In recent years, alternative dairy milk has become very popular. And we are not just talking about soy… Although it is the most famous of all, milk such as oatmeal and almond milk are also increasingly consumed by a large majority of the population. But what exactly are these two products? Are they healthier than cow’s milk? Which is better, and how are they different?
How are these milk made?
Cow’s milk alternatives are made by mixing, diluting, or extracting the plant material in water, such as almonds or rolled oats. These plant materials are then subjected to homogenization and thermal treatments to improve their physical stability and shelf life, and sometimes fortified ingredients, such as some vitamins, are added.
Oat milk or almond milk are two good options to replace the traditional cow when you experience problems with the digestion of lactose. However, it is essential to check the labels first to ensure they do not contain added sugars.
These types of drinks are characterized by their easy digestion. In addition, they help improve the body’s hydration status, although they have a higher energy density than mineral water. Find the best option between the two so you can resort to it if cow’s milk makes you feel bad.
Characteristics of oat milk
Generally speaking, water and oats are the main ingredients in oat milk. The percentage of the cereal is small, but it provides a certain amount of essential micronutrients, including zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium. All of them are necessary to ensure good health in the medium term.
In addition, it is possible to find options fortified with calcium. According to a study published in Nutrients, this mineral is crucial for maintaining a good bone mineral density. The stores of vitamin D must be complete to guarantee a good absorption of calcium.
On the other hand, oat milk has a certain amount of complex carbohydrates, as long as no simple sugars have been added. To ensure the latter, check the information offered on the label. Complex carbohydrates will help keep energy levels stable throughout the day.
Characteristics of almond milk
Almond milk, for its part, has a composition in which water and almonds stand out as the main ingredients. Nuts can be found in a variable proportion, although it is once again decisive to choose the versions that do not have added sugars or artificial sweeteners. The latter is harmful to the bacteria that live in the intestine, according to a study published by Nutrients.
From a nutritional point of view, we are talking about a portion of food with a minimal contribution of carbohydrates. Almond milk stands out above all for the presence of a particular portion of high-quality fats inside the unsaturated type.
A series of proteins also coexist in this milk, although they are of low biological value. This means that they do not contain all the essential amino acids.
On the other hand, and in the same way, as in the previous case, it is possible to find essential micronutrients such as iron, calcium, selenium, and zinc. These elements are essential to strengthen the immune system and maintain homeostasis —self-regulation for the balance of the organism— internally.
Which to choose?
The choice of oat or almond milk is usually very personal. Both are healthy alternatives to cow’s milk, although they have differences in their composition: unsweetened almond milk, for example, is lower in calories and carbohydrates (so it could be more beneficial for people with diabetes or who are trying to lose weight), while oat milk is higher in carbohydrates (since it comes from oats) and is usually quite well digested, making it a good alternative for people with intolerances. These are the essential nutrients you should pay attention to when choosing one or the other:
- Calories: Almond milk tends to be lower in calories than oat milk and can be a good choice if you’re looking to manage your weight.
- Fat: Because nuts are high in fat, almond milk is usually higher in fat than oat milk. However, the difference is not too marked!
- Protein: Both non-dairy milk tends to be lower in protein than dairy, but not always. Look for plant-based milk fortified with calcium, vitamins, and protein, so they have a nutrient profile similar to dairy.
- Sugar: When choosing an alternative drink, choose a sugar-free version to avoid added sugars. Oat and almond milk have natural sugars, but oat milk tends to have more. This increases blood glucose levels more than almond milk, so it is less recommended in cases of diabetes, for example.
- Fiber: When eaten as a whole food, almonds are a great source of fiber. But when they are made into a dairy drink, much of the fiber is removed. Oat milk, on the other hand, tends to contain more dietary fiber, particularly beta-glucan, which helps lower cholesterol levels.
- Minerals: Plant-based milk is often fortified with various vitamins and minerals to bring its nutrient profile closer to what is normally found in cow’s milk. Almond milk tends to be higher in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, D, and E than oat milk.