the other substitutes, it froths easily, making it perfect for coffee lovers everywhere. Bakers, on the other hand, according to Martha Stewart’s blog, appreciate it as it replicates the viscosity of dairy milk so well
What are the top 6 benefits of oat milk?
1. Oat milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals
Oat milk is often fortified with B vitamins like riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12.
B vitamins are essential for optimal health and linked to numerous benefits.
For instance, they may help alleviate stress, combat oxidative damage, and promote healthy hair, nails, and skin — especially if you’re deficient in this group of vitamins.
When it comes to calcium and Vitamin D, oat milk comes out tops. Full-fat oat milk provides 25% of the recommended daily value of calcium, and 20 of your daily Vitamin D needs; vitamin D, as we know, is great for bone health too.
2. Oat milk has high levels of dietary fibre
Oat milk typically has more dietary fibre than other plant-based milk and has therefore been recognised as helping support healthy digestion. Fibre plays a crucial role in blood glucose regulation, binding cholesterol, ensuring healthy bowel movements and helping us feel fuller for longer.
3. Oat milk may be good for cholesterol and your gut
Oat milk provides around one-third of your recommended daily beta-glucan intake which is said to reduce cholesterol and, as a result, decrease the risk of developing heart disease. Beta-glucans also act as prebiotics, feeding the good bacteria in your gut and helping balance your gut microbiome. In combination with inositol and digestive enzymes, beta-glucan has been shown to help improve gas, bloating, and abdominal pain
4. Oat milk as a protein source
Oat milk packs a protein punch. For instance, an average cup of oat milk contains around 3g of protein.
And with 3g of protein per 8oz serving, this means oat milk has higher protein levels than almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, and rice milk, which contain minimal amounts of protein.
5. Oat milk has a range of beauty benefits
Heralded as British Vogue’s ‘true beauty hero’, oats and oat milk may help protect the skin from daily wear and tear, UV rays, pollution and other free radical damage. In turn, this can help keep skin looking healthy by reducing the appearance of pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. Meanwhile, it’s also a humectant, which means it helps skin retain water, which is why you’ll often find it’s a common ingredient in moisturisers.
6. Oat milk is good for the planet
A 2018 study by researchers at the University of Oxford showed that producing a glass of dairy milk results in almost three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based milk, and it consumes nine times more land than any of the milk alternatives. Since oats can be grown in various cooler parts of the world and, as a crop, requires very little water (for context, it takes 4.5 litres of water to grow a single almond), it’s onto a winning formula.
How to make oat milk
Making oat milk from scratch could be cheaper than shop-bought options, and it also allows you to control what additional additives and thickeners are going into your daily cuppa. What’s more, if it’s a gluten-free option that you need, this could be the way to go.
Oat milk recipe
- Blend 1 cup (80 grams) of rolled or steel-cut oats with 3 cups (720 mL) of cold water for 30 seconds.
- Place a cheesecloth over a wide-mouth jar or bottle. Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth to separate the milk from the oats.
- Lift the cloth from the ends to form a sac, and very gently squeeze any remaining liquid into the jar.
- Blend for no more than 30 seconds.
You could also add a pinch of salt, vanilla, cinnamon extract, dates, maple syrup, or honey before blending to add flavour to the milk.