Oatmeal is kind of like your fave fluffy blanket—it’s reliable, makes you feel safe, and is just crazy-cozy. Hey, it’s a breakfast staple for good reason. Oatmeal is simple, delicious, and keeps you feeling satiated for hours.

It’s also a whole grain, which means it contains filling fiber—four grams per half-cup of oats, to be exact, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Flexitarian Diet. “It’s not a ton of fiber, but it’s actually a powerful type that helps regulate your cholesterol,” he says.

“The other great thing about oatmeal is that it’s a wet grain, meaning it’s cooked with water,” says Blatner. “A hearty wet grain is going to be more filling than any sort of dry grain like a cold cereal, and research has proven that.”

Here’s how oatmeal’s nutrition breaks down (per one cup cooked):

  • Calories: 158
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Fat: 3.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Sugar: 1.1 g
  • Sodium: 115 mg

Clearly, oatmeal is a solid morning choice. But there are a few sneaky ways you may be sapping the healthy powers from your morning bowl…

Contents

1. Your servings are too big.

“Because it’s a healthy food, people sometimes eat too much of it,” says Blatner. “Instead of having one cup cooked, they’ll double it and start off with one cup dry.” Stick to a half-cup of dry oatmeal, which is one serving size, according to labels. That comes out to 150 calories, leaving about another 150 for your toppings for a filling breakfast that doesn’t turn into a calorie bomb. “The other thing I find is that people don’t have the ratio right,” says Blatner. “A good guideline is one part oats to two parts liquid.”

2. You add too much sugar.

There are so many ways to sweeten up a bowl of oatmeal, from brown sugar to chocolate chips. But by upping the sweetness, you may be slashing the health benefits. “Yes, brown sugar tastes great,” but it’s easy to overdo it. Instead of relying on straight-up sweeteners, go for cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, or vanilla extract. “They taste sweet without actually being sugary,” she says.

3. You’re adding artificial sweeteners.

While steering clear of excess sugar is a smart choice, opting for artificial sweeteners is not, says Eliza Savage, RD at Middleburg Nutrition in New York City. “Artificial sweeteners not only cause more carbohydrate and sugar cravings, they deplete healthy gut bacteria.” Instead, she recommends sweetening up your bowl with fresh fruit or a small amount of natural sugar from maple syrup, dates, or honey. Alternatively, try a more savory oatmeal. You can also up the fiber with veggies like carrots or zucchini.

4. You top it with a ton of dried fruit.

It’s fruit, so how bad can it really be? Well, since all the water has been removed from dried fruit, its sugar content is much more concentrated (and some varieties are even coated in sugar). That means you get all the sugar in a much smaller package. Blatner’s advice: Go for fresh or frozen fruit. The extra water content will help you fee more satiated.

5. You order it to-go.

There’s been an influx of fast-food places adding oatmeal to their menus because it’s easy to make and gives them healthy cred…but that rep may not be completely deserved. While some health food shops will slip in healthy ingredients like protein powder, others jack up the calories and sweetness with unnecessary add-ins (think: sugar, heavy cream, etc.). “Check out the ingredients of the oatmeal at a specific place before you decide to get it,” says Blatner.

Fast food chains are really jumping on the healthy bandwagon. Check out Jenna Dewan taste-test vegan fast food:

6. You buy flavored instant oatmeal.

Speaking of quick oatmeal, the convenience of those little flavor packs comes with a price: Most instant oatmeal is loaded with sugar. “People usually aren’t buying packets of plain oatmeal,” says Blatner. “They’re buying the highly-sugared kind.” If you’re still all about the instant, look for the plain variety.

7. You forget about rolled or steel cut.

Sure, instant oats are convenient, but rolled or steel cut are the least processed, says Eliza Savage, RD. “So if you have the time and are able to get them, they are the best choice.”

For a little context: Oats come out of the ground as oat groats, which is their largest, most natural form. Then they got chopped with steel blades and become steel cut. After that, they’re steamed and rolled, to make rolled oats.

Plus, steel cut and rolled oats absorb more water than instant, so your bowl will be even more filling.

8. You don’t add enough protein.

On the flip side, sometimes people don’t beef up their oatmeal enough in fear that they’ll make it unhealthy. “Don’t just sit down to a bowl of oats with two raspberries on top,” says Blatner. You won’t feel satisfied and may be more susceptible to overeat later. Instead, think of that bowl as a chance to get a well-rounded start to your day.

“So many people skimp on protein when eating oatmeal and wonder why they are hungry less than a hour later,” says Keri Gans, RD. “Even though fiber found in oatmeal helps to keep you full, with only four grams per serving, you really need that added protein for satiety.” In addition to a cup of fresh fruit, she advises topping your oatmeal with protein in the form of nuts or nut butter. You could also mix-in milk, yogurt, or protein powder.

9. You skimp on healthy fats.

Savage also stresses the importance of healthy fats—since oats are naturally low in this crucial ingredient. In addition to nuts and nut butter (which contain a hefty amount of healthy fat), she recommends chia, flax, or seeds.

10. You make your oatmeal too boring.

One of the beautiful perks of oatmeal is there are SO many delicious ways to prepare it. In addition to the wide array of topping combinations you can choose from (fresh fruit! peanut butter! hemp seeds!), you can also try making overnight oats for a quick, ready-to-go breakfast.

