Healthy Store Bought Oat Milk Guide
Written By Suzanne, Certified Holistic Health Coach
I’ve been consuming plant-based milks since the 1970s. It’s been overwhelming (in a good way!) to see the market expand to include so many alternative milk products made from a variety of nuts, grains, and legumes.
Recently, we published Healthy Almond Milk Shopping Guide, because almond milk is the most popular plant-based milk. Now, because you guys asked (and asked!), we are pleased to bring you an Oat Milk Guide to help you find the best store-bought oat milk.
Oat milk is enjoying increased popularity because it’s plant-based, nut-free, and soy-free. I prefer oat milk over many plant-based milks. The biggest problem with oat milk is that it typically has more carbohydrates and sugars than other plant-based milks (more on that, below).
Oat Milk Ingredients
All oat milks include at least oats and water, and the best store-bought oat milk brands will contain only those ingredients.
Many other oat milk products also have sweeteners, oils, thickening agents, emulsifiers and stabilizers, flavorings, preservatives, and added vitamins and minerals. These additives are used to enhance texture, appearance, performance, shelf-life, and nutritional profile. They can also be problematic for a variety of reasons. Consider the following:
- Added sweeteners might produce a yummier milk, but simple sugars can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. Most of us don’t need any extra sugar in our diets! (Read more in the sugar section, below.)
- Added oils in oat milks typically come in the form of lower-quality seed oils, like rapeseed or canola. These sources of fat can throw off a healthier fatty acid ratio; most of us need more omega-3 fatty acids but get a lot of omega-6 fatty acids from plant-based oils. This can result in increased inflammation, which none of us needs! The best store-bought oat milk brands have just the small amount of fat that occurs naturally in the whole oat.
- Flavoring ingredients (even “natural flavors”) are highly complex, not very natural, and opaque ingredients–as consumers, we don’t know what’s actually in them. Good old vanilla extract is the only flavor ingredient that you’ll see on the best store-bought oat milk labels.
- Ingredients used to thicken, emulsify, stabilize and preserve oat milk can include gums and mineral salts. While these additives are generally considered safe in low amounts, many of them are highly processed and may not be tolerated well by some people. If oat milk is a staple in your diet, you probably want an additive-free product. The best store bought oat milk will be free of all of these additives.
- Added vitamin and mineral ingredients might look good on the nutrition label, but they can be highly processed, and they aren’t necessarily bioavailable (able to be absorbed by the body). I prefer to get most of my nutrients from whole-food sources. Again, the best store-bought oat milks won’t be packed with added synthetic vitamins.
Sugar in Oat Milks–Extra Sneaky
Because cow’s milk is naturally sweet, we expect milk alternatives to have a little sweetness, too. Many plant-based milks include sweeteners to make their products appealing to consumers who are switching from dairy milk.
Oat milks are a little tricky when it comes to sugar content. If you look at the ingredient list for many oat milk products, you won’t see any added sweeteners. But, if you look at the nutrition label, you’ll see plenty of sugar.
Why is this?
Oat milk manufacturers typically use enzymes to partially break down the oats to make the milks creamier and sweeter. Naturally occurring oat starches become a simple sugar called maltose.
The good thing about this is that manufacturers can use fewer (or no) additional ingredients to get the creaminess and sweetness that make their products appealing. The bad thing is that the product can be sweet and high in carbs and sugar while still technically having “no sugar added.”
Manufacturers do have to list these sugars on the nutrition label, so if you’re watching your sugar intake, check for “total sugars” and “added sugars.” There are some zero-sugar oat milks that are made without this enzymatic process and have some carbs but no simple sugars. I’ve included a couple of these products among my recommendations below.
An important difference between cow’s milk and oat milk is that the lactose in dairy doesn’t impact blood sugar responses as much as maltose and added sugars do. So even if you’re not sugar conscious in general, do watch out for the added sugars in oat milk.
Is the Best Store-Bought Oat Milk Fortified?
Some oat milk brands add minerals, vitamins and even protein to mirror the nutritional profile of dairy milk. These packages might boast about the content of calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin B-12. But do you need this?
Personally, I use oat milk in place of cow’s milk, but I am not looking for the nutrition that I would get from cow’s milk. I eat a healthy diet and supplement with a multi-vitamin and vitamin D, so I choose a non-fortified oat milk.
You may prefer a fortified oat milk if you’re seeking a nutritional replacement for dairy. None of the Best Stuff is in this category because of the additional ingredients; if you want a decent fortified oat milk, check out some of the products listed in Okay Stuff.
