There has been a lot of innovation around vegan milks the past few years, but even as new players enter the market (avocado milk, anyone?), oat milk and almond milk continue to be among the most popular. (Remember when the only alt-milk option at your corner café was soy? *Gasps*)
Both almond milk and oat milk come with their own unique perks and pitfalls; if you’re trying to choose between the two, it helps to be familiar with both. I called up a registered dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, RD, to, er, milk her for everything she knew about the two types of alternative milks. Nutrition, sustainability, versatility…we talked about it all, including why someone would opt for plant-based milk in the first place.
“Many people are moving toward a plant-based lifestyle for either a way to consume more plants or as a way to be more environmentally-conscious,” Harris-Pincus says. She explains that while cow’s milk is healthy for many people, it may not be as good for the environment since raising cows requires a lot of land, and cows themselves produce methane gas. (For people who are allergic to dairy or have a sensitivity, milk is just off the table, period.)
But back to the oat milk vs. almond milk battle. As a registered dietitian, there are certain qualities Harris-Pincus likes about oat milk and certain ones she likes about almond milk. Keep reading for her verdict.
Oat milk vs. almond milk: Keep reading to see how they compare
Harris-Pincus says that both oat milk and almond milk wear health halos that are more hype than they actually deserve. “Both milks are primarily made of water; the amount of oats or almonds that is used is actually quite low,” she says. “Most oat and almond milks are fortified with vitamins A, D, B2, and B12—a positive they both have in common,” Harris-Pincus adds. “These are nutrients that are found in cow’s milk and other animal products, so it’s beneficial they are added to these vegan milks as some people on a plant-based diet may not be getting enough of these nutrients,” she says.
That said, both have some unique benefits that make them worthwhile to drink, depending on your tastes and health needs.
What are the benefits of oat milk?
1. It’s closer in consistency and taste to cow’s milk
Harris-Pincus points out that the major reason oat milk is so popular actually has nothing to do with nutrition, but with taste: It’s the closest vegan alternative to cow’s milk in terms of flavor and consistency you’ll find. While almond milk can be quite watery, oat milk tends to be a bit thicker, which makes it especially beneficial in lattes and baking.
2. It may be more sustainable than almond milk
Another reason Harris-Pincus says some may opt for oat milk over almond milk is for sustainability. “It requires a lot of water to produce almonds,” she says. Indeed, research has shown that almond milk requires the most water to produce compared to oat, soy, and rice milks. “Only a small portion of almonds are required to make almond milk, but almond trees require significant amounts of water,” Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, previously told Well+Good. But she also pointed out that almond milk requires less land than oat milk, making it better in terms of emissions. Neither alt-milk is perfect when it comes to sustainability, but oat milk may be a slightly more eco-friendly pick.
3. Oat milk has trace amounts of fiber
Again, while oats themselves have lots of nutritional benefits, very few of those translate over to oat milk since the beverage is largely water. But oat milk does contain fiber and a little bit of protein, two nutritional positives.
Watch the video below to learn more about the nutritional pros and cons of oat milk:
What are the benefits of almond milk?
1. It’s higher in protein and vitamin E
It bears repeating that, like oat milk, almond milk is primarily made of water and the nutrient density is low. But Harris-Pincus says almond milk tends to be higher in protein and vitamin E and also lower in sugar than oat milk, all nutritional pros. She also reiterates that, like oat milk, it tends to be fortified with vitamins A, D, B2, and B12—important nutrients for everyone and ones plant-based eaters specifically should be mindful of as animal-based products tend to be the primary sources for obtaining them.
2. It’s higher in healthy fats
When comparing almonds to oats, almonds are also higher in monounsaturated fats, which are extremely beneficial for brain health. Again, Harris-Pincus says that almond milk isn’t exactly going to be a powerhouse source, but every little bit counts.
3. Almond milk is lower in calories than oat milk
For those who are actively seeking to manage their weight, Harris-Pincus says almond milk may be a better alternative milk choice because it’s much lower in calories than oat milk. For example, a cup of unsweetened Silk oat milk has 80 calories while a cup of unsweetened almond milk by the same brand has 40 calories.
Tips for buying oat milk or almond milk
Since the nutritional content is quite low for both, Harris-Pincus recommends making the decision for which one to go for on which one you like the taste and texture of more. There are also some general tips to keep in mind when shopping. “Choose an unsweetened option, as that will be lower in sugar,” she says. Also, if you are sensitive to gums—which are used for blending and consistency—that is something to be mindful of, too. “For most people they’re harmless, but some people do have a sensitivity,” Harris-Pincus says.
Below are three oat milk and three almond milk picks, all of which are unsweetened, have simple ingredients, and are fortified—keeping with Harris-Pincus’s advice of what to look for.
1. Oatly Oat Milk ($5)
It’s a cult favorite for a reason: Oatly’s OG oat milk has a short, simple ingredients list and is beloved by many for its taste and texture.
2. Silk Oat Yeah ($4)
Vegan, gluten-free, and made with no artificial colors or flavors, this pick is oat milk through and through—without anything unwanted sneaking into the carton.
3. Planet Oat ($3)
Planet Oat is popping up in more stores and cafes—and it’s one of the most inexpensive oat milks you’ll find. But that doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing on ingredients or taste; it’s a win all around.
Almond Breeze is one of the tried-and-true almond milk brands and this one from their line has zero sugar whatsoever, making it a standout for health-conscious shoppers.
5. Califia Farms Almond Milk ($4)
Made from non-GMO almonds and completely free of carrageenan, an emulsifier that can cause digestive upset in some people, this almond milk is pretty close to what you would make at home (but fortified).
Whole Foods also sells its own store-brand unsweetened almond milk made from organic nuts. Like the others on this list, it’s fortified and has less than one gram of sugar.
In the great oat milk vs. almond milk debate, Pincus says what’s most important is to choose a beverage you like. Otherwise, it’s going to sit in the fridge unused. “It’s more important to choose an alt-milk that’s unsweetened than choosing between oats and almonds,” she says.
And hey, if you don’t like either one, there are plenty of other options to choose from…
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