Or you can try Blatner’s recipe: “In the fall, I love to chop up a green apple with walnuts and pecans over a bowl of oatmeal,” she says. “Then I add some cinnamon. It ends up being a huge, filling breakfast.”

For some more oat inspo, check out these recipes:

Alternatively, you can use rolled oats to make breakfast cookies or healthy muffins. The oat options are endless.

Banana Oatmeal

Stove Top Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk (or reconstituted non-fat dry milk), salt, and water. Heat on the stovetop over medium heat until steaming hot but not boiling.
  2. Add oats, and turn the burner to medium or medium-low.
  3. Simmer (make sure you see small bubbles,) for 3 and 1/2 – 4 minutes until the oatmeal is creamy. There should still be a little liquid. It will thicken up once the banana is added.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the mashed bananas and syrup. Divide between four bowls, garnish with nuts or seeds, and serve.

Microwave Directions

  1. Mix milk (or reconstituted non-fat dry milk), salt, water, and oats together in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave in high for 3 minutes. With cooking mits or a cloth, remove bowl from microwave and stir. The bowl will be hot.
  3. Place bowl back into microwave for another three minutes or until oatmeal is creamy. There should be a little liquid remaining. The oatmeal will thicken up once the bananas are added.
  4. Stir in mashed bananas and syrup.
  5. Divide between four bowls, garnish with nuts or seeds, and serve.

Notes:

  • Instead of 2/3 cup milk or reconstituted non-fat dry milk, you can use 2/3 cup water in its place.

Oatmeal is a great healthy breakfast staple, but we might be sabotaging our diets. Our friends at YouBeauty have the scoop…

With fall just around the corner, you may already be daydreaming about cozy cashmere sweaters and curling up to a hot and hearty bowl of oatmeal to fend off the morning chill.

And chances are, you’d give yourself a big pat on the back for choosing a healthy breakfast option like oatmeal rather than grabbing a fat-filled muffin or buttery bagel. After all, oatmeal has been on a health pedestal for years–and for a good reason. Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. In fact, having 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides six grams of fiber. It’s also good for diabetics since oatmeal takes a while to digest, preventing unwelcome spikes in blood sugar, and is often recommended by nutritionists for weight loss because it helps keep you feeling full.

MORE: Eating Habits to Overcome Obesity

The problem is that some people don’t like the taste of oatmeal but make themselves eat it because they know it’s good for them. And that can backfire. To make it more palatable, they often pile on sugar–or worse, pick up oatmeal at fast food chains like McDonald’s even though they’re full of sugar and additives–knocking the breakfast staple right off its health pedestal.

In one study, 1,000 people were asked to follow three small behavior changes, including eating oatmeal for breakfast, every day for three months. Surprisingly, the oatmeal eaters gained weight. So study author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think wanted to find out why. Turns out, the oatmeal eaters put on extra pounds because they were loading their morning oatmeal with sugar, eating well beyond the recommended portion size of a half cup, or were rewarding themselves with additional calories in the form of a mid-morning snack.

In other words, they managed to undo the health benefits of eating oatmeal faster than you can say “instant oatmeal.”

QUIZ: What is Your Eating Style?

“Oatmeal has a health halo,” says Wansink. “As a result, people think it’s a lot healthier for them than it actually is. Eating it with too much sugar jacks up the calories. So does eating too much.”

Adds Wansink, “If you don’t really like the taste of oatmeal, it defeats the purpose of eating it because you’re going to find some other way to compensate, such as putting in a lot of brown sugar to make it a little more palatable. But you can also do that by varying the texture of oatmeal by putting good stuff in it.”

RESEARCH: Skipping Breakfast is Associated with Health Risks

The solution: Transform boring oatmeal by adding a touch of sweetness or texture the healthy way–with a small handful of dried fruit, sliced almonds or walnuts, or with flavorful spices such as cinnamon.

Or skip it all together. There are plenty of other healthy breakfast options out there.

MORE: Heart Healthy Tunisian Egg Scramble

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Things to Consider Before Buying Oat Milk Drinks

Oat milk is made by soaking and blending oats and then straining it to sperate the milk. Because oat milk does not have the same nutritional value as whole oats, it is often enriched or fortified with iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A and D. One cup of cow’s milk or one cup of a fortified milk would both provide around 20% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A and vitamin D.

Although calorie content can be similar between oat drinks and cow’s milk, oat milk is higher in carbs and fiber than cow’s milk, soy milk or almond milk, although it has less protein than dairy or soy. Oat milk is higher fiber, which as well as helping to maintain heart health, the higher fiber diet is also linked to better weight control and potentially weight loss .

One concern with a number of oat drinks is that they have been sweetened. If you want an unsweetened milk, then look for one labelled as ‘no added sugar’ and also check its nutritional information to make sure there is 0g next to ‘added sugar’. Those which are barista style tend to have more sugar added to give a better consistency to the oat milk as it is being steamed. Flavored oat milks usually contain more sugars as well.

