Published:
January 20, 2021
Last Updated:
February 1, 2021

Oat Milk vs. Almond Milk: Which Is Healthiest?

Plant-based milks can now be found in almost any grocery store and even local coffee shops, and our choices continue to grow (pea milk is actually a thing!). Even as new nut milks are discovered, two of the most popular types of plant-based milks continue to be oat and almond.

Oat milk and almond milk are both dairy free and are made in similar ways. Oat milk is made by soaking oats in water, blending the milked oats, and then straining the resulting liquid to create a naturally sweet, creamy, and plant-based beverage. Almonds are also soaked, blended, and strained to create a slightly nutty and sweet milk that can be added to coffee, matcha, or oatmeal.

As plant-based eating and living gains more popularity, both for health and sustainability reasons, so, too, has reaching for almond or oat milk instead of cow’s milk. Each plant-based milk has its benefits and downsides, and at the end of the day, it’s about choosing what works for you! 

How Oat Milk and Almond Milk Stack Up

The nutritional composition and ingredients of oat milk and almond milk are substantially different when it comes to fat and carbohydrates (both macronutrients) as well as calories, but otherwise they may look similar, depending on whether the milks have added sugar or additives.

Here are how some of the most popular brands of oat milk and almond milk compare:*

Oat Milk

Oatly – According to Oatly’s website, their original oat drink contains the following per 100ml (or about 1/2 cup):

Calories: 46

Fat: 1.5g (0.2g saturated)

Carbohydrates: 6.7g (4.1g natural sugar from oats)

Protein: 1g

Fiber: 0.8g

Sodium: 10mg

Vitamin D percent daily value (%DV): 30%

Calcium %DV: 15%

Vitamin B12 %DV: 15% 

Califia Farms Oat Milk – According to Califia Farms’ website, their original oat milk contains the following per 240ml (or 1 cup):

Calories: 130

Fat: 7g (1g saturated; 5g monounsaturated)

Carbohydrates: 15g (4g added sugar)

Protein: 2g

Fiber: 1g

Sodium: 120mg

Vitamin D %DV: 0%

Calcium %DV: 20%

Vitamin E %DV: 15%

Elmhurst Milked Oats – According to the Elmhurst website, their milked oats contain the following per 240ml (or 1 cup):

Calories: 100

Fat: 1.5g

Carbohydrates: 18g (4g added sugar)

Protein: 4g

Fiber: 2g

Sodium: 120mg

Vitamin D %DV: 0%

Calcium %DV: 2%

Iron %DV: 6%

When comparing nutritional facts, the oat milks are similar except for Califia Farms’ higher fat content, which is likely due to its inclusion of sunflower oil. Oil is a common additive in oat milk because it serves as an emulsifier, preventing the separation of water and oats and lending to the creamy final texture. Another significant difference is the presence of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, which are added during processing. 

Almond Milk

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze – According to Blue Diamond’s website, their shelf stable unsweetened almond milk contains the following per 240ml (or 1 cup serving):

Calories: 30

Fat: 2.5g (0.5g polyunsaturated; 1.5g monounsaturated)

Carbohydrates: 1g

Protein: 1g

Fiber: 1g

Sodium: 170mg

Vitamin D %DV: 0%

Calcium %DV: 35%

Vitamin E %DV: 35%

Califia Farms Almond Milk – According to Califia Farms’ website, their unsweetened almond milk contains the following per 240ml (or 1 cup):

Calories: 35

Fat: 3g

Carbohydrates: 1g

Protein: 1g

Fiber: 1g

Sodium: 160mg

Vitamin D %DV: 0%

Calcium %DV: 35%

Iron %DV: 6%

Elmhurst Milked Almonds – According to their website, their unsweetened milked almonds contain the following per 240ml (or 1 cup):

Calories: 130

Fat: 11g (1g saturated)

Carbohydrates: 3g

Protein: 5g

Fiber: 0g

Sodium: 5mg

Vitamin D %DV: 0%

Calcium %DV: 0%

Iron %DV: 4%

When comparing nutritional facts of the almond milks, you may wonder why Elmhurst’s is so different from the others, with more than four times the calories, fat, and protein and a fraction of the sodium.

