What is in oatmeal?

Contents

OATS

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  • Ilnytska O, Kaur S, Chon S, et al. Colloidal Oatmeal <em>(Avena Sativa)</em> Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity. J Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15(6):684-90. View abstract.
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  • Kerckhoffs DA, Hornstra G, Mensink RP. Cholesterol-lowering effect of beta-glucan from oat bran in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects may decrease when beta-glucan is incorporated into bread and cookies. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:221-7.. View abstract.
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  • Lembo A, Camilleri M. Chronic constipation. N Engl J Med 2003;349:1360-8. . View abstract.
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  • Lia A, Hallmans G, Sandberg AS, et al. Oat beta-glucan increases bile acid excretion and a fiber-rich barley fraction increases cholesterol excretion in ileostomy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:1245-51. View abstract.
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  • Mackie AR, Bajka BH, Rigby NM, et al. Oatmeal particle size alters glycemic index but not as a function of gastric emptying rate. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2017;313(3):G239-G246. View abstract.
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Oats

What is Oats?

Oats are hardy annual grasses able to withstand poor soil conditions and are best adapted to areas with a cool, moist climate. Russia, the US, Finland, and Poland are the world’s major oat-producing countries. The plant grows to about 61 to 91 cm in height with straight, hollow, blade-like leaves. The flowers, which contain 2 or 3 florets, are clustered at the top of the plant. Oat grain grows enclosed in 2 hulls that protect it during development. It contains 3 main structures: the bran, endosperm, and the germ.

Scientific Name(s)

Avena sativa

Common Name(s)

Oats, Hafer (German), ma-karasu-mugi (Japanese), avena (Spanish)

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Derived from wild grasses, the oat was domesticated into today’s cultivated plant. The oldest known oat grains were found in Egyptian remains from about 2000 BC. Scottish settlers introduced oats into North America in the early 17th century. Before being used as a food for humans, oats were used as a livestock feed in the form of grain, pasture, hay, or silage. Traditional medicinal uses of oats include the treatment of rheumatism, depression, chronic nerve pain, and loss of bladder control, and, externally, as a skin cleanser and softener.

General uses

Oats and oatmeal are used primarily as a food source. Use in celiac disease is debated. Benefits in dermatology, high cholesterol, heart conditions, and diabetes remain controversial.

What is the recommended dosage?

The recommended intake of beta-glucan for reduction of cholesterol is 3 g/day, an amount found in approximately 90 g of oats.

Contraindications

None well documented.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as food. Avoid dosages higher than found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.

Interactions

Oat bran may decrease absorption of medications. There are reports of decreased absorption of statins and iron with oat bran ingestion.

Side Effects

Oat bran increases the bulk of stools and frequency of defecation, resulting in distention, gas, and possible perineal irritation. Oat sensitization and allergy have been described.

Toxicology

Data are lacking.

1. Oats. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons . St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; February 2012.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

More about oats

Professional resources

  • Oats (Advanced Reading)

Related treatment guides

  • Dietary Supplementation

Disadvantages of Oats

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As it can happen with any product that we consume, oats can also cause some side effects, that is why it is highly advisable to know about their possible inconveniences before starting to consume them.

What damage can be caused by oats?

Although oats are one of the most consumed cereals in the world and regardless of being supported by scientific articles and journals, we must always be careful and adopt some preventive measures since there are some voices in the world of biological nutrition that are warning us about certain aspects about oats.

Why does it produce stomach swelling?

Although this is not common among healthy adults, oats can produce some gastric swelling. This effect can simply be triggered by a sudden change in our diet, like going from eating not much fiber to eating a lot of oats without a smooth transition. In this case, the swelling can also cause pain and discomfort due to abdominal cramps and flatulence.

To avoid this problem, we must lower the amount of oats that we eat and increase it gradually until we achieve a proper dose according to our objectives.

In this way, the intestinal flora will progressively absorb the new nutrients from the diet until the situation is balanced.

However, a maladjustment to an excess of fiber is not the only factor that can trigger stomach swelling. Sometimes it happens because there is an intolerance to prolamins, the proteins from oats, or it can simply be another symptom of chronic dyspepsia (bad digestions).

A tip that can help to prevent this possible but improbable side effect is to consume oats that have been finely ground and which are mixed with ferments or digestive enzymes. Another one is, in the case of oat flakes, to soak them in water the night before you plan to eat them in order to buffer the acidity of the grains and to enhance the enzymes, which will result in a smoother digestion.