Oat Milk and Diets

As well as being dairy and lactose free, oat milk is also nut and soy free. Although oats are typically gluten free, they are often processed in factories where other grains are processed, which means they can be contaminated with gluten. Some oat milks are available which are certified as being made with gluten free oats and/or in gluten-free processing facilities.

Oat milk is generally safe for babies but as it cannot provide the same nutrition as breast milk or cow’s milk, a baby should only be fed on oat milk with pediatrician guidance.

Oats, Beta Glucans and Heart Health

Like oats, oat milk contains the soluble fiber called beta glucans, although there are still some questions as to whether beta glucans are as ‘potent’ from oat milk as they are from pure oats.

An 8.6 fl. oz glass of oat milk will give one gram of beta glucans. In comparison, a bowl of porridge containing 1.4 oz of oats provides double the amount of beta glucans.

When consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat, oats can contribute to modest reduction in LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and total cholesterol. For every gram of beta glucans (soluble fiber) consumed, total cholesterol can decrease by about 1.43 mg/dL.

A higher intake of beta glucans (more than 10 g/0.35 oz per day) does not seem to increase its effectiveness though. At present, it is recommended that 3 grams of soluble fiber be taken to lower blood cholesterol levels although some studies show at least 3.6 grams of daily fiber is needed to lower cholesterol.

Oats can also contribute to better health, although only products containing whole oats with at least 750 milligrams of soluble fiber per serving can be labelled as possibly reducing the risk of heart disease. Higher fiber foods are also linked with the possibility of reducing risk of stomach cancer and blood sugar levels.

Glyphosates and Oats

A study undertaken found that all oat food samples tested contained residues of glyphosates – an active ingredient in a leading brand of herbicide. Out of 45 products made from conventionally grown oats, 43 of these tested positive for glyphosates and 31 of these had higher levels than what the Environmental Working Group (EWG) report as being protective of child health.

Discussions continue with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) around a limit on glyphosates for oats used in children’s foods.

Carrageenan in Oat Milk

Carrageenan is used to emulsify and thicken drinks and foods and can often be added to oat milks and nut milks. Carrageenan is also common in vegetarian and vegan products – used in place of gelatin. Carrageenan is a natural additive which comes from red seaweed.

Debate around the safety of carrageenan has been ongoing since the 1960s, as some evidence has shown links with digestive system impairment in the form of bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and food allergies. Carrageenan has also been linked to inflammation which contributes to a number of disorders such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Carrageenan should be food-grade but carrageenan which has degraded becomes carcinogenic. Degraded carrageenan is not approved to use in food but testing of food-grade carrageenan has found a percentage of the samples to be degraded carrageenan.

Unfortunately, as much of the research into carrageenan has been carried out in the laboratory, with most side effects reported by people to have been self-reported, more research is needed to ascertain how strong the link is between carrageenan and health risk.

Carrageenan is still approved for use in food by the FDA and it has to be shown on an ingredients list, although the National Organic Standards Board removed this ingredient from their approved list in 2016. This means that an oat milk certified USDA Organic no longer contains any carrageenan.

Conclusion

Although oat milk is becoming so popular there can be supply shortages at times, there are still some concerns around levels of glyphosates in oats and the use of additives such as carrageenan in some brands. Like whole grain oats though, oat drinks can offer benefits to cholesterol levels and heart health and oat milk is an ideal alternative for those who suffer with intolerances or allergies or have other dietary needs.

We hope you found our article interesting and have learned more about why oat drinks are becoming more mainstream. If you converted to oat milk some time ago, or are completely new to this creamy alternative, we do hope that you will now be confident in choosing the best oat milk brand for your needs, whether for brewing the perfect latte or for using in your cooking and baking.

7 Best Oat Milk Brands to Buy, According to Nutritionists

Move over almond milk. There’s a new dairy milk alternative in town, and it’s made from one of the cheapest and most common pantry staples in existence: rolled oats.

If you’re scratching your head wondering how in the world people make something resembling milk from oats, we get it. But the process isn’t actually that mysterious. You just mix oats and water, puree in a blender, and strain. Now you’ve got a creamy liquid to use as a substitute for cow’s milk in many recipes (or, just as a cold glass at breakfast).

But that still doesn’t answer the more important question of why you might go through all the trouble to make oat milk (or search for it at your local health food store). Is it actually better for you than plain ol’ cow’s milk?

What are the health benefits of drinking oat milk?

Nicole Magryta, RDN, author of Nourish Your Tribe, says most oat milks contain one to three grams of fiber per serving (which is a little more than an alternative milk like almond), but also contain more calories and carbohydrates. In other words, you’re kind of coming out even unless you’re buying fortified oat milk from a supermarket.

“The health benefits of the milk itself are not necessarily from the oats and water, which offer marginal benefits, but from the fortified nutrients added during processing,” says Magryta. ” vitamins A, D, B12, B2 and calcium are added so the product can be a close nutritional substitute for dairy milk.”

What about homemade, unfortified oat milk… is there any point to drinking it? Yes, but mostly only if you need to avoid cow’s milk because of an allergy or want to support a more sustainable alternative, says Magryta. Because sensitivities or allergies to oats are uncommon, oat milk gives people with dietary restrictions on soy, dairy, or nuts another beverage alternative.

