Is Oatly Oat Milk Good For You?

Oatly has copied the tried-and-true food marketing strategy by exaggerating the nutritional value of their product. Sure, this is a touch sneaky, but it’s nothing new or special. Marketers use this tactic to deceive consumers into believing that certain processed foods should make up the bulk of a balanced diet or that some whole foods are superfoods and hence superior to other whole foods. Although oats are not a superfood, they are also not inherently harmful. It has a similar nutritional profile to dairy milk and actually contains more calcium and vitamin D per cup than the genuine article. That’s very fantastic for folks who select plant-based diets.

In the end, there is truth to be found on both sides of the Oatly debate, but there is also a ton of spin. As always, your best option is to consume a variety of healthy meals (as well as some of the less healthy ones you enjoy!) and to pay as little attention as you can to how they are promoted.

Is oat milk not without its drawbacks?

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid oat milk. Of all the plant-based milk variants, unflavored oat milk offers the most calories and carbs. Even though the sugar in oat milk is natural, it has a lot of carbohydrates.

Is Oatly a sugary beverage?

Even though there is no additional sweetness listed in the ingredients list, one of the first things I notice is that there are 7 grams of added sugar per cup of oat milk. So, from where does the sugar originate? The only source of carbohydrates is oats, a grain with a relatively low sugar content. It transpires that the extra sugar in Oatly is a byproduct of the manufacturing process, in which additional enzymes convert the oat starch into simple sugars, chiefly maltose [1]. The glycemic index of maltose is 105. To put things in perspective, the glycemic index of white flour is 85, while that of doughnuts is 75. According to the glycemic index, which ranges from 0 to 100, maltose literally has an out-of-this-world effect on blood sugar levels. The blood sugar impact of a 12-ounce glass of oat milk (the equivalent of a medium latte) is comparable to that of a 12-ounce Coke can.

Rapeseed oil, a little less appetizing moniker for canola oil, is the third ingredient, following water and oats. The type used for cooking is known as canola oil, whereas rapeseed oil is typically utilized in the automotive and chemical industries to manufacture items like engine lubricant and biodiesel. Both oils are highly processed, pro-inflammatory, and harmful, and they even have a trans-fat content of up to 2.03% [3]. There is no safe level of trans-fat consumption, and they are now (finally) illegal in the US [4]. One of the few foods still containing hazardous trans-fats is seed oils like rapeseed and canola oil [5]. We can estimate the quantity of oil in each 8 oz cup of oat milk (the size of a small latte) based on the nutrition facts that it contains. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of oil in a medium dish of french fries. Over 10 grams of rapeseed oil, or far more oil than in a large order of fries, would be present in a large cappuccino made with oat milk. You consume the harmful and inflammatory equivalent of a medium-to-large portion of french fries every time you drink an oat milk latte.

Dipotassium phosphate, a food additive used in packaged goods that was originally made from animal bones and urine, is the fourth component listed after water, oats, and rapeseed oil. Today, it is taken from phosphate rock and processed chemically to make it edible [6]. Fast food, frozen chicken nuggets, sodas, and colas are some additional items that frequently include added phosphates [7]. Phosphates are supposedly GRAS (generally recognized as safe), according to the FDA, whose policies and guidelines are typically decades behind scientific advancements. However, the FDA previously claimed that artificial trans-fats were GRAS up until 2015, despite scientific evidence to the contrary dating back at least to the 1990s. In the instance of phosphates, a 2012 study on their harmful effects came to the following conclusion: “The public should be notified that added phosphate is detrimental to health in light of the high prevalence of chronic renal disease and the possible harm caused by phosphate adds to food” [8]. One of the main causes of death and disability in the US today is chronic renal disease [9].

Oatly fortifies its beverage with extra vitamins and minerals to more nearly approximate the nutritional information on a carton of conventional cows milk. They increase the amount of Vitamin D (a crucial nutrient), but they substitute Vitamin D2 with Vitamin D3, which is less efficient. Vitamin D3 is created naturally by your skin, whereas Vitamin D2 is produced by sunlight-exposed plants and mushrooms. Oatly has chosen to use the less expensive D2, presumably to keep it entirely vegan, despite the fact that supplementing with Vitamin D3 is almost two times as efficient as supplementing with Vitamin D2 at raising Vitamin D levels in your blood [10, 11].

While Oatly may have noble intentions, there isn’t much in this oily grain water that will improve your life. Instead, they claim that their mission is to “make it easy for people to change their lives by switching to a more plant-based diet.”

What makes oat milk unhealthful?

