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Is Oat Milk Good for PCOS? A Nutritionist’s Opinion 2024

Polycystic ovary syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome, known as PCOS, is linked to high free testosterone levels, chronic inflammation and excess insulin levels. If you’re managing PCOS, you might be curious about the beverages that could fit into your dietary considerations, including oat milk. Oat milk is a plant-based alternative to dairy milk, made from whole oat grains and water. It could be a suitable option for those with PCOS seeking to diversify their diet with non-dairy alternatives. But is oat milk good for PCOS?

Key Takeaways

  • Oat milk may increase blood glucose levels more than dairy milk or nut milk.
  • If you are drinking high amounts of oat milk in insolation then you may want to consider swapping to alternative milk products.
  • If you enjoy oat milk in tea or coffee, or alongside balanced meals then it is unlikely to spike your blood glucose levels consistently.
  • It’s important to consider the nutritional content of the oat milk chosen and choose fortified options where possible.
  • Homemade oat milk is easy to make but lacks the fortification store-bought oat milk provides.

PCOS and Oat Milk: What’s the Link?

PCOS is a syndrome with symptoms like irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, oily skin and fatigue. It increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and high blood pressure. PCOS cannot be cured but managing PCOS to improve quality of life and reduce symptoms may include lifestyle interventions like nutrition changes.

There is no one best diet for PCOS, and instead, your focus should be on having balanced, varied meals with all three macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates – to support blood glucose management.

Many people with PCOS are concerned that certain foods are “good” or “bad”, but in reality, there is no one best diet for PCOS. Instead, your focus should be on having balanced, varied meals with all three macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates – to support blood glucose management rather than fixating on individual ingredients like oat milk.

But we understand that oat milk has been a highly contentious topic across the internet lately, so let’s break down oat milk and its effect on PCOS symptoms.

What is Oat Milk?

Oat milk is a plant-based alternative to dairy milk, made from whole oat grains and water. It is a good choice for people who are lactose intolerant, have milk allergies or are trying to reduce their carbon emissions.

Nutritional Profile of Oat Milk

Oat milk is a drink rich in carbohydrates and dietary fibre, particularly beta-glucans, which may be beneficial for your gut microbiome and improve gut health. Unlike cow’s milk, it’s naturally free from cholesterol and lactose, making it suitable for a lactose-free diet. However, oat milk generally has less protein than cow’s milk. Unless fortified, it might be lower in calcium and vitamin D. The commercial versions of oat milk are often enriched with vitamins and minerals to enhance your nutritional intake which is important to consider when swapping dairy products for their dairy-free alternative.

Our table below outlines the nutritional content of the most common types of oat milk found in the UK.

A table outlining the nutritional content of six oat milks found in the UK

Environmental Impact of Oat Milk

Production of oat milk typically has a lower environmental impact than dairy milk, making it a more sustainable choice for your diet. This is reflected in its lesser water usage, reduced land requirement, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to other plant-based milks, oat milk uses the least amount of water. But, it uses more land resources when compared to soy milk, almond milk and rice milk.

So good news – choosing oat milk can be a small step towards reducing your individual carbon footprint while still providing a creamy texture for your coffee and cereal in the morning.

How is Oat Milk Made?

To make oat milk, the process begins with blending whole oats with water. After mixing, the liquid is strained to remove the pulp, resulting in creamy, plant-based milk. Different brands may have variations in their processes or add additional ingredients like oils or gums to achieve the desired consistency and shelf-life, so always check labels if those factors are important to your product selection.

Is Oat Milk Good for PCOS?

When considering whether oat milk is good for PCOS, it is important to consider it’s effects on blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels.

Oat Milk and Blood Sugar Control

Lately, a major concern seen on social media about oat milk has been its effects on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. If you live with PCOS, you are probably aware that insulin resistance is a common symptom and driver of the syndrome. Therefore, managing blood glucose levels is a key part of PCOS management.

When oat milk is made the oats are finely ground which means the food matrix is disrupted which is completely normal, it makes the sugars easier to absorb. This means that they cause a larger blood glucose spike in comparison to eating whole oats. But, it is important to remember that blood glucose spikes are normal after eating.

In summary, compared to other nut milks or dairy milks, oat milk is likely to have a larger effect on blood glucose. So if you live with PCOS you may want to consider swapping to nut milk or dairy milk if you consume a lot of oat milk.

If you are occasionally having a splash of oat milk in your coffee or tea, or enjoy oat milk with a meal balanced with protein and fats to reduce the effect on blood glucose levels.

Improved Cholesterol Levels

Some oat milks may contain beta-glucans which have been seen to lower cholesterol levels in the research. For example, Oatly has a patented production process which allows the beta-glucan to stay intact during processing. There are only two studies on the effects of oat milk on cholesterol levels and they are both from 1998 and 1999, so we need more up-to-date studies on oat milk’s effects on cholesterol levels.

Considerations When Choosing Oat Milk

When selecting oat milk as part of your dietary approach to managing PCOS, it’s crucial to be aware of its ingredients, specifically added sugars and additives that can affect overall nutritional balance.

Reading Labels for Added Sugars and Additives

Check the label for added sugars when you’re considering oat milk options. Oat milk naturally contains some sugar, but some brands add extra sugar, which can contribute to a negative effect on blood glucose levels. Especially for those managing PCOS, no-added-sugar versions are preferable as they help avoid spikes in insulin levels.

Understanding Different Oat Milk Varieties

Oat milk comes in various types, including full-fat, low-fat, and fortified versions. The full-fat variety naturally has a higher calorie and fat content. Consider choosing oat milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D to ensure that you’re not missing out on these vital nutrients. Also, compare protein levels as some oat milk brands may offer enhanced protein, which is beneficial for maintaining a balanced diet and improving satiety.