How to choose the best oat milk

If you fit the bill for someone looking to consume a plant-based alternative to dairy milk, it’s important to know what else you might be getting when you grab a container off the supermarket shelf. Registered dietitian Sarah Rueven, MS, RDN, CDN, founder of Rooted Wellness, says the best oat milks are made with just oats and water, without the added ingredients companies claim improve the taste and texture.

Here’s what to check for on oat milk labels before you buy:

  • Choose milk made from organic oats. “Conventional oats are commonly sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent before harvest,” says Magryta, “which is a heavily-used chemical weed killer now labeled by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen.” She adds that some recent tests of oat-based products have shown high levels of glyphosate residue and that organic products are less likely to be contaminated (and therefore safer for consumption).
  • Avoid added sugar and phosphates. Magryta says you definitely want to steer clear of sweetened varieties, but that you may also want to avoid brands with added phosphates. Although the Food and Drug Administration includes phosphates on its Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list, it’s a question of quantity. “Natural organic phosphate esters do occur naturally in foods like dairy, but in much lower concentrations,” explains Magryta. “We, as a population, are consuming much higher quantities of phosphate from industrially-processed foods which safety concerns.”
  • Skip “barista” varieties. Marketed as an option designed to be blended into popular coffeehouse-style beverages like lattes, barista oat milks are specially formulated to foam and steam—but that means the ingredient list is not as simple as oats and water. Most of these versions contain a seed oil, like sunflower or safflower, which Rueven recommends avoiding: “These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, and overconsumption can disrupt our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, causing inflammation.”

The 7 healthiest oat milk brands you can buy

Ready to shop? This list of healthy oat milk options will take all the guesswork out of buying alternative, plant-based milks at the supermarket.

1. Thrive Market Organic Original Unsweetened Oat Beverage

“This product has just two ingredients: water and organic oats,” says Magryta. It also contains no added sugars, oils, or preservatives, making it a clean choice overall. One note: it’s not fortified with nutrients, so it doesn’t have the same nutrition profile as cow’s milk or other alternative milks.

2. Oatly! Original Oat Milk (Low Fat)

Magryta says Oatly! milk is made from gluten-free oats, is certified Non-GMO, doesn’t contain gums or traditional thickeners, and also carries the Glyphosate Residue Free certification by The Detox Project. “A problem with most versions of this product is that they contain grape seed oil, which is an inflammatory industrial seed oil,” she adds. “To avoid this, I recommend purchasing their low-fat option which leaves the oil out.”

3. Mooala’s Organic Unsweetened Coconut Oatmilk

Even though this brand is light on fiber and protein, Magryta says the nutrition profile makes up for that. It’s fortified with calcium, includes simple, organic ingredients, and is free of oil, phosphates, and natural flavors. It’s also one of the few organic offering as well as one of the only zero-sugar oatmilks.

4. Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Oats

Why does Rueven recommend the Elmhurst brand? “No oils, gums, or stabilizers! Just filtered water, whole grain oats, and salt,” she explains. It’s also non-GMO and contains only one gram of sugar, four grams of protein, and two grams of fiber.

5. Planet Oat Oatmilk Original Unsweetened

Although not organic, the original version of Planet Oat’s oatmilk is fortified with nutrients and low in fat. And with two grams of fiber and one teaspoon of sugar per serving, it’s a solid choice if buying organic isn’t in your budget.

6. Halsa Blueberry Oatgurt Drink

This drinkable yogurt beverage from Halsa—a brand using sustainably-grown Scandinavian organic oats—has two grams of fiber and five grams of protein per serving. It also meets the dietitian-preferred requirements of containing no GMO ingredients, phosphates, gums, or oils. The only caveat here is the sugar (nine grams for the blueberry variety). Luckily, it’s the naturally occurring kind from the real fruit added, not the added or artificial kind.

7. Elmhurst Milked Oats Barista Edition

Yes, we did tell you skip barista-formulated oat milk, but that was because most varieties include industrial seed oils. The Elmhurst brand doesn’t, though, which is why it’s Eat This-approved. Plus, it has two grams of fiber, three grams of protein, no carrageenan or gluten, and is non-GMO verified. If you’re going to go barista, Elmhurst is your best bet (even Starbucks is using it, so you know it’s good).

The 3 worst oat milks you can buy

Sometimes products sold as “healthy” alternatives aren’t actually all that healthy for you, and oat milk is no exception. Added sugars and industrial seed oils are big red flags, and are common in milk alternatives. Avoid the following oat milk brands the next time you’re looking for a dairy milk substitute.

1. Califia Farms Oat Milk

This brand offers traditional and barista varieties but many are low in fiber and protein, making them a pretty empty choice, nutritionally speaking. Plus, Magryta points out that the unsweetened variety contains seven grams of fat from inflammatory sunflower oil.

2. Silk Oat Yeah! Milk

“This oat milk is a no-go with a long list of pro-inflammatory oil, additives, gums, and preservatives,” says Rueven. Magryta agrees, adding that it’s also not organic and made with sunflower oil. Basically, it checks all the wrong boxes.

3. Pacific Foods Oat Organic Original

Magryta only has one thing to say about this organic oat milk: “Put it back on the shelf.” Why? Because it contains a whopping four teaspoons of sugar per one-cup serving. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. There are plenty of other options with much less sugar than this one.

