Switching to vegan comes with a lot of food challenges and confusion. Especially during initial stages because when you start following vegan diet at beginning, you need to find right plant-based foods that will fulfill your nutritional needs. In a market full of variety, it is definitely confusing to find a suitable replacement. Milk is a crucial dairy item and a prime source of calcium, vitamin b12, and potassium which are nutrients of concern.
Unfortunately, a vegan cannot consume any cattle milk (cow, buffalo, goat, camel). Several healthy vegan milk alternatives like soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and oat milk provide necessary macros for your bodily functions. These dairy-free and environmentally friendly milk options provide balanced vitamins and minerals similar to whole milk.
Among these diary-free options oat milk is widely consumed plant-based milk in the veganism community. Today will be finding the differences between oat milk and whole milk. And will also answer some of the most questions like Is oat milk better than whole milk, if yes then how?
What Is Whole Milk?
Whole milk is full-fat milk sourced directly from cows. It is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Whole milk has approx. 3.5 % fat content which makes it thick and creamy. The milk is only pasteurized for safe human consumption. It does not undergo any adulteration or forfeit process.
Thus, it has natural nutrients without any external addition. As an estimation, 250 ml of whole milk contains about 150 calories and the presence of 13 vital nutrients which makes it power-packed for the whole body.
What Is Oat Milk?
Oat milk is a plant-based milk which is produced from whole oats. Initially, the oats are soaked in water for some time. Furthermore, they are blended and churned to form a semi-liquid mixture. Lastly, the oat pulp is squeezed and strained to obtain oat milk. It can be customized in different flavors. The nutrients in oat milk are usually fortified to increase its nutritional value.
Oat milk is less sweet than other plant-based milk and whole milk. It has the highest fiber content that any source of milk. It is rich in carbohydrates but deficient in protein. A nil cholesterol level is another plus point of oat milk. Oat milk is recommended for people who are gluten/lactose/dairy intolerant.
Oat Milk Vs Whole Milk | Which Is Better
Face-off Time! Oat Milk and Whole Milk stand contrary to each other. Both have distinct characteristics and dietary benefits. Let us compare them for a clear understanding:
Oat milk is unsweetened than whole milk. Moreover, whole milk is thick and rich in texture in comparison to oat milk and tastes sweeter. Whole milk has more of a natural taste than oat milk.
Oat milk has a bit of nutty and plant-based taste, which can be covered up by including oat milk in the form of banana smoothie, vanilla shake, etc. Oat milk is the closest milk alternative in terms of taste to soymilk, hemp milk, etc.
2. Shelf Life
Oat Milk is a clear winner for higher shelf life. Being a dairy product, whole milk spoils sooner and easily. Unopened whole milk can be refrigerated and used for a maximum of one week. Surprisingly, Oat milk can be stored for 6 months. Unopened oat milk cans or cartons can be kept in normal dry and cool places.
Once opened, oat milk needs refrigerator storage by the end of 2 days. The bottom line is, Oat Milk is more durable and usable with longer shelf life than whole milk. Note: Always check the manufacture and expiry dates on the milk pack before purchase or consumption.
3. Vitamins And Minerals
Whole milk provides 13 essential nutrients to your body, whereas oat milk has just 5 in it. Whole milk has naturally nutrient-rich profile without added supplements. Calcium and vitamin D are two abundant nutrients found in whole milk.
Oat milk is externally fortified with nutrients. It also has more carbohydrates than whole milk per serving. For calorie concerns, oat milk is low in calories than whole milk. According to 2020 USDA and NIH data, 100 ml of whole milk contains 61 calories. The same quantity of oat milk has only 38 calories. Therefore, oat milk is better for weight loss.
In the case of protein percentage, Whole milk has the upper hand over oat milk. Whole Milk contains the maximum amount of protein required for daily intake. It has more than twice the protein content of oat milk.
1 cup of whole milk contains 7.9 g of protein, whereas an equal serving of oat milk merely has 1.5 gm. Whole milk is packed with vital amino acids required by the body for muscle and tissue growth.
This is an undeniable advantage of oat milk over whole milk. Oat milk has the highest fiber content. Whole milk has 0 % of fiber, whereas 1 cup of oat milk serves 2 gm of fiber. Fiber is an important insoluble carbohydrate required for a healthy bowel movement and low cholesterol level. Whole milk lacks this nutritional value.
Oat Milk Vs Whole Milk | Nutritional Analysis
Below is a brief nutritional profile of oat milk and whole milk. It will give you a complete checklist of all essential vitamins and minerals available in oat milk vs whole milk, along with quantity.
|Nutrients||Oat Milk (250 ml)||Whole Milk (250 ml)|
|Calories per serving (kcal)||130||150|
|Total Fats (g)||6.9||8|
|Saturated fat (g)||0.56||4.57|
|Calcium||15% DV||28% DV|
|Vitamin D||0% DV||24%|
|Total sugar (g)||3.5||12.8|
Overall, we see that oat milk provides more fiber and carbohydrates to the body and has zero cholesterol content. However, it lacks significant protein and vitamins. Whole milk offers more vitamins and minerals and serves as the main protein source. But, at the same time, it is heavier for digestion due to excess cholesterol and fat.
