If you have diabetes, you understand the importance of monitoring your daily food intake.
You may consider switching to a plant-based diet to boost your health and manage your condition.
Eating primarily plant-based foods means switching from dairy milk to alternative milk beverages like almond, cashew, or oat milk.
While some plant-based milk is naturally low in carbs, making it a good choice for people with diabetes, oat milk may pose some issues for those that need low-carb options.
Learn more about whether oat milk is good for diabetics, including how it affects your blood sugar and overall health and how to find oat milk that works for your dietary needs.
Can People With Diabetes Have Oat Milk?
People with diabetes can have oat milk. However, if you have diabetes, consider several factors before downing a full glass of this plant-based beverage.
For reference, let’s look at the nutritional profile of unsweetened oat milk.
One serving of oat milk has:
Oat Milk Nutrition Facts
For people with diabetes, it’s essential to look at the carbohydrate count in oat milk.
At ~16 g of carbs per cup, oat milk contains a relatively high level of sugars in one serving.
Although you can work these carbs into your overall dietary plan, they may have a negative effect on your blood sugar.
If you drink oat milk as a person with diabetes, you’ll want to consider limiting yourself to one serving of oat milk per day and opting for an unsweetened version.
If you're looking for an oat milk with lower carbs, we recommend Willa's unsweetened oat milk.
At just 14g of carbs per serving (only 1 of which is sugar), it's a much better option than most brands you'll find in grocery stores. For instance, Oatly has 16 grams of carb, 7 of which are from sugar.
The number of people in the United States diagnosed with diabetes increases every year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes diagnoses among adults have more than doubled over the past 20 years, with 37.3 million people living with one of the three main types.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a non-preventable chronic condition.
Around 5% to 10% of those with diabetes have this type. In type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin.
If you eat sugary, high-carbohydrate foods, your blood sugar can rise to dangerous levels.
Type 1 diabetics take insulin shots (or wear an automatic pump) to control blood sugar.
This allows for some freedom regarding the types of foods you eat.
For instance, you can plan for the higher carb count in oat milk by taking a higher insulin dosage than you would if you were drinking an option with fewer sugars.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes affects 90% to 95% of those diagnosed with diabetes.
This type is closely tied to diet and lifestyle.
It typically develops over several years of eating high-carbohydrate foods and makes your body insulin resistant.
This means it can’t regulate blood sugar levels without medication.
Type 2 diabetics can have oat milk if it’s part of a larger set of dietary changes.
Although oat milk is high in carbohydrates than other milk options, it offers other health benefits that may be worth the higher carb count as part of a well-managed diet.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
It can cause many complications during birth. Gestational diabetes can also lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes for the mother and obesity for the child.
Generally, women with gestational diabetes should avoid oat milk.
However, if you opt for organic oat milk as part of a healthy diet, one glass per day likely won’t throw off your carbohydrate count too much.
It’s essential to check with your obstetrician to understand your recommended dietary guidelines during pregnancy and whether or not oat milk can fit in.
Benefits of Oat Milk for Diabetics
Oat milk can provide some benefits for people with diabetes, including:
- Rich, creamy plant-based alternative to dairy milk
- Less fat than cow milk (especially 2% or whole milk)
- Around 1 g of dietary fiber per serving
The most significant benefit of oat milk for diabetics is the extra fiber the beverage provides.
Oat milk is made by soaking whole oats in water, then blending them to make a smooth, creamy drink.
Although manufacturers strain out the oat pulp to create a silky consistency, some fiber from the oats remains.
Dietary fiber is excellent in helping you feel full and satiated.
The fiber in oat milk can help you stay fuller longer and refrain from eating other foods that could spike your blood sugar even more.
Oat milk also contains beneficial nutrients like protein, iron, and potassium.
Fortified oat milk may also have Vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients.
These are excellent for people with diabetes in keeping up their overall wellness.
Cons of Oat Milk for Diabetics
The most obvious downside of drinking oat milk as a person with diabetes is the high carbohydrate count.
If you track carbohydrates to help you manage your blood sugar, drinking a beverage with between 14g and 22g of carbs per serving may not seem like the best option.