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I consider myself somewhat of an oat milk connoisseur. Not only because my article about the Great Oat Milk Crisis of 2018 went viral, leading dozens of trolls to comment things like “oat milk oink oink oink” (good one!) on my Instagram, but also because I’ve paid close attention to the preponderance of alternative milk brands that have started producing oat-based options over the course of the last year. I’ve tried quite a few of them in the wake of Oatly’s devastating shortage, and I figured it was high time I recorded my thoughts for posterity. Scroll down for my review of six different oat milk varieties, an act of guinea pig journalism that will no doubt go down in history as a civic service of the highest order.

1. Minor Figures Oat Milk

First of all, I have to give this brand points for the extremely endearing packaging, which features a woman dressed as a bird drinking a cappuccino (+2). Apparently her name is Penelope (+1). I wish it was a teeny bit sweeter and a teeny bit thicker because I like my oat milks to taste like milkshakes (-2), but the overall flavor was pleasantly reminiscent of the bottom of a cereal bowl (+1). I would imagine it tastes even better heated up in a latte or cappuccino, seeing as it was formulated by baristas for this exact purpose, but I had to stick to the straight formula for the purposes of this experiment.

Final score: 3

2. Oatly! Oat Milk

Pleasantly thick (+1). SUPER creamy (+3). Just the right amount of sweet (+1). I would compare the consistency of Oatly less to the bottom of a cereal bowl and more to a scoop of vanilla ice cream that has melted, which is why it works so well in caffeinated drinks. It’s like a non-dairy version of half and half. Kudos to Oatly for having some of the weirdest, most entertaining packaging in the game (+1). I particularly enjoy the fact that pretty much all of their product copy involves a run-on sentence.

Final score: 6

3. Pacific Oat Milk

Hmm. I did not like this one. I wanted to like it, just like I wanted to like beets when I recently tried them for the umpteenth time in my adult life, but alas, in both cases, I would simply prefer to be consuming something else. Pacific oat milk is extremely liquid-y, which makes me think it would detract from a caffeinated drink instead of enhance it (-1). It’s also very sweet. Too sweet (-2). I was pretty surprised when I checked the list of ingredients and found them to be pretty much identical to that of the other oat milks I had sampled. There was no added sugar. Not even honey! A true mystery, especially because the nutritional information indicates that a cup of Pacific oat milk has more than twice the amount of sugar (19 grams) than most of the other oat milks. I’ll throw it a point for being the only organic option, though (+1).

Final score: -2

4. Happy Planet Oat Milk

This one was just the right amount of sweet (+1). Like a work friend who will pick kale out of your teeth with her own fingernail but will mock you for your admittedly questionable taste in music. It did, however have a slightly musky aftertaste, which is common to a lot of non-dairy milks, which isn’t the end of the world, but not my fave if I’m being picky (-1). Overall the taste and lighter consistency actually reminded me of macadamia milk, which I tried once when my neighborhood café was out of oat milk, but slightly creamier (+1) and more refreshing (+1).

Final score: 2

5. Silk “Oat Yeah” Oat Milk

Not super sweet, but also not completely devoid of that tell-tale oat-y taste. It has a nice, balanced flavor profile (+1), and is pretty creamy (+1). The taste was similar to that of Silk’s soy milk, and had the kind of consistency I actually enjoyed drinking straight from a glass. Bonus point for a funny name (+1), but I’m inclined to deduct one given that its ingredient list included the most additives of any I tried (-1).

Total score: 2

6. Califia Farms Oat Milk

Quite creamy this one is, my lieges (+2). Don’t ask me why I decided to write this sentence like I’m Yoda or why I’m now referring to you as a feudal superior, because the boring answer is simply that it just felt right. Am I high on too much oat milk? I wouldn’t put it past me. I would, however, endorse the subtle sweetness of Califia’s oat milk before a jury of my peers (+1), which is especially notable since it has the least sugar of any that I tried (+2). I do wish it was a little thicker, but only for the purposes of my ideal hot latte (-1).

Total score: 4

I was very willing to cede my oat milk loyalties to another brand besides Oatly as a result of this experiment but, I cannot lie. It’s still my favorite. That being said, if you prefer a slightly less milkshake-y vibe in your morning coffee, I would heartily recommend Califia. If you like macadamia milk, I think you’d really like Happy Planet’s oat milk. Ditto for Silk’s “Oat Yeah” if you’re a soy lover. Opt for Minor Figures if you’ve always wanted to befriend a woman named Penelope dressed as a bird. Slurp up some Pacific if you have a sweet tooth that won’t quit. There’s truly an oat milk for everyone, and that concludes my sermon for today.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

And what about coconut water’s reputation as a super-hydrator?

Like most leading sports drinks, coconut water contains sugar and electrolytes, though it’s lower in both calories and sodium, key facts when it comes to rehydration. “If you’re doing a workout that’s longer than an hour, coconut water may not give you what you need to replace what you’ve lost,” says Giancoli. Same goes for working out in very hot weather.

When you sweat, you lose minerals as well as water, and you need to replace both after a tough workout. However, the main mineral in sweat is sodium, something sports drinks like Gatorade tend to contain far more of than coconut water. And if you’re a hard core athlete, that’s exactly what you need.

