Is there such a thing as a no sugars oat drink or unsweetened oat drink?
Our Oatly “No” sugars oat drink is absolute magic if you want a less sweet-tasting oat drink. And yes, it is less sweet because it has no sugars. This much is true. So why the quotation marks then? Well, oats contain carbohydrates, or carbs for short. Just like all cereals and grains. But also foods like fruit, beans, lentils, rice, pasta, etc.
Carbohydrates consist of starch, fibers and sugars. So when carbohydrates enter your body, your body will break down the carbs into sugars (the fibers will go through your body mostly intact). Thus, the quotation marks. Because somewhere along the line, sugar is always involved when carbohydrates are involved. And we want to be absolutely transparent about that.
How does it work?
Before the body can make good use of the food we eat, the food must be “digested” (i.e. broken down) into its basic nutrient components.
The digestive system works like a giant food processor. During digestion, starches and sugars are broken down both mechanically (e.g. through chewing) and chemically (e.g. by enzymes) into single units of sugars such as glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body, to be used as energy in our cells.
And we all need energy, right? Dietary guidelines around the globe commonly recommend that approximately 50% of our total energy intake a day should come from carbohydrates.
Does this mean that Oatly regular oat drink has added sugar?
No. For our regular oat drink, some of the carbohydrates are turned into sugars during our production process. Just like our bodies use enzymes to break down carbohydrates into sugars, we use enzymes in our process to break down some (not all) of the carbs in the oats into sugars. Into maltose to be more precise. So what you’ll find in Oatly regular oat drinks are sugars derived from the oats we use in our products.
With Oatly “No” sugars oat drink your body takes care of the process of breaking down the carbs into sugars.
PS. In the US, due to regulatory reasons, we need to label our unflavored products with “added sugars” even though we don’t add any sugars or sweeteners. We use the same sweet process as mentioned above when producing Oatly oat drink in the US.
How your body turns carbs into sugar
- You chew the carbs and break them down into smaller pieces
- You swallow the food and the stomach mixes it with digestive liquids
- The food enters the intestines where enzymes cut the carbohydrates into small sugar pieces (i.e. glucose and fructose)
- The sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream for transportation to our muscles and other organs to be used as energy
- Some of the sugars are used directly as energy, and some are stored in the liver and muscles for later
- The body says “yay” and lives happily ever after (or until later when it needs more energy)
Buyken AE, Mela DJ, Dussort P, Johnson IT, Macdonald IA, Stowell JD, Brouns FJPH. Dietary carbohydrates: a review of international recommendations and the methods used to derive them. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Dec;72(12):1625-1643. doi: 10.1038/s41430-017-0035-4. Epub 2018 Apr 25. PMID: 29572552; PMCID: PMC6281563.
If you're still wondering more about oat drink and sugar...