Hidden Scary Stuff in Oat Milk
Glyphosate, the carcinogenic active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp and other herbicides, is widely used in the cultivation of oats and many other common crops.
In 2018, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) commissioned two studies that found concerning levels of glyphosate in an alarming number of common oat-based cereals and foods. These included including popular children’s foods. In fact, most of the conventional products had elevated levels of glyphosate, and about a third of organic products did, thanks to cross-contamination.
Because of this, we only call oat milk Good Stuff if it’s organic and/or certified glyphosate-residue free by The Detox Project. The best store-bought oat milk is both organic and glyphosate-residue free.
If oat milk is a staple in your diet, I highly recommend that you opt for a glyphosate-free product.
A Note About “Barista” Oat Milks
These blends tend to have higher amount of oils and additive ingredients in order to make them extra creamy. I did find two barista oat milks that are Okay Stuff:
- Elmhurst Oat Barista Edition also has a short list of ingredients: filtered water, whole grain oats, cane sugar (a very small amount), dipotassium phosphate, and salt. It’s not organic, but Elmhurst oat milks are certified glyphosate-free.
- Minor Figures Barista Oat (Organic) is a decent pick for people looking for a creamy, foaming-friendly oat milk. The ingredients are water, organic oats, organic sunflower oil, salt, and potassium carbonate. I don’t like the sunflower oil, but I do like that it’s organic and this milk doesn’t have many of the additives you find in most other barista products.
Homemade Oat Milk
Thirty years ago, when I followed a macrobiotic diet, I made my own oat milk. I cooked whole oats with lots of water and then strained them. The result was fairly bland, but quite thick and creamy. Today, it is much easier to make yummier versions of these milks with a plant-milk maker. This is the one we have and recommend. I like using steel-cut oats for the most nutritious version possible.
The best store-bough oat milk is organic and/or certified glyphosate-residue free; has no added sweeteners, thickeners, oils, or stabilizers; and has only a few necessary, familiar ingredients. The four brands that follow fit the bill.
Elmhurst Milked Oats Unsweetened Oat Milk contains only filtered water, whole grain oats (gluten free), and salt. Although not organic, their oats are certified glyphosate-residue free by The Detox Project.
Oat MALK Original is the very Best Stuff–it’s organic and certified glyphosate-residue free by The Detox Project. It contains only three simple ingredients: filtered water, organic oats (gluten free), and himalayan pink salt.
Thrive Market Organic Oat Beverage contains just water and organic oats.
We call the following nine brands of oat milks Okay Stuff because they’re organic and/or glyphosate free and have relatively simple ingredients. That said, I personally do not buy any of these brands, as they contain additives. If you’re looking for a nutritional replacement for cow’s milk, some of these brands are worth considering.
Califia Farms Extra Creamy Oatmilk isn’t organic, but it is certified glyphosate free. The ingredients are a little more contrived than I consider to be Good Stuff, including sunflower oil. Still, there is nothing horrible to be found here.
Chobani Oat Zero Sugar Original uses oats that are glyphosate-residue free, and contains no added sugar. My biggest concerns are the “natural flavors” and “nutrient extract blend” because these are opaque ingredients that can mask many additives and residues. Rapeseed oil is related to canola and a lower quality choice. I wouldn’t consume this as a daily staple but cannot quite call it Sneaky Stuff.
Kirkland Signature Organic Non-Dairy Oat Beverage gets points for being organic and easy to find, but loses points for the sunflower oil, organic “natural flavors,” and other additives.
Kirkland Signature Organic Non-Dairy Oat Beverage gets points for being organic and easy to find, but loses points for the sunflower Mooala Organic Coconut Oatmilk is unique because it’s made with coconut cream. Additional ingredients include organic agave fiber (inulin), calcium, and gellan gum. I like the use of coconut cream in place of lower quality oils. Mooala achieves zero grams of sugar in their oat milk by using a processing method to prepare the oat milk without breaking the starches into simple sugars. When we contacted them for more details, they responded with: “We use a proprietary processing method that does not generate sugar in our formula, unfortunately we are unable to share any other details.” I’m not a huge fan of this as it represents more processing and isn’t transparent., organic “natural flavors,” and other additives.
Oatly Oatmilk and Oatmilk Chilled are certified glyphosate free but are not organic. The ingredients aren’t as simple as the Good Stuff, but also not as contrived as they could be (for example, they don’t use any gums). I’m not a huge fan of rapeseed oil, but the rapeseed oil they use in the US market is non-GMO and hexane-free. (Oatly is a Swedish company that’s been around for decades, long before oat milk was cool, so I give them some credit for this.)