When you crunch the numbers, “An equal amount of Original Gatorade would provide about 150 mg of sodium, compared to a leading brand of coconut water’s 24,” reports ConsumerLab.

And there have also been issues with less-than-truthful product claims: Vita Coco, one of the better-known brands, was forced to change claims on its packaging (such as that it contains “more electrolytes than leading sports drinks”) after losing a class action lawsuit in 2012.

As for how coconut water stacks up to trusty old H20, a study found that when comparing coconut water to plain water and a rehydration drink, all three provided adequate rehydration. However, blood sugar levels were restored faster with coconut water, which contains natural sugar, and the rehydration drink than with water.

So, do you need it?

“If you work out for an hour or less,” says Giancoli, “you don’t need a sports replacement beverage. For the casual exerciser, drinking water is enough. If you find that you’re hungry afterward, drink water and eat something.”

Coconut water can also tide you over if you’re hungry but don’t have food on hand. But be warned: “If you’re exercising more than an hour, coconut water may not be enough ,” says Giancoli.

If you drink coconut water before you work out, it will give you a little sugar to get you started, and it is lower in calories than most juices or workout drinks. But be sure to read the label closely: Some bottles contain two servings per container. “If you’re drinking a lot of coconut water thinking, ‘Hey, this is good for me,’ you could get to the point where you’re drinking too many calories without realizing it,” Giancoli says.

The bottom line: Coconut water is trendy and refreshing, but overall, the star of this drink is its potassium. “Some people really like coconut water and are willing to pay the price, but you should not feel like you have to include it in your diet, or, if you’re not, that you’re missing out,” concludes Giancoli. “It’s expensive, and the nutrients it offers can be found in other foods.”

The Truth Behind The Coconut Water Craze

10242008047 (Photo credit: pravin.premkumar)

As many people know, marketers have been pushing us to drink more coconut water. In grocery and convenience stores, displays have been popping up more commonly to say that it is healthier, keeps us better “hydrated”, and has more beneficial effects than regular plain or bottled water.

While coconut water is low in calories, rich in potassium, and fat and cholesterol free, the evidence that it is actually better than plain water for simple hydration is unfortunately lacking.

Compared to typical sports drinks, coconut water has fewer calories, less sodium, but higher amounts of potassium. While coconut water typically has less sugar than sports drinks, it also has much less sugar than regular sodas or fruit juices.

Plain coconut waters can be an ideal beverage for those who are looking for a drink that is less sweet than soda or juice, but the calories can add up if you are not careful. In a recent article, Kathleen Zelman, Director of Nutrition of WebMD, interviews Lilian Cheung of the Harvard School of Public Health, who explains that one 11 ounce coconut water can contain up to 60 calories, so moderation is encouraged. It is important to choose plain coconut water, and to avoid coconut waters with added juice or sugar (flavorings), which are essentially the same as drinking soda or other sugary beverages.

According to Ms. Zelman, coconut water may potentially be better at keeping you hydrated than a sports drink or water. Zelman describes a a study published in 2010 from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise which demonstrated that coconut water replaced body fluids as good as a typical sports drink, and slightly better than water. However, most of the athletes preferred the taste of the sports drink instead. To truly stay well hydrated, you likely have to drink more coconut water, than if you drink plain water. Other studies have shown that drinking coconut water with added sodium is as good as a typical sports drink for re-hydration after exercise.

Staying well hydrated is key for those who are recreational or professional athletes. As long as you enjoy the taste, it may be ideal for light or recreational exercise. If you do endurance training or prolonged training, however, coconut water may not be the ideal fluid to choose.

Although coconut water is rich in potassium, it is low in carbohydrates and sodium- two potential issues for those who do endurance training or prolonged aerobic workouts. According to Nancy Clark, a sports nutritionist interviewed by Zelman, while sports drinks plain water or coconut water will all keep you hydrated, when you exercise three hours or longer in the heat or adverse conditions, your body requires higher levels of simple carbohydrates and electrolytes not adequately found in coconut water. If you sweat a lot, neither coconut water or typical sports drinks will have enough sodium, potassium or sugar to keep you from falling behind the curve. Having a sports bar, salty pretzels, a banana, raisins or some yogurt will likely give you the added electrolytes to refill your body stores.

Most people who do light recreational exercise do not need to be concerned with sodium, potassium or carbohydrates (30 minutes of light exercise). Eating before you workout is generally more important- and to have enough energy for the workout itself– a bagel or raisins or some low fat peanut butter might be the ideal food prior to a workout with 1-2 glasses of water at least 1 hour before exercise.

In summary, coconut water may a good source of hydration for recreational athletes, with the added benefit of moderate amounts of potassium. Water or sports drinks, however, are also useful as well for recreational exercise. By itself, coconut water is not ideal for prolonged or endurance exercise, without additional carbohydrate or electrolyte supplementation. The bottom line is that most people who lightly exercise do not need sports drinks or even coconut water- plain water is just fine.

8 Amazing Benefits of Drinking Coconut Water

Though it used to be referred to as the milk of coconut, it is not to be confused with the white milky liquid extracted from coconut meat.

