Which Dairy Alternative Is Healthier?

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Oat milk and almond milk are mainstays at cafes these days, along with other non-dairy alternatives like soy milk, goat’s milk and even potato milk (yes, you read that right). But when it comes to the difference between two favorites—oat milk vs almond milk—is one actually better for you over the other? We talked to two professionals to find out if oat milk or almond milk is healthier.

Meet the experts: Bill Rawls, M.D., licensed family physician and author The Cellular Wellness Solution, and Allie Echeverria, nutritionist with Eaton Broshar Atlanta.

Whether you have a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance, these picks can be creamy, flavorful substitutes for cow’s milk. And they can make great alternatives to dairy milk, according to Dr. Rawls.

It’s important to remember that neither version is officially “milk” because both are blended from grains and nuts. “Oat milk, of course, comes from a grain and almond milk from a nut. They are made by blending oats or almonds with water and then straining out the solid components,” says Dr. Rawls.

Oat milk can be higher in protein than almond milk, but it’s important to note that it’s also higher in carbohydrates. “Neither oat milk [nor] almond milk have quite the same mouth feel and taste as regular cow’s milk, but that’s not as much a disadvantage as something to get used to,” says Dr. Rawls. “Oat milk has a starchy taste. Almond milk is thinner than regular cow’s milk and has a distinct almond flavor.”

Oat milk vs almond milk: Nutrition

Almond milk is lower in carbohydrates, which can make it a better option for people on low-carb diets. To better understand what that means, Allie Echeverria breaks down the numbers.

Unsweetened almond milk nutrition

“An 8 oz serving of unsweetened almond milk contains 37 kcal, 1 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fat, 1 grams of protein, and 481 mg of calcium,” Echeverria says.

Sweetened almond milk nutrition

“The same amount of sweetened almond milk contains 93 kcal, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 459 mg of calcium.”

Oat milk nutrition

On the other hand, oat milk is higher in protein, which may not be a good idea for people battling certain diseases like cancer. “An 8 oz serving of regular oat milk contains 120 kcal, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 350 mg of calcium,” she says. “The same amount of low-fat oat milk contains 1 gram of fat.”

Pros and cons of oat milk

When it comes to oat milk, some people prefer the flavor profile a bit more than they do almond milk.

Pros:

  • Oat milk is usually safe for people with nut allergies or who need to eat gluten-free (as long as the brand does not manufacture other products containing those allergens).
  • It’s higher in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus than almond milk.
  • Oat milk is naturally sweeter requiring less additional calories to boost flavor.
  • Protein and fiber content can help some people feel full longer.

Cons:

  • Oat milk is higher in both carbohydrates and calories.
  • It can be contaminated by gluten when the oats have been either grown or processed by contaminated grains.
  • Many oat milks contain carrageenan, which has shown to cause digestive upset in some people.

Pros and cons of almond milk

If price is a concern, Echeverria says you may have a better chance of downing your daily glass of milk without lowering your bank account by skipping over the oat milk. “Almond milk costs about a dollar less than oat milk,” she says, adding that prices could change as more oat milk companies enter the market.

Pros:

  • Almond milk is naturally higher in vitamin E, a substance that can increase immune response and improve skin health.
  • Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories (37 kcal per 8 oz).
  • Good for adding creaminess to smoothies and protein shakes without significantly adding to the calorie count.

Cons:

  • Almond milk is made from nuts, which is a common allergy.
  • People normally prefer it sweetened, which can add calories.
  • It needs fortification to provide calcium.

Bottom line: Is oat milk better for you than almond milk?

Both alternatives can provide a great substitute to dairy, with their various health benefits and flavors, but neither of them share the same nutritional profiles as cow’s milk.

“Neither milk is better or healthier, but one may be better suited to your goals,” says Echeverria. When it comes to picking your dairy alternative, it sounds like you need to consider what you want to get out of your milk (and your tastebuds) before you pour. If you’re looking for lower calories, almond milk might be better for you, and if you’re looking for more protein, oat milk might be your preference.

Headshot of Lauren Wellbank

Contributing Writer

Lauren Wellbank is a freelance writer based in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Martha Stewart Living, and more. She has three small children, a husband, and an over eager dog at home. When she’s not writing she likes to work in her garden with her family.

Headshot of Becca Miller

Associate Editor

Becca Miller (she/her) has been working in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen since 2018, where she researches and writes about tasty recipes, food trends and top cooking tools. She graduated from NYU with a liberal arts degree focusing on creative writing. She makes killer scrambled eggs, enjoys a glass of un-oaked chardonnay and takes pride in her love of reality television.

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