Oat Milk vs. Almond Milk In Coffee: Which Should You Add?

Written by Claire Hannum
Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

Updated on February 7, 2024

It’s tempting to lump all non-dairy milks into one category. I mean…they all kind of look the same, right? The reality is, they do have differences, which we will discuss here. 

Whether you’re sipping on rice milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, or even pea milk, each has its own distinct nutritional profile, taste...and potential drawbacks. So how do you choose which non-dairy milk to use in your coffee?

For most people, the choice comes down to almond milk vs. oat milk. And by the end of this article, you'll see which one is the clear winner.

A Closer Look at Oat & Almond Milk

Oat milk is a non-dairy option made by blending soaked oats with water and filtering out the pulp. Unlike some plant milks, oat milk boasts a smooth, buttery texture. It’s almost as rich as full-fat dairy milk (more on that later). As for taste, oat milk tends to be creamier and sweeter with a subtle oaty aftertaste. That’s why it's so popular as a coffee creamer.

Now, let’s check out almond milk. This non-dairy favorite has origins dating back to medieval times. It’s made by soaking almonds, blending them with water, and filtering out any pulp. Almond milk has a light, thin consistency with a hint of nuttiness. Unsweetened versions tend to be less calorie-dense than dairy and other plant-based milks.

Let’s take a brief pause to look at a table that sums up the key nutritional aspects of oat milk and almond milk (1, 2):

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3 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Pass on Oat Milk

Now that you have a little insight into oat milk, here are three reasons why it’s not the best choice for your morning brew.

High in Carbohydrates

Not all oat milk is the same. Some have more additives than others. But one thing rings true time and time again: nearly every oat milk option has a significantly higher amount of carbs than its counterparts.

Depending on the brand, one cup of unsweetened oat milk can have as many as 17 grams of carbs—significantly more than almond milk, which has just 1 to 3.5 grams. Not only that, but a large portion of those carbs are starch: one cup of whole oats (not in milk form) consists of 57.9% starch (3).

The issue with this is that many modern starches are refined, meaning that they can cause blood sugar elevations—even if they’re classified as “healthier” complex carbs (4). Blood sugar spikes can make you feel tired, cranky, and downright hungry (5). A diet heavy in refined starch can increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to consider the overall dietary pattern (6, 7, 8, 9).

Heavily Sprayed With Weed Killer

An additional concern around oat milk is that many oat products on the market have been found to be associated with Roundup Weed Killer. You might recognize Roundup’s name from the many public-facing lawsuits filed against its parent company for the product’s links to cancer (10).

Roundup’s most well-known ingredient is glyphosate. It’s the most widely used herbicide in the world (11). In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (12). Research has linked glyphosate to cancer, neurological diseases, birth defects, changes in gut bacteria, and endocrine disruption (13, 14, 15, 16, 17). In addition to glyphosate, Roundup can contain heavy metals, including arsenic, which has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and development issues in children (18, 19).

A 2021 study found glyphosate in oat products, including popular brands like Quaker and Nature Valley (20). 

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In 2023, a consumer study found that 2 of 13 popular oat milk brands contained detectable levels of glyphosate or arsenic (21). The study found traces of glyphosate and arsenic in Malk Organic Oat Milk. It also found glyphosate in Silk Extra Creamy oat milk. 

Some experts attribute these ingredients to something called pre-harvest desiccation, a money-saving move in which Roundup is sprayed on crops late in the season to speed up the crops’ drying out.

Adult woman sitting down at kitchen table enjoying cup of coffee with NativePath Coffee Creamer

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Pumped Full of Seed Oils

Industrial seed oils like canola oil are often the third ingredient in oat milk, following oats and water.

This is because oats, in their natural form, don’t contain much fat (unlike other popular dairy-free milk alternatives like almonds and coconut). So, to get a thick, creamy consistency, manufacturers have to pump oat milk full of inflammatory seed oils.

The most common industrial seed oil found in oat milk is canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil). Canola oil is extracted from the rapeseed plant—a plant that is toxic in its natural state and requires significant processing to be transformed into an edible product. It’s also used to make tires, pesticides, and even engine lubricants and diesel. 

Along with the use of canola oil in food products, there has been concern about its health effects. The potential dangers of canola oil are numerous—most notable is that it contains a high level of omega-6 fatty acids, which is linked to a number of chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, inflammation, and heart disease (22, 23, 24, 25).

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Ingredients: Oat Base (Water, Oats); Contains 2% or less of: Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12

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Ingredients: Oatmilk (Filtered Water, Oat Concentrate), Sunflower Oil, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Vitamin And Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin [B2], Vitamin B12), Dipotassium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C To Protect Freshness), Natural Flavor

Almond Milk: A Better Alternative

Next time you stir up an iced coffee, swap your oat milk for almond milk.

Almond milk contains more calcium than oat milk, less sodium, and fewer carbs. On average, most brands of unsweetened almond milk contain only 1 to 3.5 grams of carbs (2)! One cup of unsweetened oat milk contains anywhere from 45 to 130 calories, while a cup of unsweetened almond milk contains just 30 to 60 calories (1, 2).

Almond milk is an excellent source of vitamin E, which may help decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer while boosting the health of your eyes and bones (26, 27, 28). Many brands of almond milk are also fortified with vitamin D, which is vital to bone strength, immunity, and heart function (29). Almond milk also stacks up great against cow’s milk: it contains less saturated fat, and research indicates that it could be an effective cow’s milk replacement for many people (30).

Essentially, almond milk has most of the benefits of oat milk (and more) without the additional carbs or worry of contamination with potentially harmful chemicals.

Native Note: You can easily make your own almond milk at home. Watch our Instagram Reel for the recipe and instructions!

Double Check Nutrition Labels

No matter which plant-based milk you choose, there’s an important universal tip to follow: read the nutrition panel.

“Plant-based milks vary a lot with their nutrition content,” explains Sharon Collison, a registered dietitian and instructor of clinical nutrition at the University of Delaware. The nutritional content (and added sugar) can vary from brand to brand.

That said, there are three things to look for on your milk's nutrition label:

  • Grams of sugar (ideally, it’s 0)
  • Grams of carbs (ideally, it’s less than 3)
  • No added seed oils (like sunflower oil and canola oil)

Steering clear of these things will ensure that your milk won’t cause any unnecessary spikes in blood sugar or lead to silent inflammation in the body.

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The Bottom Line

When choosing between oat milk vs almond milk in coffee, most coffee drinkers would be better off choosing almond milk. Oat milk may contain unnecessary refined carbs or even potentially harmful chemicals. They’re also higher in starch, which may lead to blood sugar spikes if consumed on their own, without adequate protein and fiber to slow absorption.

If you’re looking for an even better alternative to your regular coffee creamer, try NativePath Collagen Creamer. Each scoop adds creamy, delicious flavor for a latte-like experience, without the sugar or artificial ingredients. Our signature blend of MCT Powder and Grass-Fed Collagen not only supports energy, focus, and metabolism, but healthy hair, skin, nails, bones, and joints, too. (Plus, the MCT Powder adds an irresistible frothiness to your coffee.)

Claire Hannum
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Claire Hannum

Claire Hannum is a New York City-based writer, editor, wellness seeker, and reiki practitioner. Her writing has appeared in Self, Health, Prevention, and over a dozen other publications.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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