As someone who’s followed a low-carb lifestyle for the better part of the last few years, I’ve experimented with several different milk options in my morning latte.
While almond milk was my first foray into plant-based milk in 2018, I found it a bit too almond-tasting for my preferences, leaving me looking for a creamier, less nutty alternative.
Enter everybody’s new favorite: oat milk.
Oat milk is a creamy, delicious plant-based milk that is naturally sweet and gave me that rich-dairy-like body that I was looking for in my coffee drinks.
However, unlike almond milk, which has about 2 grams of carbohydrates per cup, most oat milk has around 16 grams of carbs per serving.
This left me wondering about the carbohydrates in oat milk - how many carbs does it have?
Are there low-carb oat milk options? Do the carbohydrates in oat milk have the same effect on the body as other foods?
To help any of you asking the same questions, I did a deep dive into oat milk and carbohydrates to get some answers.
In this article, I will share what I’ve found with you, starting with the basics of carbohydrates and their effect on the body, then discussing the carbohydrates in oat milk to help understand how they might or might not fit into your personal dietary goals and needs.
Does oat milk have carbs?
Yes, oat milk contains 15 grams of carbohydrates on average. The amount of carbs in oat milk varies depending on the brand, and there are low-carb options as well.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates, carbs for short, are macronutrients found in almost every food we eat.
Our bodies use these macronutrients as a main energy source to fuel brain function and physical activity.
There are a few different types of carbs, including:
- Dietary fiber
Sugar carbs are broken into fructose and glucose, typically occurring as natural sugars in fruits or added sugars in processed foods.
Starches are found in vegetables, grains, and legumes (like beans) and can provide sustained energy for the body.
Dietary fiber is found in many natural sources like fruits, vegetables, and whale grains. Fiber is essential and helps promote stable blood sugar and healthy digestion.
Simple Vs. Complex Carbs
Another aspect of carbohydrates to understand is whether they are simple or complex.
Simple carbs are carbohydrates made from one or two sugar molecules.
They are digested and absorbed quickly, leading to a rapid blood sugar spike. These are found in sweeteners like honey, syrups, and table sugar.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are made of long chains of sugar molecules.
These take longer for our bodies to digest (think whole wheat bread, whole oats, legumes, and starchy veggies), gradually increasing blood sugar levels.
Why Carbs Matter
So why do carbohydrates matter?
Carbs are essential for our bodies - they help regulate energy and blood sugar levels, provide a macronutrient balance with fats and protein and give us fiber and other nutrients that aren’t readily available in other foods.
Carbs are the main energy source for our bodies.
The body breaks down carbs into glucose (sugar), which fuels our cells and gives us energy.
Eating enough of the right carbs (complex vs. simple) can give you stable energy that helps you power through your day.
Due to the process above, carbs directly impact blood sugar levels.
If you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates, your body will break them down quickly, spiking your blood sugar.
If you eat complex carbs or limit your carb intake, your body can maintain more stable blood sugar levels.
This is vital for people with diabetes or insulin resistance who have to keep their blood sugar at a certain level to prevent health complications.
Carbs provide excellent macronutrient balance for your body when eaten with a balance of fats and proteins.
The typical diet is around 30% fat, 30% protein, and 50% carbohydrates.
For a low-carb diet, the range will vary based on individual goals but can range between 10% to 26% carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates usually contain fiber, an essential nutrient that most Americans do not consume enough of.
Foods made of complex carbohydrates, like oats, can have a higher fiber content, which can help with blood sugar regulation s and digestion.
Understanding these elements is important when choosing an oat milk brand (or whether to drink it at all) because you may want to eat more or less carbohydrates depending on your dietary goals and needs.
For example, I’ve realized over the years that my body responds better and feels fuller when I consume foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fat.
Monitoring my carb intake helps me avoid energy crashes and lose weight.
You may have different goals - such as getting more fiber or avoiding sugar due to diabetes, or a personal desire to stay away from added sugars.
Knowing how carbs affect the body can help you make the right choice when it comes to selecting an oat milk product based on its carbohydrate count and other nutritional elements.
How Many Carbs Does Oat Milk Have?
Now to our most important question - how many carbs does oat milk have?
Oats are a high-carbohydrate food, and since oat milk is made of oats and water, oat milk also has a fairly high carbohydrate count.