The majority of the rest of the globe had a bad 2020, but Oatly did well. During the epidemic, the Swedish oat milk manufacturer had a 212% spike in revenues. Earlier this year, the company filed for a potentially huge IPO, with an estimated price of more than $5 billion. After adding the brand to its coffeeshops in March, Oatly is now experiencing shortages brought on by an increase in orders from Starbucks. Previously, Oatly only saw shortages as a cool problem to have. It’s a rare milk substitute that appears to have spread beyond vegans and lactose intolerant people to the general population who consumes beverages.

Being able to drink what is essentially ground up oatmeal has been given a halo of virtue thanks in large part to Oatly. The fact that oat milk has a far lower carbon footprint than cow’s milk, like virtually other plant-based goods, is one component of that halo. The slogan of Oatly is “milk, but produced for humans,” but the company goes farther. What does that truly mean? It is clear that the Swedes are producing this for human consumption, but is it truly healthier than milk or other milk substitutes, as the business seems to suggest?

A writer named Jeff Nobbs first advanced the case against Oatly a little over a year ago, going into great detail about its unhealthiness (and, to his credit, sharing an Oatly rebuttal). Nat Eliason then added a critique of the company’s advertising, which he considers to be as deceptive as ad campaigns for Coca-Cola and cigarettes. The first is that Oatly contains canola oil, which gives it a richness akin to milk, which is one prong of the argument that Oatly is, in fact, unhealthy for you. The second is that Oatly is produced in such a way that the complex carbohydrates in oats are practically reduced to pure sugar. Both of these statements are correct, however Nobbs grossly exaggerates the effects on health.

Canola oil is the easy part. Oatly contains canola oil, sometimes known as rapeseed oil, but Nobbs interprets this to mean that Oatly also contains trans fats, despite the fact that the carton states that Oatly has zero trans fats, a claim that is subject to FDA regulation. Eliason includes some eerie language (“The evidence for the harms of canola oil is still in its early days, but continues to grow). However, the general belief is that canola oil is generally OK, despite the fact that processed oils are not optimal.

The sugar component is a little trickier. What is evident is that maltose, a simple sugar, is produced during the process of turning oats into oat milk. Complex carbohydrates are better for you than more refined carbohydrates like maltose. You don’t want them to increase blood sugar and insulin levels more than necessary. This can be measured using a tool known as the glycemic index. Higher values are not good. (The glycemic index provides a general explanation of why 100 calories of whole grains are healthier than 100 calories of refined sugar.)

Nobbs continues by suggesting that the alternative milk is less healthful than a doughnut using the glycemic index of pure maltose rather than Oatly itself, however that is not how the glycemic index functions.

Individual ingredients cannot be evaluated in isolation. Additionally, the glycemic index does not fully describe the nutritional value of a dish. Nobbs then flips units of measurement and asserts that a 12 oz amount is roughly similar to a can of Coke using his estimation of the overall glycemic load of oatly, which takes serving size into consideration. That is accurate, however by this metric, two pieces of whole-wheat bread are worse for you than either due to their higher glycemic load. The major issue with Coke is that it contains no nutrients, but Oatly contains fiber, vitamins, and a little amount of unsaturated fat despite being less nutrient-dense.

Oatly is heavily processed, which is not a good thing, because nothing is good in excess. It wouldn’t be good if you drank an entire carton every day. But generally speaking, any milk substitute that you’d actually want to consume contains oil or a thickening to make it taste good. And we’re discussing a substance that the majority of people just add a tiny amount of to their coffee. Is Oatly especially healthful? No. Is consuming a little Oatly okay without compromising your diet? Sure.

The Oatly response, though, makes more sense in light of the company’s obnoxious and omnipresent promotion. Remember the CEO of that company singing, “Wow, no cow! in a field of oats,” in their Super Bowl commercial? Although it was dubbed as one of the worst Super Bowl commercials ever, the business appears to have taken pleasure in the negative publicity.

Is milk made from oats the healthiest?

Nutritionist Jessica asserts that cow’s milk is much healthier than oat milk.

She explains, “If we compare important vitamins and minerals, cow’s milk is the undisputed winner.” It’s an excellent source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other vital elements with health advantages.

In fact, oat milk from Oatly contains 5% less calcium than the traditional dairy option when compared to cow’s milk. Additionally, unlike soy and dairy milk, it does not contain all nine of the required amino acids.

In addition, cow’s milk has eight grams of protein per cup, compared to three grams in oat milk. Therefore, Mina says, “You’d need to drink more to get the same advantages from the protein contents, such muscle rehabilitation and feelings of fullness.