Oat milk contains maltose, which has a glycemic index of 105 - higher than table sugar.
The high maltose levels in oat milk result from how the oat starches break down during processing.
Maltose rapidly spikes your blood sugar, which is the opposite of what you want to occur with diabetes.
However, Insider.com reports that for people with diabetes, carbohydrate count and glycemic index numbers aren’t all that you should factor in when choosing a milk alternative.
The article points out that unless you chug a glass of oat milk by itself, it likely won’t affect your blood sugar drastically.
Your body processes sugar differently based on the foods you eat it with.
For example, drinking oat milk in your coffee while eating a high-protein or high-healthy-fat snack won’t have the same effect as drinking it alone.
Similarly, if you pour oat milk on high-fiber cereal for breakfast, it may have less impact on your blood sugar.
As a person with diabetes, you must monitor your blood sugar and stick to what works best for your body.
However, you don’t have to throw out oat milk solely because of its high carb count, especially if you’re limiting your intake and eating healthy foods with it.
If you want to play it safe, you can swap to a more diabetes-friendly milk like flax. Our recommended brand is Malibu Mylk.
Oat Milk Vs. Cow’s Milk for Diabetics
If you’re an avid cow milk drinker, you may wonder how it stacks up to oat milk for people with diabetes.
The research on cow milk and diabetes is conflicting.
Some studies promote that drinking cow milk, especially skim milk, can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
A separate study found that eating high-fat dairy may reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
To compare cow’s milk and oat milk, let’s look at the nutritional profile of each:
One cup of whole cow milk has:
- Calories: 149
- Fat: 8 g
- Carbohydrate: 12 g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 8 g
- Calcium: 276 mg
One cup of skim milk has:
- Calories: 91
- Fat: 0.61 g
- Carbohydrate: 12 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 9 g
- Calcium: 316 mg
Both whole and skim cow milk contain 12 g of carbs per serving.
There isn’t much difference compared to a lower carb oat milk like Willa’s Kitchen, which has 14 g of carbs.
Although cow milk has more protein than oat milk, it doesn’t have fiber.
Both fiber and protein can help you feel full and positively impact your health.
Oat milk has less fat than cow milk, about 1.5 g to 8 g of fat per serving. Oat milk may be the better option depending on your other dietary needs.
Oat Milk Vs. Almond Milk for Diabetics
When comparing oat milk to almond milk for diabetes, almond milk is likely the better choice.
Almond milk has around 1 g of protein, 3 g of fat, 1 g of fiber, and only 4 g of carbohydrates per serving.
The low carb count makes it ideal for people with diabetes because it won’t spike your blood sugar.
However, if you have a tree nut allergy or don’t like the taste of almonds, oat milk can provide an alternative plant-based option if your account for the carb count in your diet.
How to Choose the Best Oat Milk if You Have Diabetes
If you want to drink oat milk and have diabetes, there are a few tips for finding the most diabetic-friendly types.
Make Your Oat Milk
If you make your oat milk, you can better control the quality and additives put into the drink.
Use whole, organic oats, and filtered water when making oat milk at home.
Also, if you choose to sweeten the beverage, use a low-glycemic index sweetener like monk fruit or stevia.
Here's a video from Downshiftology that shows how to make oat milk at home:
Choose Unsweetened Oat Milk
Several oat milk brands offer unsweetened versions of their beverage.
These typically have the lowest carbohydrate content, ranging from 14 g to 22 g per serving.
Opt for Wholesome, Healthy Ingredients over Additives
Carbohydrate count is important, but other ingredients can impact your health as a person with diabetes.
When choosing oat milk, pick a brand that doesn’t have added ingredients such as carrageenan, oils, or flavors that can adversely impact your health.
Make the Best Choice For Your Body
Every person with diabetes reacts differently to foods.
While some people may experience a blood sugar spike after drinking oat milk, others can work it into their diet without adversely impacting their diabetes.
Although oat milk is high in carbohydrates, it can be part of a well-rounded plant-based diet beneficial for some people with diabetes.
You must take all of your dietary needs into account and make the right choice.