Gas accumulation caused by oats

Fiber is an element that supports the digestion process, even though it is not completely digested. After going through the stomach and the small intestine, it reaches the large intestine, more specifically the colon, whose bacteria (Bacterioid and Bifidubacterium genus) break down the fiber. This produces gas: always carbon dioxide and hydrogen, sometimes methane and sulphide as well. What happens is that, when these gases are retained, their accumulation causes bloating. In this situation, it is likely to suffer stomach pain caused by the pressure of this gas mass on the walls of the stomach and intestine.

In relation to this process, oats can cause gas accumulation if they are consumed excessively, since they have a high content of both soluble and insoluble fiber. In fact, foods that are rich in soluble fiber, like oat flour, produce more gas than those which are mainly made up of insoluble fiber, such as wheat semolina or whole rice.

But there are ways to prevent these gas:

  • A very effective one is to add oats gradually to our diet and to go from an intake of 55gr daily to 85g of dietary fiber in ten days. In this way, we will be able to observe how our body responds.
  • Another one could be soaking the oats properly in order to denature the proteins that are more difficult to digest and combine it with digestive enzymes products that can be purchased in specialized shops.
  • If you cannot avoid the production of gas, take a simethicone product which can be bought without medical prescription and which will merge the gas bubbles in order to reduce the flatulence.

Who must not consume Oats?

Diabetes

Diabetic patients must take preventive measures when it comes to eating oats due to their high percentage of carbohydrates, although these are of low glycemic index. In any case, they must measure the daily intake of carbohydrates thoroughly, looking for different ways to include oats in their diet without any issue.

Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a serious obstacle for the consumption of oat bran, since this product prevents the complete absorption of iron from the intestinal tract to the blood flow.

Celiac disease

Those who are celiac or gluten intolerant are not allowed to consume oats in any shape or form. Oats lack this crucial protein fraction. But it must be taken into account that it is extremely complicated to prevent oats from being contaminated with other cereals during the manufacturing process. This makes it extremely hard to ensure a lack of gluten; let’s not forget that intolerant people react adversely even with just a milligram of this substance.

Nevertheless, there are manufacturers who perform a rigorous control from the planting to the final product, which gives them the right to label their oats as gluten-free; only under these circumstances may those who are intolerant eat oats, otherwise they will have to distance themselves from this food.

In order to avoid cross-contamination with other cereals, there is a need for a standardized protocol of control measures of the whole process. But most companies are not ready for this yet.

Intestine patients

This section refers to those who are affected by enterocolitis, Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis, among other diseases. They must avoid consuming specifically oat bran which is a food susceptible to aggravating these pathologies.

Apart from chronic processes, we should also stop eating oats if we are suffering diarrhea or gastroenteritis until we recover.

Allergy to oats

Allergy to oats triggers an anomalous reaction of the immune system which treats oat proteins as if they were antigens and, consequently, as if they were substances with the ability to cause an infection in the organism. The body stars producing specific antibodies against allergies, which are type E immunoglobulins and histamine, a substance that is released in high quantities in the blood flow. This results in a symptomatology that usually affects the digestive system with irritation of the mucosa, pain and bloating.

The intensity of these allergic reactions to oats ranges from mild and moderate to severe. This is the reason why its consumption can become a serious health problem for those who are hypersensitive to oats.

Intolerance to oat proteins

Even though they may look the same, it is a different situation from the previous one. Intolerance to oats consists of the inability of the digestive system to absorb and break down the proteins from oats. Unlike what happens with an allergy, even though if it is very similar, it is not trigger by a reaction of the immune system. Rather, it comes from a genetic lack of the specific enzymes in order to break down these proteins.

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Disadvantages of Oats Review

Bloated Stomach – 100%

Gas – 100%

Who must not eat them – 100%

Effectiveness – 100%

100%

HSN Evaluation: 5 /5

Ode to Oatmeal: Your Guide to the Beloved Breakfast Staple

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Whether it’s a bowl of overnight steel-cut oats, batch of oatmeal raisin muffins, or slice of comforting oatmeal pie, versatile oatmeal comes in many forms. Yes, oatmeal is the quintessential healthy hot breakfast, but more often that not, it doesn’t get the love it so rightfully deserves. From rolled oats to steel-cut oats to Scottish oats, oatmeal is a nutrient-dense whole grain (an ancient whole grain!) that’s widely available, affordable, and easy to cook. And while oatmeal may not carry the superfood appeal that quinoa or teff does, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Oatmeal’s humble nature makes it an approachable, highly nutritious food that everyone can love. Without further ado, our ultimate guide to this delicious breakfast staple has everything you need to know, including common oatmeal types, how to make oatmeal, oatmeal nutrition, healthy oatmeal recipes, and more.