Should You Choose Organic?

Organic oat milk cannot be fortified with vitamins and minerals within the EU and UK. Therefore if you choose organic oat milk you should ensure that your diet makes up for the lack of vitamin D, B12, B2 and calcium which is not found in oat milk compared to dairy milk.

Dairy vs. Non-Dairy Alternatives

When considering your diet in the context of PCOS, it is important to examine the differences between dairy and non-dairy alternatives, like oat milk, to understand their impact on your nutrient intake.

Comparing Nutrient Content

Dairy milk is a rich source of nutrients, including high levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. However, when looking at non-dairy milk alternatives like almond milksoy milkoat milkcashew milkcoconut milkhemp milkpea milk, and rice milk, the nutrient profiles can vary significantly. A general comparison of the nutrients found in dairy and some common plant-based milks (per 240ml serving) is as follows:

  • Calcium: Dairy milk typically contains about 300mg, whereas fortified non-dairy options often match or exceed this amount.
  • Vitamin D: Often added to non-dairy milks to achieve levels comparable to those in dairy milk.
  • Protein: Dairy milk is a great source of protein, providing around 8g of protein. While soy and pea milks are good plant-based alternatives with similar protein content; other milks like oat, almond or rice milk tend to have lower protein levels.

Does Dairy Impact PCOS?

There is not enough evidence to suggest that going dairy-free will improve PCOS symptoms. Unless you have a dairy intolerance or allergy or are dairy-free for ethical reasons, there is no need to avoid dairy products for PCOS. There is not enough evidence to support going dairy-free on PCOS symptom management.

If you have acne, you may have heard that going dairy-free can improve symptoms. But a lot of research on this topic is contradictory. A review of 27 studies found that fat-free and low-fat dairy foods did increase the likelihood of acne development whereas full-fat dairy was found to have less of an effect. So dairy-free milk or full-fat dairy milk may be a good option instead of fat-free or low-fat milk for people with PCOS and acne, but more research is needed.

​Check out our article to learn more about whether going dairy-free for PCOS is supported by the evidence.

Lactose Intolerance and PCOS

Lactose intolerance may make dairy-free options more suitable for some. Non-dairy milks do not contain lactose, the sugar found in dairy milk, which can cause digestive discomfort in lactose-intolerant individuals.

How to Make Oat Milk at Home

If you choose to consume oat milk, you can make it at home. But remember – homemade oat milk does not contain fortified ingredients like vitamin B, vitamin D or calcium so you must ensure you have a healthy diet that includes these nutrients.

To begin, you’ll need:

  • 100g rolled oats (avoid instant oats for the best quality milk)
  • 950ml water (plus more for soaking)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp chia seeds or flaxseeds for additional nutrients
  • Optional: a pinch of salt
  • Optional: 1 tbsp of nuts for extra creaminess

Instructions:

  1. Soak the rolled oats in water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse the oats thoroughly, discarding the soaking water (it contains phytates that can impede nutrient absorption).
  3. Blend the oats with 950ml of fresh water until you achieve a smooth consistency.
  4. Use a fine sieve or cheesecloth to strain the oat mixture into a bowl; you may need to do this a couple of times to remove all the sediment.
  5. For added nutrition, consider stirring in chia or flaxseeds—they are both fibre-rich and can offer additional support for those managing PCOS.
  6. Taste the oat milk, and if you prefer a lightly sweetened version, you might add a touch of sweetener.
  7. Store your homemade oat milk in a sealed container in the fridge and use it within 3 days.

Oat milk is extremely versatile—use your oat milk in overnight oats for a fulfilling breakfast, or blend it into a high-protein and nutritious smoothie.

Key Takeaways: Is Oat Milk Good For PCOS?

To conclude, oat milk can be part of a balanced, varied diet for people living with PCOS. As blood glucose (or blood sugar) management is a key part of PCOS management due to its effects on testosterone levels, it can be helpful to be aware that oat milk is likely to spike blood glucose levels more than dairy milk or other plant-based milks like almond milk.

But, unless you are drinking pints of oat milk, it is unlikely that a dash of oat milk in your coffee is going to have a significant impact on your health.

As mentioned, there is no “best PCOS diet” and instead focusing on a more holistic approach to PCOS management is likely to be more beneficial for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions

​We answer your commonly asked questions about oat milk for PCOS.

Which is more beneficial for PCOS management, oat milk or almond milk?

If you don’t want to consume dairy milk, whether it is for environmental or health reasons, oat milk or almond milk can both be good alternatives. Almond milk is lower in carbohydrates and is likely to elicit a lower blood glucose response compared to oat milk. But it is important to mention that almond milk is very low in protein compared to oat milk. There are pros and cons of both milk alternatives.

Are there specific non-dairy milks that are recommended for those with PCOS?

The specific non-dairy milks which may be suitable for your health and wellbeing are dependent on a variety of factors. Oat milk is higher in carbohydrates than almond milk or coconut milk for example, but is also higher in protein which can be helpful for PCOS.

What are the dietary considerations for selecting milk alternatives for PCOS patients?

When choosing milk alternatives, look out for options high in unsaturated fats, low in added sugars, and fortified with essential nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium.

Which beverages are suggested to be limited or avoided in a PCOS-friendly diet?

No drinks need to be avoided entirely for people living with PCOS. Alcohol and caffeine may need to be consumed in moderation, as they can impact blood sugar and hormone levels, potentially exacerbating PCOS symptoms.

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Alex Okell ANutr Founder and Editor

Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist

  Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.

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