- Oat milk is a non-dairy milk alternative that contains more fiber than traditional cow’s milk, which can be beneficial for people with diabetes.
- Compared with cow’s milk, oat milk contains less protein and slightly more carbohydrates.
- For those managing diabetes, some properties of oat milk may help to benefit blood sugar and cholesterol control, but it’s still important to keep track of the total carbohydrates consumed when drinking the milk alternative.
Non-dairy alternatives have exploded in popularity in just recent years, leaving many people wondering about their nutritional benefits or potential drawbacks with regard to diabetes. Oat milk in particular stands out among other competing plant-based milks such as soy, almond, cashew, and rice milk for its high-fiber content.
Though the fibers in oat milk may help to benefit people with diabetes, it’s important to be mindful of the carbohydrate content of the drink—especially when opting for a sweetened or barista blend with added sugars.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling to help you customize your diet to meet your diabetes needs. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
What Is Oat Milk?
Oat milk is a plant-based alternative to traditional cow’s milk, typically made by mixing cereal oats, water, and, depending on the brand, oat flour. Oat milk ingredients vary from one brand to another with some brands opting to include additional ingredients such as vegetable oil, salt, preservatives, stabilizers, vitamins, sweeteners, and different flavorings. For many individuals, oat milk has become a preferred non-dairy alternative because of its sweet taste and environmentally friendly production, as it requires less water to produce than other plant and nut-based milks.
Nutritional Value of Oat Milk
Traditional cow’s milk is known for its high levels of calcium, protein and vitamins and minerals. By comparison, oat milk contains less protein and fat, but is also higher in fiber and slightly higher in carbohydrates. But depending on the type of milks purchased, some oat milks will contain similar or higher amounts of calcium than traditional cow’s milk (or roughly 296mg per cup). However, these factors can vary depending on the brand. For example, some brands fortify their oat milk with added calcium, riboflavin, and additional vitamins.
When unsweetened, about 1 cup of oat milk (or 200 grams) provides roughly:
- 96 calories.
- 1.6g of protein.
- 5.5g of fat.
- 10.2g of carbohydrates.
- 1.5g of fiber.
- 296g of calcium.
- 296mg of potassium.
While non-dairy substitutions including oat milk are not recommended for children under a certain age, oat milk can provide generally sufficient nutritional value for adult consumption.
Is Oat Milk Good for Diabetes?
Beyond its use as a non-dairy substitution to cow’s milk, oat milk may also offer some added benefits for people with diabetes.
Oats and oat milk are an excellent source of beta-glucans, a type of fiber that has been shown to lower both LDL cholesterol levels and after-meal blood glucose levels. However, the levels of this fiber can differ from one brand to another, making it difficult to rely on oat milk as the primary daily source of beta-glucan.
Existing research also suggests that the proteins in oats may be effective at stimulating the release of insulin and GLP-1s and ultimately lowering blood sugar levels. But more studies are required to confirm these claims.
In general, oats have also been shown to improve insulin resistance and improve cardiovascular health, which can be a particular concern for people with diabetes. However, more research is needed to determine whether oat milk may provide the same protective benefits as eating whole oats.
When compared with cow’s milk, oat milk contains slightly more carbohydrates per serving. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100 grams of unsweetened plain oat milk contains 5.1 grams of carbohydrates while the same serving size of whole cow’s milk contains 4.67 grams of carbohydrates. Though this difference is marginal, some brands of oat milk—especially those with added sugars and sweeteners—will contain higher amounts of carbohydrates. Monitoring carbohydrate intake is important when you have diabetes, as they are more likely to cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Additionally, because oat milk is lower in protein than traditional cow’s milk, it’s important to ensure that you’re meeting your daily protein requirement through other types of foods when opting for oat milk.
Oat Milk vs Other Non-Dairy Milks
There are many other non-dairy milk alternatives available on the market today, including almond, cashew, rice, coconut, and hemp based milks. In general, oat milk provides more dietary fibers than other alternatives and is a richer source of beta-glucans, which have been associated with reduced blood glucose levels.
Importantly, oat milk tends to be higher in carbohydrates than nut-based, non-dairy milk alternatives (though it contains fewer carbohydrates than rice milk, which can contain over 20g per cup).
While many of these alternatives can be fortified with calcium and contribute to daily calcium needs, they are not considered to be nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk. Oat milk, along with other plant-based milks, also face challenges around processing and preservation, sometimes resorting to preservatives to maintain shelf life.
If you’re interested in learning more about milks and beverages that you can incorporate into your daily meal plan, Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian specialized in diabetes management and meal planning. If you need help optimizing your nutrition, consider booking a virtual appointment today.
How Much Will Drinking Oat Milk Raise Your Blood Sugar?
How much oat milk will raise your blood sugar levels will depend on several varying factors, including what type of oat milk you drink and whether or not you’re consuming additional foods or beverages with your meal. Raw oat milk has a relatively low glycemic index rating, meaning it is less likely to cause a fast spike in your blood sugar levels than other beverages or foods.
Glycemic Index of Oat Milk
The glycemic index can be a useful tool when making dietary choices for diabetes. Foods with a high glycemic index can lead to intense fluctuations in blood glucose and contribute to increased blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI rating are less likely to cause a drastic spike in blood sugar levels.
Other Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives To Consider For Diabetes Management
Whether you’re lactose intolerant or prefer the flavor of non-dairy milk alternatives, there are many options to choose from, even if you have diabetes. Some of these options include:
- Almond milk.
- Cashew milk.
- Soy milk.
- Coconut milk.
- Rice milk.
For individuals managing diabetes, it’s key to choose milk alternatives that are limited in added sugars and sweeteners. It’s also important to take note of a non-dairy milk alternative’s carbohydrate content when meal planning for your day. According to the American Diabetes Association, the overall amount of carbohydrates is more important than the source or type of carbohydrates consumed.
As a plant-based milk option, oat milk is a good choice for individuals managing diabetes who enjoy the alternative milk’s flavor and taste. Its high fiber content and beta-glucans may help to lower LDL cholesterol and after-meal blood sugar levels. With so many different brands of oat milk available, it’s a good idea to choose a product that is limited in added sugars when it comes to blood sugar management.
How a Dietitian Can Help Manage Diabetes
Experimenting with different plant-based milks can be an excellent way to find a non-dairy alternative that suits your unique preferences. If you’re concerned about how to incorporate a new beverage into your diabetes meal plan, working with a diabetes nutritionist can help you to optimize your nutrition to satisfy your likes without spiking your blood sugar levels.
Book an appointment with Nourish and see a registered dietitian through your insurance.
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