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Hipsters drank all of Brooklyn's oat milk, but is it worth the hype?

Hipsters in the New York borough of Brooklyn are out of oat milk.

That's the report from the New Yorker earlier this month, who say the trendy milk alternative has effectively disappeared from cafes across the region after major supplier (and the first company bring oat milk to the public), Oatly, could not keep up with demand.

Hipsters in New York are out of oat milk.

Hipsters in New York are out of oat milk.

The result has been a loss of oat milk lattes for your archetypal Brooklyn cafe-dwelling creative, and – probably – a lot of people asking: what on earth is oat milk?

Oat milk was developed by Swedish food scientist, and Oatly founder, Rickard Öste in the early 1990s. It is basically just oats soaked in water and blended until they are incredibly smooth. The result is a "milk" that tastes a bit like the bottom of a bowl of porridge.

While the prices of smaller suppliers of oat milk in Brooklyn have placed it out of reach of most cafes, in Australia, we seem to be slightly less obsessed: Pureharvest brand oat milk is still available in the organic section at Coles and Woolworths.

But, how does oat milk stack up nutritionally against other milk alternatives?

New York-based accredited practicing dietitian Kara Landau says oat milk mainly gained popularity in the US for its consistency when being used by baristas and not its nutritional value, although it "does provide a small amount of beneficial beta glucan probiotic soluble fibres", which benefit gut health.

"I would just be mindful, as with many of the alternative milks, to see whether the one being offered is free of added sugars, as this is not always the case," she says, adding that, although customers may think they are making a healthy choice by choosing a non-dairy milk at the coffee shop, "many of the alternative milks have stabilisers and additives incorporated to assist with mouth feel and consistency, some of which are thought to negatively aggravate the gut".

If you are after a low-fat option, oat milk, like almond milk (the previous milk alternative de jour), is lower in kilojoules than traditional dairy milk, although neither are particularly high in protein.

For that, Sydney dietitian Dr Kate Marsh recommends soy milk or – a relatively new addition to the fake milk family – pea milk.

"Pea milk is only new to Australia and I have only seen one brand [here] so far," she says.

The "milk" (which, to answer your first question, is not green) is made by extracting pea protein through a milling process, before being blended with water and sunflower oil, among other ingredients.

Dr Chloe McLeod, accredited practising dietitian and director of the Health and Performance Collective, is also a fan of soy and pea milk for protein. Although soy milk has become less popular over the years, she says it has a "more similar nutrition profile to milk than other plant milks".

She suggests rice milk as the most hypoallergenic option for those with intolerances to lactose, gluten (found in oat milk) or soy, although you should exercise caution.

"Rice milk has a very high glycemic index and I would not be recommending it from an energy balance perspective," says Landau.

In terms of calcium content, Dr Marsh says dairy milk is your best natural option, although many milk alternatives come with it added.

"No plant milks are naturally high in calcium but many are now fortified with calcium and this can be helpful to ensure an adequate calcium intake, particularly for people who aren’t eating a lot of other calcium-rich foods," she says, recommending milk alternatives "with at least 120mg [of calcium] per 100mls".

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