A long time drinker of plant based “milks”, when oat milk came into the scene I was ALL for it. This new new was super creamy and thick, closer to a cream or a whole milk than any other plant milk. It made for the most delicious and decadent lattes.
However, like most packaged food, it had some ingredients in it that were not so great. Namely, sunflower oil.
Now before I dive deep into why sunflower oil may be causing my fling with oat milk to come to an end. I want to clarify a few things:
- I AM NOT A DOCTOR, nor am I claiming to be one. Below is what I have learned through podcasts from trusted sources (Hi Dr. Mark Hyman), and through research. I am a certified holistic health coach, and I am seriously concerned about what’s in the food that is marketed to us and just how little we know about it. How hard it was to find/learn simple things, like what chemicals are used to make sunflower oil, tell me that at the very least, this needs to be talked about more. Basically what I’m saying is, don’t take what I’ve found (or anything you read for that matter) as the 100% hard truth, instead, let it make you curious and ask questions about the food you buy.
- Choose your battles. You can’t win em all. Overall, any plant based milk is better for the planet than dairy based milk. Like WAY better. Like really not comparable. They produce less emissions and are less land and water intensive. Even almond milk uses less water than cows milk. If you’re prioritizing environmental impact, consider where the brand is located aka where it has to ship from and is it refrigerated? Both of these up the GHG impact of your milk. Of the plant milks, oat and soy tend to be best on the enviro scale.
Ok, so back to my breakup:
Sunflower oil, in particular is the repeat culprit here, but there are others too. l. I’d say about 95% of the oat milks on the market and basically all of the oat milk in coffee shops use some kind of vegetable oil. Through writing this post and doing a bit more searching, I did find a few that didn’t contain either vegetable oils or gums — I’ve listed them at the end of this post for you! Marketed as “heart healthy oils” or a good alternative to saturated fats, vegetable oils include soybean, canola, vegetable, sunflower, corn, safflower, and grapeseed oil.
Problem 1: Omega 6 Overload
While these oils contain polyunsaturated fats, hence the health claims, they also contain large amounts of omega 6 fats. The use of these oils is SO many of our foods causing Americans to consume A LOT of omega 6 fats. Too much omega 6 in the diet has been linked with inflammation, aka the source of many diseases. Inflammation in the body can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. There’s a lot of studies coming out on the pro omega 6 side and TBH its hard for me to tell if they are industry sponsored (this is also a major problem but for another time ;)). I found this study that suggests at the very least, they could be problematic.
Problem 2: Highly Unstable
Monounsaturated fats only have one double bond, helping to maintain the overall health of your cells. Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated fats, meaning they have two or more double bonds. These double bonds make the oils susceptible to oxidation, both on the shelf and in your body. In your body, this means that as the fat is incorporated into your cells, it’s making your cell membranes mores susceptible to oxidative stress (this is opposite of what we want: anti-oxidant = good. oxidation = bad). Oxidative stress is when you have too many free radicals in the body in relation to antioxidants. Couple this with cell membranes that are susceptible and free radicals can start to damage these cells.
Problem 3: Processed & Contaminated
Vegetables oils are extracted using a chemical solvent, and then typically also refined, purified, and potentially chemically altered. I’ll use sunflower oil here as an example. In order to get the oil of the sunflower seeds, a solvent extraction is first needed; typically hexane is used. When not being used to create your cooking oil, hexane doubles as an industrial cleaner and degreaser and appears in household products like spray adhesives and stain removers. EW. If that wasn’t enough processing to put you off, following the solvent extraction there is a degumming process, neutralization process (the byproduct of this is sometimes soap), a bleaching, winterization, and finally a deodorization process before an oil that you can consume is ready for grocery store shelves.
I’m going to add one more issue with oat milk: pesticides. The USDA found 7 different types of pesticide residues on oats, including carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hormone disrupters. It’s hard to tell what most brands are using, but unless they are organic oats – stay away. This goes for all oat products, many of your every day oat products have been found to have traces of glyphosate.
So am I (and should you) break up with oat milk?
There are a few brands that do not use vegetable oils and are organic (meaning there should be no traces of pesticides). There is also the option to make your own oat milk at home uses organic oats.
Brands/ that do not use vegetable oils:
But I am (and suggest you think about) breaking up with all vegetable oils. Learning more about what goes into making them and just how detrimental they are to my overall health, this is the end of our road.