In its natural form, coconut water is a light, mildly sweet drink with a very slight nutty taste and astringent feel. Coconut water from fresh, tender coconuts is the best, but it is now available bottled, with or without added sugar and flavors. The best, of course, is the 100% natural, with no added sugar or other preservatives or coloring.

It is the ultimate thirst quencher and offers a tasty alternative to water. This pure liquid is packed with nutrients that yield an array of health benefits.

Here are ten benefits from this amazing tropical gift from nature:

1. It is rich in nutrients

Unlike any other beverage on the market, coconut water contains five essential electrolytes that are present in the human body. These include: calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium. Because of its unique composition, coconut water can be enjoyed by individuals with varying medical conditions.

2. Picture-perfect skin

For those with acne or other blemishes on the surface of the skin, topical application of coconut water can go a great distance as it has the ability to clear up and subsequently tone the skin. It also moisturizes the skin from within if ingested orally and eliminates large amounts of oil. This explains why products such as facial creams, shampoos, conditioners and lotions that contain traces of coconut extract are more effective.

3. It is a perfect hangover remedy

Next time you overdo it and drink more than you can handle, drink coconut water to settle your stomach. It will also replace those essential electrolytes that exit the body if you experience bouts of frequent urination and vomiting.

4. It aids digestion

If you constantly encounter difficulty during the digestion process, coconut water may provide a source of relief. Because of its high concentration of fiber, it aids in the prevention of indigestion and reduces the occurrence of acid reflux.

According to the traditional wisdom of ancient yoga practitioners, bowel regularity is the foundation of physical health. Food entering the body contains many indigestible and undesirable elements, including toxins. They should be eliminated as soon as possible.

Any obstruction in this natural process can result in the accumulation of these toxic substances in the digestive tract. The origin of most diseases can be traced back to our gut. The soluble fiber in coconut water helps regulate bowel movements. In fact, many yogis (practitioners of the traditional health system of yoga) start their day with fresh coconut water.

5. It boosts hydration

The ingredients in coconut water are way more effective at hydrating the human body than those of sports and energy drinks. During rigorous exercise or extended periods of physical activity, the human body loses mineral-rich fluids. However, coconut water serves as an excellent replacement medium with 294 mg of potassium and 5 mg of natural sugar per glass, unlike your favorite sports drink that only contains half of the potassium content and five times the amount of processed sugar.

People who have lost a lot of blood are given coconut water, so are those who are dehydrated because of frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Coconut water is usually well-tolerated by people who suffer from nausea and aversion to food due to metallic taste in the mouth. It is often given to women who cannot keep down any food during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is also common for those who undertake severe fasting for extended periods to break it with a drink of coconut water.

6. Reduces blood pressure

Because coconut water contains an adequate supply of electrolytes, it can be used as a balancing mechanism. In some instances, it is recommended that coconut water be consumed at the start of each day to foster the balance of these electrolytes.

Every cup of coconut water contains about 0.283 mg. of arginine. It is not a lot, but still sufficient for an appreciable reduction in blood pressure when you regularly drink one or two glasses. Even if you do not have hypertension, it is a great idea to drink a glass of coconut water before bed to improve your blood circulation while you sleep.

7. It helps in weight-loss efforts

The fat content in coconut water is extremely low, so generous quantities can be consumed without the fear of immediately packing on the pounds. It also suppresses the appetite and makes you feel full because of its rich nature.

8. Coconut water helps kidney function

Most diets are high in sodium and low in potassium. Sodium puts a lot of stress on the kidneys because it promotes fluid retention. When sodium is high, kidneys have to work harder to eliminate excess water. On the other hand, potassium acts as a diuretic, helping the kidneys flush out water.

A single cup of coconut water can provide enough potassium to keep the kidneys in good health. Its diuretic effect is beneficial in preventing kidney stones. The arginine in coconut water increases blood circulation to all organs including kidneys.

What Is Oat Milk and Is It Healthy?

Nondairy milk may have begun as a lactose-free alternative for vegans or nondairy eaters, but the rise in popularity can be attributed to much more than being a must-have swap. The options are endless: almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, rice milk, and more. But there’s a new kid on the block that’s getting a lot of attention from nutritionists and foodies alike: oat milk. “Almost all nondairy beverages may be ‘hot’ right now because of the interest in plant-based diets,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., author of The Small Change Diet. Oat milk is particularly accessible, as it’s cheaper to make than nut milk and may be more environmentally friendly, explains registered dietitian Kelly R. Jones M.S., L.D.N.

What is oat milk?

Oat milk consists of steel-cut oats or whole groats that are soaked in water, blended, and then strained with a cheesecloth or a special nut milk bag. “While the leftover oat pulp has the bulk of the fiber and most of the protein in the oats, the liquid or ‘milk’ that results does have some of the nutrients in oats, says Jones. “Because oats absorb water more easily than nuts, when blended well enough, more of the food itself winds up passing through the cheesecloth, giving a creamier texture than nut milk without added ingredients.”

What about oat milk nutrition facts?

Oat milk is a good choice for anyone who is allergic or intolerant to dairy and/or nuts, as well as those looking to limit saturated fat in their diets,” says Jones. Oat milk is even safe, generally, for people who have a gluten intolerance. You just must read labels. “If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you’ll want to be sure it was made with certified gluten-free oats,” says Jones.