What Is Oatmeal?

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Oatmeal is a type of porridge made from milled, steel-cut, or rolled oat grains. An ancient cereal grain, oats come in many forms—from rolled oats to instant oatmeal to whole oat groats—but all start as seeds of the oat plant. When cooked, oatmeal typically has a subtle, sweet flavor and a creamy, sometimes chewy, texture. It’s usually served warm straight from the saucepan, but oats that are soaked overnight are often eaten at room temperature.

Oats are believed to have been cultivated as early as 1000 B.C. by the Greeks and Romans, who primarily harvested them for animal feed. While oats have been a staple form of nourishment in Scotland for centuries, oatmeal’s presence as a mainstream breakfast food is relatively recent. The Quaker Oats Company helped propel oatmeal’s popularity in the U.S. by pioneering faster-cooking varieties such as rolled oats in the late 1800s, and instant oats in 1966.

RELATED: Out-of-This-World Oatmeal Recipes

Today, oatmeal is identified by its degree of processing, of which can affect its texture, flavor, and cook time. Generally, the more processed the oat, the faster it will cook. Less processed varieties such as steel-cut oats and whole oat groats tend to retain their flavor and texture more. Ultimately, choosing the right oat comes down to time and personal preference. Here are five basic varieties of oats you may see on grocery store shelves.

Whole Oat Groats

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Also called whole oat kernels, whole oat groats are the purest, least processed type of oats. During processing, the husk is removed but the bran and germ remain. When cooked, whole oat groats have a chewy texture similar to farro and a nutty, sweet taste. Due to their minimal processing, this variety can take up to an hour to cook. Simmer them overnight in a slow-cooker to make an easy and hearty breakfast in the morning.

Steel-Cut Oats

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Steel cut oats, or Irish oats, are toasted whole oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces by a steel blade. As a result, steel-cut oats cook in about half the time of whole oat groats. Steel-cut oatmeal packs a chewy, creamy texture and subtle, sweet flavor. Overnight steel-cut oats in Mason jars are a perfect grab-and-go breakfast in the morning—top them with fresh fruit, nuts, honey, and more.

Scottish Oats

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This type of oatmeal is made using the traditional Scottish method where oats are stone-ground instead of rolled or cut with steel. Compared to steel-cut oats, which resemble broken rice, uncooked Scottish oats are more finely ground. Their smooth texture makes them perfect for baking into breads, muffins, and more. When cooked, Scottish oats have a creamy consistency similar to porridge. We recommend Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal—find it at your local grocery store or on Amazon.

Rolled Oats

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Also called old-fashioned rolled oats, rolled oats are made from steamed, rolled, and flattened whole oat groats. As a result, they cook much faster than steel-cut oats or Scottish oats. Rolled oats have a characteristic flat, disc shape and a soft, fluffy texture when cooked. They’re also the most common variety you’ll find at the grocery store and are often used in baking.

Instant Oatmeal

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When you take rolled oats and steam them for even longer, you get instant oatmeal. As the most processed type of oat, instant oatmeal cooks in seconds and has a smooth, creamy consistency and mild flavor. First made popular by the Quaker Oats Company, instant oatmeal is often believed to be less nutritious. While the nutrition of instant oatmeal is actually similar to other oats, it’s more likely to contain added sugars and other additional flavorings. So, instead of buying blueberry-flavored instant oatmeal, stick with plain oatmeal (try Quaker Oats Original Instant Oatmeal) and top it with fresh blueberries.

Nutrition in Oatmeal

Is oatmeal good for you? You bet. It’s no secret that oatmeal has been linked to a slew of impressive health benefits, most notably a healthy heart. Oatmeal is rich in beta-glucan, a powerful soluble fiber that has been linked to reduced cholesterol levels, a stronger immune system, and more stable blood glucose levels. Oatmeal is a key component of a high fiber diet, which can help lower cholesterol and may even prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal can help you feel full and reduce the chance of overeating.

RELATED: Oatmeal Lattes are the Perfect Caffeinated Breakfast Hybrid

When choosing oatmeal, keep in mind that less processed varieties such as steel-cut oatmeal will give you the most bang for your buck nutritionally. However, this doesn’t mean that more processed types such as instant oats are a poor choice. All varieties of oatmeal are whole grains and have relatively small deviations in calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, and protein.