When looking at the ingredients, Elmhurst’s almond milk only contains filtered water and almonds, which means each serving will have a higher concentration of almonds (thus a higher concentration of fat) with no additives or added vitamins and minerals. Plant-based milks are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D, in order to better compare to the nutrient value of cow’s milk.

Oat milk is generally higher in calories and macronutrients than almond milk and, if fortified, can provide a significant amount of vitamin D and calcium, essential nutrients many people don’t get enough of and are important for the health of our muscles, bones, and immune systems. Almond milk can also provide a boost of vitamin D if fortified, in addition to other nutrients, such as vitamin E (an antioxidant), iron, and vitamin B12 (a nutrient many vegetarians and vegans may be deficient in).

Both types of milk, depending on how they’re processed, may include additives that can be harmful to our health, such as carrageenan, an emulsifier used to thicken plant-based milks. Dr. Andrew Weil, a visiting teacher in IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, shares that carrageenan can cause inflammation, an immune system response that is the root cause of many chronic health conditions. Both types of milk can also include added sugars and flavorings. These can contribute to diets already full of hidden (or not-so-hidden) sugars that can also cause inflammation.

The Pros and Cons

Pros of Oat Milk

Oat milk is a terrific option for those who want a dairy-free and lactose-free option with a similar texture to that of dairy milk to pour into their coffee or cereal. Because most brands include emulsifiers, oat milk tends not to separate when added to coffee and is great for baking. Oat milk is nut-free and contains a small amount of fiber per serving, which is essential to our diets and can help provide a more satiating feeling after consuming.

Cons of Oat Milk

Oat milks often contain common additives, such as sugar, oil, flavorings, gums, stabilizers, and emulsifiers, which makes reading the label even more important. While naturally gluten-free, oats may be contaminated with gluten if the milk is processed in a facility that doesn’t keep a gluten-free environment or equipment, and these oats may have pesticide residue if not grown organically.

Pros of Almond Milk

Almond milk is also a great option for those sensitive to dairy. Almond milk contains healthy unsaturated fats, which reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation. With its sweet and nutty flavor, almond milk – even when unsweetened – makes a great addition to smoothies, coffee drinks, and baked goods. It’s also lower in calories and carbohydrates, which may make almond milk a better choice for those looking to lose weight.

Cons of Almond Milk

While almonds may have a smaller carbon footprint than cows and dairy milk, the impact on the environment is still great. Almonds require a lot of water to grow, which makes almond milk a less-sustainable plant-based option than some other milks. Almond milks are often sweetened with added sugar and flavorings and can contain additives to create the proper texture and prevent splitting (when milk is heated or poured into a hot drink and then separates).

Bottom Line

When choosing the plant-based milk that’s right for you, it’s all about your individual health needs and goals. If you’re lactose intolerant, making the switch to plant-based milk might be daunting at first, so go with the one you’ll enjoy and be mindful of the ingredients, especially how much added sugar is included. Both almond milk and oat milk are easy to make at home, which might be the way to go if you’re concerned about additives.

If you’re really torn, try both and see which one you like best! That’s what IIN’s Health Coach Training Program encourages – exploring which foods, diets, and ways of living work best for each of us as individuals. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to plant-based eating, or eating in general. This IIN core concept of bio-individuality is the key to your success in navigating your health journey – learn more by downloading our Curriculum Guide today.

 

*The Institute for Integrative Nutrition has no affiliation with any of the brands listed in this article.

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Author Biography
Nina Zorfass
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IIN Content Writer
Nina holds a bachelor’s in dietetics, nutrition, and food sciences from the University of Vermont and is a graduate of IIN’s Health Coach Training Program...
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