“While oats are gluten-free in nature, they’re often processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing grains, which contaminates the oats with gluten enough to cause a reaction in those with celiac or a serious intolerance,” she says.

Image zoom Photo: Larina, Natalia / Getty Images

Here’s how oat milk nutrition and oat milk calories measure up to other varieties of dairy and plant-based milk. “One cup serving of oat milk provides 130 calories, 2.5g total fat, 0g saturated fats, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams protein, 35 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium, and 25 percent for vitamin D,” says Gans. “Compared to cow’s milk and soy milk it has less protein; however, compared to other plant-based beverages, e.g., almond, cashew, coconut, and rice, it has more protein.”

Plus, oat milk is the clear winner when it comes to fiber. “Cow’s milk has 0g fiber, almond and soy have 1 gram of fiber per serving-so oat milk with 2 grams of fiber is the highest,” she adds.

“Oats also contain the B vitamins thiamin and folate, the minerals magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals in trace amounts,” says Jones.

Oat milk does tend to be higher in carbohydrates, but that’s OK because it’s providing energy through these carbs and fiber opposed to fat, which can typically be the case with most nut milks, says Jones.

How can you drink and use oat milk?

Beyond a thicker consistency, the slightly sweet flavor of oat milk is pretty great too. “Its creaminess makes it popular to drink, like in oat milk lattes and cappuccinos. It can also be used in smoothies, creamy soups, and baked goods,” says Gans. (Try it for yourself: Elmhurst Milked Oats, Buy It, $5; elmhurst1925.com)

You can also use oat milk in the same way you might use cow’s milk or other plant-based milk when cooking. “You can use oat milk as your liquid in pancakes and waffles or in place of regular milk when making mashed potatoes or casseroles,” says Jones. While you might not want to down a glass of oat milk every day, it could be a great dairy-free milk that’s easy on the stomach and provides an immediate source of pre-workout energy.

  • By Isadora Baum

Is Oat Milk Healthy?

Ask Keri: Everyone’s talking about oat milk. Is it healthier than other plant-based milks?

Keri Says: Oats are an incredibly nutritious cereal grain, and oat milk can be a healthy plant-based milk choice. It all depends on the brand and variety, so you’ll have to read ingredient lists carefully.

Like all plant-based “milks,” some contain too much added sugar or other unhealthy additives, and it’s also currently hard to find an organic version.

But woah: oat milk is SO trendy right now. In fact, it’s in such high demand that companies can’t keep up with production, and oat milk shortages occur all the time. (Who could have predicted?!) In other words, it’s worth getting the facts about the of-the-moment dairy alternative, now. Here’s what you need to know.

RELATED: The Plant-Based Milk Primer

Oat Milk Nutrition

First, the nutrients you want: In general, oat milk usually contains three to four grams of protein per serving. That’s a lot less than soy milk but significantly more than almond. While oats are high in fiber, it loses some when it’s processed into milk, so you end up with about two grams, which is pretty much equal to what you’d get in soy or almond. You’ll almost always get a small dose of important minerals like calcium and iron, and some brands, like crowd-favorite Oatly, also fortify the beverage with vitamins like D and A.

RELATED: 17 Next-Level Ways to Eat Oats

In terms of things on the nutrition label you need to look out for, sugar is key. Oatly doesn’t add sugar to the original, but it clocks in at seven grams of sugar per serving from the oats. Elmhurst Milked’s version has five grams per serving, but it’s almost all added sugar. (The difference in sugar from the oats has to do with different processing techniques.) Pacific Foods’ oat milk, meanwhile, contains a whopping 17 grams per serving.

And then the ingredient list: Most popular brands are pretty clean, with oats and water as the main ingredients and then sometimes salt and added vitamins and minerals. Oatly adds a tiny bit of rapeseed oil to its milk, but it’s less than two percent.

Finally, most of the popular brands—with the exception of Pacific—don’t use organic oats, which is a bummer. If you’re gluten-free, you should also look for the term on the packaging. Oats are naturally gluten-free but are often processed in facilities that lead to cross contamination.

Oat Milk Flavor and Benefits

Here’s the thing: The reason everyone started going totally crazy for oat milk has nothing to do with nutrition facts. It’s just delicious.

If you’re a vegan or just someone who’s trying to cut back on dairy but you love a frothy, creamy latte, oat milk has a consistency similar to cow’s milk that beats out all of the other plant-based competitors—from soy and almond to hemp and rice. Not only is it oh-so-creamy, it has a naturally sweet flavor (oh hey, oats!) that also is just a little more…milky…than the others.

Another bonus: If you normally opt for almond milk, oat might be slightly better for the planet, since oats are a much more efficient crop that can be grown with way less water than almonds.

The Bottom Line

Can oat milk be part of a healthy diet? Sure, as long as you do your homework, and especially if you’re just adding a touch to your coffee here and there. (You shouldn’t be chugging it alongside every meal; water is best for that!) Choose a brand with a simple ingredient list, and check the sugar content. Avoid flavored versions (like chocolate and vanilla) to steer clear of added sugar. Try to buy organic if it’s available. And then enjoy that creamy, frothy vegan cappuccino.

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