Oatsome Organic Oat Drink contains water, organic gluten-free oats, organic sunflower oil, and vitamin and mineral ingredients. I consider this Okay Stuff because it has a relatively simple ingredient list, the main ingredients are organic, and there are no added sweeteners. I also give Oatsome credit for getting back to me with clear details about their oil: “Original Oatsome Organic Oat Milk contains about 10 mL of sunflower oil per liter (roughly 0.34 fl oz per 33.8 fl oz.)”. By my calculation, that means Oatsome oat milk is about 1% oil.
Pacific Foods Organic Reduced-Sugar Oat Original has water, organic oats, and a few minor ingredients (gellan gum, sea last, sunflower lecithin, tricalcium phosphate, and vitamin D2). I’m not a big fan of the additives, but I do like the organic oats and the fact that this product has a lot less sugar than other oat milks.
Planet Oat Original Oatmilk and Unsweetened Original Oatmilk and Shelf Stable Original Oatmilk aren’t organic, but they are certified glyphosate-free. They have a base of filtered water and oats, with no added oils. The lesser ingredients aren’t awesome, but are typical for standard oat milks. The unsweetened product has far less sugar than the others.
RISE Brewing Co. Organic Oat Milk (Original) has simple, organic ingredients (water, organic oats, organic sunflower oil, sea salt) and it’s certified glyphosate-residue free. I would call this brand Good Stuff, but the added sunflower oil isn’t ideal. I wanted to know exactly how much sunflower was used in this formula, and I wasn’t satisfied with their reTly: “the percentage of our ingredients is proprietary and something we aren’t able to disclose.” RISE also have an Organic Vanilla Oat Milk that has the same ingredients plus “organic natural flavor” and organic vanilla extract. I’m not a fan of natural flavors, but otherwise this oat milk is Okay Stuff.
Any brand of oat milk that isn’t Good Stuff or Okay Stuff could arguably be considered Sneaky Stuff. After all, plant milks as a whole are marketed to be a more healthful alternative to dairy.
In any case, we suggest that you avoid all the brands of oat milk that aren’t organic and/or glyphosate free, as well as those that have longer lists of ingredients–-including lower-quality oils, sugars, and additives.
Silk Oatmilk, Aldi’s Friendly Farms Oat Milk, 365 Oatmilk Beverage, and Trader Joe’s Nondairy Oat Beverage are in this category.
Are there oat milk brands not mentioned here that you want to know about? Do you favor oat milk over almond or soy milk? Which is your favorite brand when it comes to taste? We’d love to know!
To your health,
Suzanne, Certified Holistic Health Coach
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What do you think of the Suzie’s Oat milk?
Hi! Which top two Oatmilk from the okay stuff would you recommend on a daily basis in replace of cow milk?
I recently ‘found’ Elmhurst brand milked oats and besides loving the taste and creaminess, wow 3 simple ingredients. However, concerned about glyphosate residue, I was delighted to see they are certified glyphosate free by the Detox Project. However, upon further scrutiny, I see no certification label granted by them on Elmhurst carton. Interestingly, Oat Malk does have it so it makes me question Elmhurst now (yikes). I din’t know if my store carries Oat Malk- how do they compare in taste??
Also you9 stated you use steel cut oats and the Nutr milk machine which I have been considering purchasing. Can you inform me where you get your oats (can I assume they are glyphosate free?)
BTW….I too followed a macrobiotic diet for years.
I am so grateful for all the work and research your and your family does to help keep us all safe and healthy. So very grateful. I am a certified holisticnurse and diabetes educator so this is important to me and my patients…
Thank you for your support and your great questions. I got your voicemail and will follow up with a phone call to you. I am taking Elmhurst’s word for it that they are part of the Detox project and glyphosate free. However, I always prefer organic oats which they don’t use. I was really torn when rating these but I also don’t like the oils that most Oat milks use. and Elmhurst is basically just oats. For home use, I either make my own or use MALK. I don’t drink OatMilk and use it pretty sparingly in smoothies (in warm weather) or sometimes in a decaf coffee. I actually prefer Almond Milk. Whenever I buy Oats I only buy organic oats to be sure that they are as glyphosate free as possible. It is very challenging to avoid glyphosate even in organic food. It is used a lot in agriculture in the US and many homeowners use it in their yards and gardens. It is everywhere! Keep in mind that any processing of food is a compromise for your health. I like eating oats mostly as a grain. Hope this helps.
It depends on if you’re drinking it or just using small amounts. If I were consuming OatMilk as a staple in my diet, I would only either consume Good Stuff or make my own.