However, the carb count on your oat milk can vary heavily depending on the brand.
Manufacturers use different processes to create oat milk.
Some simply blend whole oats with water and filter out the solids, while others use enzymes to break down cut oats into a kind of paste.
This process can directly affect the carbohydrate content and whether it’s listed as sugars or added sugars on the nutrition label.
Below are several popular oat milk brands and the amount of carbohydrates in one serving:
Carbohydrates Per Serving
If you have a specific brand of oat milk you want to check out, use our searchable database.
You can look up by brand or keyword to find out how many carbs are in several different oat milk brands.
What Kind of Carbohydrates are in Oat Milk?
While some sources claim that oat milk has complex carbohydrates because it’s made out of oats (which are considered complex carbs), the FDA has taken a different stance.
This gets a bit scientific, but I’ll break it down as simply as possible.
Whole oats are a high-carbohydrate food consisting of complex carbs like starch and a soluble fiber called beta-glucan.
However, these complex carbohydrates do not remain in this form in the final oat milk product.
While some fiber gets transferred during the oat milk manufacturing process, the starch in oats gets broken down.
As stated, some brands use an enzyme called amylase to break down the whole or cut oats into a slurry mixed with water and other additives to create the final oat milk product.
We even used it in our Oatly dupe recipe!
This enzyme breaks down the starch, creating a simple sugar called maltose.
Although it’s a natural sugar, maltose typically acts like an added sugar in the body. This means it can boost your energy but also impact your blood sugar.
The FDA has issued guidance stating that oat milk manufacturers must list maltose as an added sugar on their nutrition labels (pg. 21), even if they don’t add extra sweeteners like table sugar, fructose, cane sugar, or agave syrup.
What Impact Does Oat Milk Have on Blood Sugar Levels?
Since most oat milk contains maltose as a simple sugar, the beverage can impact your blood sugar levels.
Maltose actually has one of the highest Glycemic Index ratings compared to other sweeteners, meaning it can spike your blood sugar.
For example, maltose has a GI of 105, while table sugar only has a GI of 65.
Lactose, the natural sugar in cow’s milk, has a GI of 46, while glucose is similar to maltose, with a GI of 100.
Depending on your oat milk brand’s processing, it may have extra added sugars or just the naturally occurring maltose.
Either way, if you are watching your sugar intake or have a condition like diabetes, you may want to monitor your blood sugar levels after drinking oat milk to see how it affects you.
Can You Drink Oat Milk on Keto?
While oat milk probably isn’t ideal for the keto diet, you may be able to work it in depending on your specific carb goals and the brand you drink.
Choose an option that is lower in carbohydrates.
When I’m eating low carb, I personally enjoy Chobani Oatmilk Zero Sugar Original, which has 0 sugars and 9 grams of carbohydrates.
Can Drinking Oat Milk Help You Lose Weight?
Yes! Oat milk is relatively low in calories (for example, Willa’s Unsweetened Original only has 80 calories per serving) and can help support your weight loss journey.
Most oat milk has a bit of protein, which can help keep you full, and carbs, which can give you energy, even when losing weight.
Can You Drink Oat Milk if You Have Diabetes?
Yes. Growing up with a dad who has Type 1 diabetes, I understand the need to monitor carbs and sugars in the foods you eat.
Even though oat milk has carbohydrates and sugars, you can likely work it into your diet if you monitor the other sugars you eat throughout the day.
While ideally, you may drink a lower-carb plant milk like almond milk, you can speak with your doctor about oat milk and figure out the right option for your specific needs.
Are There Any Low-Carb Oat Milk Options?
Kind-of. There are lower-carb oat milk options, although they are not as low-carb as other plant-based milk like almond, coconut, cashew, or walnut.
The Truth About Oat Milk and Carbs
Putting this guide together helped me better understand the carbohydrates in oat milk, and I hope it’s helped you too!
Oat milk has one of the higher carbohydrate contents of plant-based milk, but it’s close to the same amount in dairy milk (which has about 12 grams).
Depending on your personal dietary goals and needs, you may want to avoid oat milk due to its carb content, but it can also be a healthy addition to your plant-based lifestyle.
Even if you go low carb, you can enjoy a glass of oat milk every now and then or work it into your nutrition plan so you can enjoy it in your morning coffee, smoothie, or cereal.