However, oat milk has several nutritional advantages over cow’s milk, including vitamin D and vitamin B-12.

According to Mina, “Oat milk has more vitamin D than cow’s milk, which has a wide range of health benefits, including maintaining healthy bone and dental health and boosting the immune system.” Additionally, the plant-based beverage contains 50% more vitamin B12 than cow’s milk (18%) does.

Although oat milk may be superior to cow milk nutritionally, it may be preferable for some people’s diet and way of life:

According to Jessica, “Alternative milk’s major selling features are in the name – it’s analternative,” thus health benefits aren’t really one of its main advantages. It has a smaller environmental impact, is a perfect choice for those who adopt a vegan diet, are lactose intolerant, or have ethical reservations about farming.

Oat milk is advantageous for people with allergies because it is naturally devoid of lactose, soy, nuts, and gluten.

Is daily use of oat milk okay?

Making dietary decisions that support maintaining our health is a smart move, and picking foods that support protecting our hearts is one of the best examples of this. And if you regularly consume oat milk, you’re in luck because it contains beta-glucan fibers, which some may see as a miraculous component. Regular consumption of beta-glucans has a significant impact on heart health, as demonstrated in a review of the literature published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. This is due to the fiber’s interactions with a number of health factors that influence the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to regulating blood sugar, beta-glucans may also maintain or lower cholesterol levels and aid to maintain healthy blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for the emergence of cardiovascular problems.

Additionally, beta-glucans support gut health by interacting with the gut flora. A healthy gut has a significant impact on a number of bodily processes, notably those pertaining to the heart. Take it from registered dietitian Kristin Gillespie: “The FDA has actually recognized a heart-health claim for foods that are rich in beta-glucan.” Don’t just take our word for it; beta-glucans are so healthy.

What kind of plant-based milk is the healthiest?

How nutritious is your almond milk in actuality? It might taste fine and not give you any of the unfavorable effects that cow’s milk can. For those who are lactose intolerant, these plant-based milk beverages have been available on the market for a few decades, but little study has been done to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the many varieties of plant-based milk. Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk are the four most popular plant-based milk beverages worldwide. A recent study from McGill University compares the nutritional benefits of these beverages to those of cow’s milk. Soy milk comes out on top after cow’s milk, which is still the most nutrient-dense option.

The figures below are based on a 240 ml serving because the researchers in every case compared the unsweetened varieties of the various plant-based milks.

Because of the isoflavones, which are phytonutrients found in soy milk, which have anti-carcinogenic qualities, soy milk is extensively consumed for its health advantages.

However, the “beany flavor” and the presence of anti-nutrients raise questions (substances that reduce nutrient intake and digestion).

It is lactose-free and can be used as a substitute by people who have problems with their allergies to soybeans and almonds.

In addition to the high carbohydrate content, rice milk consumption should be carefully supervised to avoid malnutrition, especially in young children.

Low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels that are linked to cardiovascular illnesses can be decreased by consumption.

Almond milk requires other food sources to supply vital nutrients.

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which are abundant in almonds and are thought to aid in weight loss and management, are beneficial. Additionally, MUFA aids in the lowering of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).

Comparing the nutritional components of different milks using averages for a 240 ml serving

a nutritious, complete meal that includes all the essential nutrients, such as fat, carbs, and proteins.

may benefit humans by offering a variety of host-defence proteins because both human and bovine milk have positive anti-microbial properties. (For instance, a study demonstrates that drinking of cow’s milk significantly lowers the incidence of fever and respiratory illnesses in babies.)

Worldwide, foodborne infections and diarrheal disorders have been linked to the presence of pathogens such Bacillus spp., Listeria spp., Salmonella spp., and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in milk and milk products, particularly those derived from raw, unpasteurized milks.

One of the most prevalent childhood allergies, affecting 2.2–3.5% of kids (a greater percentage than those who are affected by peanuts and tree nut allergies). By the age of 5 or 6, up to 35% of these infants may outgrow their milk allergy, and by the age of 16 this number may rise to 80%.

Depending on race, eating habits, and gut health, lactose intolerance affects 15–75% of all adults. It is caused by a lack or shortage of the digestive enzyme lactase.

According to certain research, 100% of individuals of Asian and Indigenous American origin and 80% of people of African descent, respectively, are lactose intolerant.

The researchers note that more research will be required to fully comprehend how different traditional and new processing techniques affect the nutrient composition, flavor, and texture of these alternative milks.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided funding (NSERC).