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Your Next Weather Apocalypse: The Smokestorm

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. As wildfire smoke descended […]

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Here’s Why Everyone’s Freaking Out About Oat Milk

Back in the 1990s, a company called Oatly launched in Sweden. Rickard Öste, Oatly’s founder, discovered that by combining oats, water and a dash of canola oil, he could make a creamy, naturally sweet, dairy-free and gluten-free milk alternative that happened to go perfectly with just about everything. The rest of Europe caught on fairly quickly and 25 years after Oatly opened its doors, the United States joined the party.

Oat milk mania started to catch on in the U.S. in early 2018. It reached a fever pitch this summer — its ability to produce the perfect dairy-free latte has put it in particularly high demand in coffee shops — and baristas and grocery stores everywhere soon found themselves with an oat milk shortage.

As Oatly and other oat milk manufacturers scramble to soak, drain and package their oat milk as quickly as possible, the questions arise: What exactly is oat milk, why is it so delicious and is it good for us? Let’s take a closer look.

Here’s why people can’t get enough of oat milk

By the time non-dairy milks have been mass-produced and splashed on top of our cereal, they’re in pretty good shape. But over the years, it’s taken a lot of trial and error to perfect the process of making soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk with just the right consistency and flavor. It’s also involved a lot of added ingredients, and they’re not always great for us.

Oat milk, on the other hand, is effortlessly tasty: Oats are fibrous and absorb water more easily than nuts do, leading to a naturally creamy consistency. Plus, oats are a little bit sweet, which only adds to oat milk’s deliciousness.

While a handful of companies manufacture oat milk, Oatly is far and away the most popular. D.C.-based nutritionist Lisa Hayim said there’s also something to be said for the marketing around Oatly: It happens to have very cute packaging. “As a nutritionist who gets frustrated by fads and marketing to innocent consumers, this one doesn’t bother me,” said Hayim.

Yes, oat milk is also good for you

Why doesn’t the trendiness of oat milk bother Hayim? Because in addition to tasting great, it’s also packed with nutrition.

“It’s a great addition to the crowded non-dairy nut milk industry because of its unique nutritional composition,” she explained. “Oat milk is going to bring in very little fat, but a bit of carbohydrate and just a small amount of protein. Some of its carbohydrate makeup comes from fiber, and the specific type of fiber could have cholesterol-lowering effects.”  

Plus, the fact that oats are naturally a little bit sweet makes it so that adding sugar isn’t necessary to make it taste great. That’s a dream for any nutritionist.

And you can make it yourself at home, as shown in this video:

Could oat milk be the best dairy milk alternative?

So what about coconut milk, almond milk and soy milk? Should we ditch them altogether in favor of oat milk? Hayim cautions against that, saying that the different non-dairy milks bring different nutrition profiles to the table.

“It’s not that one is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ but the shift in macronutrient compositions should be considered,” explained Hayim. “Soy milk comes from the soybean, so you’re naturally going to get a decent amount of protein that is similar to regular cow’s milk. Almond milk (or any of the nut milks) come from nuts or seeds which are comprised of mostly fat. Depending on the amount of dilution, you’re likely to see a higher percentage of fat found in almond milk compared to oat milk. Coconut milk is also going to be higher in fat but will contain saturated fat.”

While there’s no question that diversity is key nutrition-wise, it’s also worth noting that oat milk may be a more sustainable option than other non-dairy milks. For example, it takes six times more water to grow almonds than oats, according to the Water FootPrint Network. Plus, oat milk is a godsend for people with food allergies: Oats are nut-free and mostly are gluten-free (make sure to check the package, though!).

Like other non-dairy milk, oat milk is sold in the refrigerator aisle and in non-refrigerated boxes. Brands like Elmhurst and Pacific Foods can typically be found in aisles near the boxed soups, while Califia Farms and Oatly are in the refrigerated section near the yogurt and eggs. As a word of warning, boxed non-dairy milks typically have more ingredients in them, but that’s not always the case. Just make sure to be a label detective while you’re picking out your oat milks.

Like most things, you probably shouldn’t overdo it on oat milk. It does have a decent amount of carbohydrates, and carbohydrates break down as sugar in the body. But in general, enjoy every sip of that oat milk latte, because guess what? It’s actually pretty good for you — and the environment.

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Why houseplants are replacing owning a pet

Image copyright Daisy Hale / Liz Ward

Animal hair everywhere. Dealing with poo. Claw marks in all your furniture.

You don’t have to put up with any of this nonsense if you fill your home with houseplants instead of pets.

And that’s what many young people seem to be doing, according to research by The Economist into how millenials spend their time and money.

It suggests the fact that more people are living in flats – plus our desire to be independent for longer – has led to a boom in houseplant obsession.

‘Ideal for my lifestyle’

Image copyright Daisy Hale
Image caption Daisy recommends misting succulents and not soaking them as they can “burst” if they’re overwatered

“We all have such hectic schedules,” says 24-year-old theatre producer Daisy Hale, who lives with three others in a houseshare in London.

She says she’d like a puppy, but for now is making do with company from living things that put down roots in terracotta pots.

“Having plants is definitely a sound alternative because they are always there for you when you come home.”

She started filling her home with plants when an aloe vera she was given 10 years ago began sprouting “children” – and now finds that the plants in her home fulfil her need to nurture.

“Being able to care for something but not having too much commitment – I guess that’s a classic millennial line – is ideal for my lifestyle,” she says.

‘It lifts your soul’

Image copyright Liz Ward
Image caption Liz still asks after the plants she gave away to friends

For Liz Ward, a 26-year-old manager of a youth project, plants have an even deeper connection.

She says her earliest memories are of her mum’s plants in a one-bedroom flat in Birmingham. So when she went to university in Reading – buying a cactus for her room in halls was her first move to make things feel like home.

“When I was at uni I went through a dark time where I was really depressed. I was going out a lot, drinking a lot and felt awful,” she tells Newsbeat.

“I bought this little plant called an aeonium. I nursed it back to health alongside coming out of depression over a couple of years.

“That’s when it really solidified for me that these plants are really durable – but actually you can’t just leave them for months, you have to put some care into them.”

Image copyright Liz Ward
Image caption Liz has a tattoo of an aeonium on her arm

Later, when Liz relocated to London, she did exactly the same when she moved into another new space.

“Plants are a constant that just bring a bit of life to what can be quite a concrete, steel, lonely place sometimes,” she says.

“I don’t think it’s something to be reduced or knocked off as being silly or inconsequential.

“It can sometimes be the only other thing that’s living and the only other thing that’s natural in your environment and your space. It just lifts your soul a little bit.”

‘Chemical high’

Image copyright Daisy Hale
Image caption Houseplants like cacti and air plants (these belong to Daisy) are easy to care for

Alice Vincent, author of How to Grow Stuff, says she has seen interest in houseplants among young people grow since 2014.

“We grew up with screens and the internet,” she tells Newsbeat.

“We’ve basically not spent that much time engaging with nature during our youth and so we’re finding it for the first time now as adults.

“It’s the notion of having another living thing around, and also there is a unique, unabashed positivity to seeing something grow.

“You can’t find a chemical high like that you get from seeing a new leaf unfurl, I promise.”

Daisy says when she finds new growth on her plants, she shares photos on Instagram and in group chat with her friends.

But for Liz, it’s an even bigger moment.

“If I can coax a little pink flower out of a cactus, I feel like the GOAT [greatest of all time],” she says.

“I have achieved an ability to bring something new and beautiful into this world, it’s so exciting.”

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