Environmental Impact of Whole Milk?
Whole milk is a widely consumed dairy-based beverage worldwide. But, not to forget it is sourced from cows which creates planet issues. Manufacturing whole milk comes with an environmental price. These are some serious effects of whole milk on the environment:
1. Depletion of water resources
Studies have proved that milk is the most water-intensive and exhaustive industry. As of 2018 per gallon of milk requires a whooping 628 gallons of water. 35- 50 gallons of water are required for cattle consumption. The volume of water required for whole milk exceeds the combined water requirements of crops, fruits, and vegetables.
2. Large-scale deforestation
Cattle grazing is entirely dependent on our natural land. Deforestation has vanished mammoth hectares of forests and natural beauty from our planet. The cleared and tree-free rainforests have become cattle habitats.
A report from The World Wildlife Fund states that livestock feeding is met by 80% of the world’s soy, for which long belts of the amazon rainforest, The Atlantic Forest, and other significant habitats are being transformed into soy hotspots.
3. Greenhouse effect
The growing effects of climate change due to ozone layer depletion are alarming. One of the primary catalysts of this phenomenon is the cattle population. They contribute to 14.5% of total greenhouse gas production worldwide in the form of methane. Methane is produced within the cow’s belly.
The greens they eat produce methane through the process of microbial fermentation. Their burps and flatulence emit methane. Methane warms up the planet much more aggressively and rapidly than carbon dioxide. In contrary to any plant-based substitute, one cup of cow’s milk emits 1.3 pounds of greenhouse gases.
4. Animal Cruelty
Raising cattle to obtain milk is a form of animal exploitation. Cows are genetically modified to produce better-quality milk. It’s a fact that cows can only produce milk with repeated pregnancies.
Thus, they undergo an artificial calving period over consecutive years several times to produce more gallons of milk per cow. Subsequently, they are sold to beef companies, after expiring their milk production limit.
Environmental Impact of Oat Milk?
Oat milk wins the second people’s choice vegan milk award after almond milk. It is free from animal cruelty as it’s purely plant-based. Let’s see whether oat milk is better than whole milk from the lens of environmental concern.
1. Water Usage
Oat milk is more water efficient. Oat milk is produced from “Avena sativa,” the oat crop which is cultivated in the winter season and requires low water levels to grow ideally. These crops harness rainwater eight times more than blue water bodies. Therefore, they contribute to the green and conservative vision. One gallon of oat milk needs approx. 48 gallons of water for production and 0.25 gallon for liquidation.
2. Sustainable Land Utilisation
Oat crops have short sow and yielding periods, usually lasting for 4 months. It is compatible with all soil types and weather. This is why oats are grown almost everywhere with ease. Oat crops promote crop rotation by making room for other crops after they are cut off. It helps in soil renewal and enhances land fertility.
3. Greenhouse Effect
In comparison to whole milk, oat milk is a much greener milk type which only a 0.4 carbon footprint. It has the lowest global warming contribution, except for one drawback. The leftover pulp of oats is dumped into pits, which produces methane- a highly potent greenhouse gas. Positively, it can be reused for cattle feeding.
4. High chemical reactions
Oat cultivation involves the utilization of huge amounts of harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals absorb into the soil, travel to groundwater, and create havoc in marine life. It can be lethal for aquatic mammals. Luckily, there are organic oat milk brands which are manufactured with natural manures.
Oat Milk vs Whole Milk | Which Is More Sustainable?
Evidently, Oat milk stands as a clear winner. Oat milk is eco-friendly and sustainable as compared to whole milk on all environmental aspects. It mitigates every negative effect of whole milk production on land use, water conservation, and escalating global warming rate.
The minimal oat crop cons are manageable to large extent. Relatively, oat milk demands fewer gallons of blue water, can be grown in any soil with further land rejuvenation, and produces the least carbon or methane emissions in the atmosphere. It is completely vegan-friendly and avoids merciless animal exploitation.
In long term, Whole milk poses serious threats to wildlife, nature, and living beings as a whole. If you have resources and access, switching to oat milk will be a step towards a sustainable future.
Healthwise, it depends on your version of healthy, which decides which milk will suit your dietary requirements and fulfill your prescribed vitamin and protein needs. Whole milk contains more protein, vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus but has higher fat and cholesterol level.
Oat milk is the greenest milk option, with a primary fiber content of 2g, higher than any milk. It provides more carbohydrates and least protein. It suits most people and even babies. Many parents opt it as one of the vegan-friendly milk options for babies because of its allergy-free properties and nutrient content.
Though it doesn’t give the same whole milk taste, Oat milk continues to be a popular vegan replacement for the good old whole milk especially in bodybuilders who create their meal plan.
Understanding your health priorities, choices and needs is the first and foremost task before opting between oat milk vs whole milk.