People trying to improve their health by cutting cow milk have a couple of great options to choose from in the non-dairy aisle, like soy milk, goat’s milk, and even potato milk (yes, you read that right). But when it comes to the difference between two favourites—oat milk vs. almond milk—is one actually better for you over the other?
Oat milk and almond milk can be great alternatives to dairy milk, according to licensed family physician Dr Bill Rawls, but neither version are “milk” in the traditional sense of the word. “Oat milk, of course, comes from a grain and almond milk from a nut. They are made by blending oats or almonds with water and then straining out the solid components.”
Oat milk may be higher in protein than almond milk, but Dr Rawls points out that it’s also higher in carbohydrates. “Neither oat milk [nor] almond milk have quite the same mouth feel and taste as regular cow’s milk, but that’s not as much a disadvantage as something to get used to,” he says. “Oat milk has a starchy taste. Almond milk is thinner than regular cow’s milk and has a distinct almond flavour.”
We talked to two experts to find out everything you need to know about the two popular dairy substitutes.
Oat milk vs. almond milk: Nutrition
Almond milk is lower in carbohydrates, which can make it a better option for people on low-carb diets. To give you a better idea of what that means, nutritionist Allie Echeverria has broken down the numbers.
Unsweetened almond milk nutrition
“A 227-gram serving of unsweetened almond milk contains 37 kcal, 1 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fat, 1 grams of protein, and 481 mg of calcium,” Echeverria says.
Sweetened almond milk nutrition
“The same amount of sweetened almond milk contains 93 kcal, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 459 mg of calcium.”
Oat milk nutrition
On the other hand, oat milk is higher in protein, which may not be a good idea for people battling certain diseases like cancer. “A 227-gram serving of regular oat milk contains 120 kcal, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 350 mg of calcium,” she says. “The same amount of low-fat oat milk contains 1 gram of fat.”
Pros and cons of oat milk
When it comes to oat milk, some people prefer the flavour profile a bit more than they do almond milk.
- Oat milk is usually safe for people with nut allergies or who need to eat gluten-free (as long as the brand does not manufacture other products containing those allergens).
- It’s higher in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus than almond milk.
- Oat milk is naturally sweeter requiring less additional calories to boost flavour.
- Protein and fibre content can help some people feel full longer.
- Oat milk is higher in both carbohydrates and calories.
- It can be contaminated by gluten when the oats have been either grown or processed by contaminated grains.
- Many oat milks contain carrageenan, which has shown to cause digestive upset in some people.
Pros and cons of almond milk
If price is a concern, Echeverria says you may have a better chance of downing your daily glass of milk without lowering your bank account by skipping over the oat milk. “Almond milk costs about a dollar less than oat milk,” she says, adding that prices could change as more oat milk companies enter the market.
- Almond milk is naturally higher in vitamin E, a substance shown to increase immune response and improve skin health.
- Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories (37 kcal per 227 grams).
- Good for adding creaminess to smoothies and protein shakes without significantly adding to the calorie count.
- Almond milk is made from nuts, which is a common allergy.
- People normally prefer it sweetened, which can add calories.
- It needs fortification to provide calcium.
Bottom line: is oat milk better for you than almond milk?
While the experts agree that both oat and almond milks can be great alternatives to dairy, neither of them has the same nutritional profiles as dairy milk without heavy fortification, which they both receive in similar quantities.
“Neither milk is better or healthier, but one may be better suited to your goals,” says Echeverria. When it comes to picking your dairy alternative, it sounds like you need to consider what you want to get out of your milk (and your tastebuds) before you pour. If you’re looking for lower calories, almond milk might be better for you, and if you’re looking for more protein, oat milk might be your preference.