Oatmeal seems so innocent, but it’s actually one of the more polarizing breakfasts. On one hand, it’s gained a reputation as this uninteresting, gluey plain slop sprinkled with raisins. On the other, social media has raised up oatmeal as something drool-worthy, piled high with pretty toppings. (Go search #oatmeal on Instagram right now.)
If you haven’t been on team oatmeal, it’s time to give it another shot. Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast that’s packed with complex carbohydrates (including fiber), vitamins, and minerals, and it can be an excellent vehicle for nutritious toppings like nuts, seeds, and fruit, says Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist Ginger Hultin, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition.
What’s more, oats are naturally gluten-free, making them a good source of carbs for people with specific dietary needs (such as those with celiac disease), says Hultin. (Some oats can still contain traces of gluten, however, so always check the brand you’re buying.)
Another thing to pay attention to is the type of oats you’re eating. For the most health benefits, opt for steel cut, old-fashioned, or rolled oats instead of instant or quick oats. That’s because the latter are relatively lower in fiber, says Hultin.
Next time you’re planning breakfast and considering oatmeal, keep these seven potential perks in mind.
1. Oatmeal Provides a Stellar Source of Fiber
A bowl of oats can help you consume the recommended amount of fiber per day. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men under 50 years old should aim for at least 38 grams (g) per day, while women under 50 should eat 25 g or more per day, though most Americans are eating just half of that, points out the International Food Information Council Foundation. With 4 g of fiber per cup, cooked oatmeal covers about 14 percent of the daily value (DV) of this nutrient, making it a good source, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eating a diet rich in whole grains and other food sources of fiber has been shown to be protective against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast, colon, and rectal cancers, according to a study published in February 2019 in The Lancet.
2. Oatmeal Is a Blank Canvas for Nutritious Toppings
A bowl of oats is rich in carbs, so to make your morning meal more balanced, you can add toppings that are packed with protein and healthy fat, says Hultin. Try nuts like walnuts, almonds, or pecans; nut butter like almond or peanut butter; or seeds like chia, hemp, or ground flax. “These add protein, unsaturated fats, and even more fiber,” she says. Fresh fruit is another option — try sliced strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries for additional nutrients and fiber, per the National Institute on Aging.
3. Oatmeal Can Bolster Digestive Health
The fiber in oats is good for your overall health, but it’s particularly important for a well-functioning digestive system, points out the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Not only do oats provide insoluble fiber, which promotes regularity, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, but also soluble fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sources of soluble fiber have prebiotic properties, per Oregon State University. “This can help feed the good bacteria living in the gut for a healthier microbiome,” says Hultin.
4. Oatmeal Can Help Lower Cholesterol
Oats pack a particular soluble fiber called beta-glucan, notes a review published in November 2019 in Frontiers in Nutrition. “The soluble fiber in oats has been shown to decrease cholesterol. It acts like a Roto-Rooter to clear out cholesterol that may be building up in arterial walls,” explains Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, CEO of Vital RD in Centennial, Colorado. Daily intake of beta-glucan was found to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol compared to control groups, according to a review and meta-analysis of 58 trials that was published in October 2016 in the British Journal of Nutrition. An elevated LDL cholesterol level raises your risk of heart disease, notes the American Heart Association (AHA).
5. A Bowl of Oatmeal May Help Reduce Belly Fat
Another win for oatmeal’s soluble fiber: It may help reduce visceral fat, the type of fat in your midsection that hugs your organs and raises your risk of heart disease and stroke — even if your body mass index is deemed normal, notes the AHA. According to a study published in September 2016 in the journal Nutrients, which looked at adults who have type 2 diabetes, oats helped reduce blood sugar, blood lipids, and weight better than a control group that ate a healthy diet but no oats. Snyder points to research that looked at a variety of lifestyle factors that lead to a reduction in visceral fat and prevented its accumulation over the years: “They found soluble fiber was one of the biggest things that helped clear out fat stores in this area,” she says.
6. Oats Can Help Energize Your Body and May Boost Its Immunity
When you belly up to a bowl in the morning, you’re serving up B vitamins, plus minerals including manganese, iron, magnesium, and zinc, says Hultin. For example, 1 cup of cooked oats has about 2 milligrams (mg) of iron, or 11 percent of your DV. As the NIH points out, iron energizes the body and helps trigger the process of carrying oxygen through your body from your lungs. Oats also provide 1.5 mg of zinc, a nutrient necessary for immune function, according to the NIH, which is 14 percent of your daily need.
7. Oats Are Packed With Antioxidants to Help Protect Against Disease
Often, you think about fruits and veggies offering disease-fighting antioxidants, but your bowl of oatmeal is brimming with them, too. Hultin points out that oats contain a specific antioxidant called avenanthramides. According to a study published in September 2019 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, this oat antioxidant is a promising cancer fighter — though more studies are needed. But did you really need another reason to grab a spoon?
Doing Oatmeal Right For Diabetes
Oatmeal is considered one of the best breakfast options for diabetic patients. Here are the dos and don’ts to consuming it right
Diabetes is a health condition wherein there is a spike in the body’s blood glucose or blood sugar levels. In this condition, the body is unable to process food properly, which also affects energy levels. Studies have shown that blood sugar and carbohydrates are directly related. While digesting carbs, the body breaks them down into sugar that gets absorbed in the blood. Thus, eating more carbs can also lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. So, it is best to eat healthy food and effectively manage diabetes so as to prevent serious health threats.
Oatmeal is considered to be one of the best breakfast options for diabetic patients. Made from 100 per cent wholegrain oats, they are less processed, making them very fibrous and nutritious.
Here are a few tips from Puru Gupta, co-founder and CEO at True Elements (globally recognised as both ‘Clean Label’ & ‘100% wholegrain’ certified), for diabetic patients to keep in mind while consuming oatmeal.
Oatmeal is very versatile and easy to make. You can add flavourings to make it delicious while still keeping it healthy and diabetic-friendly. The basic recipe involves adding a liquid such as milk, water or even juice along with a preferred choice of toppings such as nuts, seeds and fruits. You can also make it overnight and eat it as a cold breakfast in the morning or heat it just before eating.
Since oatmeal is low in carbs and glycemic index, it helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body much better than other regular breakfast options. Fibre in the oatmeal gives the body long-lasting energy and boosts metabolism, keeping you full for longer. Diabetic patients are commonly known to be prone to heart-related ailments, and oatmeal is heart-healthy due to its soluble fibre content and the fact that it can lower cholesterol.
- It is preferable to eat oatmeal with low-fat milk, nut milk or water.
- Pair it with yoghurt or Greek yoghurt for an added boost of calcium and protein.
- Top it with mixed seeds, nuts or berries to add more nutrients to your breakfast.
- Making it the previous night will help you save time in the morning (above) and help you avoid skipping breakfast.
- There are no specific don’ts for oatmeal since it is a perfectly healthy breakfast food but quantity is key. Portion control is important.
- Don’t add too many nuts as it will add extra carbs to your meal.
- Avoid adding sweeteners or fruits as the sugar content can directly affect blood sugar levels.
- Using good quality and less processed oatmeal is also very important.
- Do not add cream to oatmeal as it will make your oatmeal high in fat.
Awareness is key in a condition like diabetes, as it becomes extremely crucial to keep sugar levels in check and keep severely damaging health threats at bay. And, to avoid the same, it becomes essential to be mindful of what one is consuming. In a world where there are infinite packaged food options available to choose from, it becomes even more critical to identify and consume the kind that is truly good for you. Read ingredient tables carefully and choose only those brands that deliver on the promises and claims they make. Read, research, and stay informed. Eat wisely and stay healthy.