Oatmeal Nutrition Information

1 serving = ½ cup cooked rolled oats (117g)

Calories

Fat

1.8g

Saturated Fat

0.0g

Unsaturated Fat

1.0g

Protein

3.0g

Carbohydrates

14.0g

Fiber

2.0g

Sodium

4.5mg

Calcium

1.2%

Potassium

1.7%

Sugar

0.0g

Added Sugars

0.0g

Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Calories

Oatmeal is a smart low-calorie healthy breakfast, especially if you’re trying to shed a few pounds. One serving delivers an impressive amount of nutrients and energy for only 98 calories. If you’re watching your calorie intake, the protein and fiber in oatmeal helps you feel full and can aid in preventing excessive snacking in between meals.

Protein

Oatmeal is a good source of plant-based protein, which helps you feel fuller for longer, repairs muscle, and regulates metabolism. One serving packs 3 grams of protein, or 6 percent of your recommended daily intake. Oatmeal is not a complete protein because it does not contain all nine essential amino acids. However, you can easily boost your oatmeal’s protein by topping it with ingredients such as a fried egg, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, or by cooking it with skim milk or soy milk.

Carbs

Oatmeal packs a healthy dose of energizing carbohydrates, with ½ cup supplying 14 grams or 5 percent of your recommended daily intake. These are not the “bad” refined carbs found in sugary, processed foods—oatmeal is full of complex carbohydrates, which provide your body with energy over a long period of time. A bowl of oatmeal in the morning packs essential all-day energy, whether it’s at the gym, office, or the home.

How to Cook Oatmeal

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Whether steel-cut oatmeal, instant oatmeal, or whole oat groats, oatmeal needs just one simple ingredient to cook—liquid. Most healthy oatmeal recipes call for water, but you can also use milk or even chicken stock. Cooking steel-cut oats—or any other type of oat—is easy. Whether you use the stovetop or the slow-cooker to make your oatmeal, you won’t get very far without the right kitchen tools. Use dry measuring cups to measure out your oats and liquid measuring cups for your liquid. Always read the package label to make sure you’re using the proper oats to liquid ratio. Below, we break down the best oatmeal cooking methods to help you find the right one for you.

RELATED: The Only Basic Oatmeal Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Stovetop

Making oatmeal on the stovetop is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to cook it. Simply simmer your oats in their liquid in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until thickened. Check the package label to verify the cook time, as it will vary depending on the type of oats. Don’t slack on your stirring duties—because the oatmeal cooks over direct heat, it can burn more easily than it would with other methods.

Microwave

Cooking oatmeal in the microwave is an easy shortcut, but it can often end in a goopy mess of exploded oats. Protect your microwave by cooking your oatmeal in short 30 to 40 second spurts or by decreasing the power level. While this method is perfect for faster-cooking varieties such as instant oats and some types of old-fashioned rolled oats, we don’t recommend it for steel-cut, whole oat groats, or Scottish oats.

Slow Cooker

If you’re short on time in the morning, but still want a hot breakfast, slow-cooker oatmeal is the perfect solution. Simply pour your oats and liquid into the well, then let your slow-cooker work its magic work overnight. The long cook time also allows the flavors of any aromatics you add to develop and infuse—try dried fruit, cinnamon stick, or vanilla bean.

Overnight Oats

This clever make-ahead oatmeal method is perfect for steel-cut oatmeal and other varieties that take longer to cook. You can make overnight oats straight in the container you eat them from, such as a bowl or Mason jar. Overnight steel-cut oats can be enjoyed as is at room temperature, but you can also pop it in the microwave if cold oatmeal doesn’t appeal to you.

Oatmeal Recipes & Ideas

Put your oatmeal IQ to the test with our mouthwatering oatmeal recipes. You’ll find both sweet and savory recipes including oatmeal cookies, oatmeal muffins, oatmeal pie, and even a veggie-topped oatmeal bowl. When baking with oats, be careful about substitutions. For example, using steel-cut oats over old-fashioned rolled oats may affect the outcome of the recipe. Below, discover easy, delicious, and healthy ways to work more oatmeal into your diet.

PB, Banana, and Oat Cookies

Image zoom Photo: Oxmoor House

These addictive oatmeal cookies are completely gluten-free, thanks to a nutritious trio of rolled oats, ripe banana, and peanut butter. Semi-sweet chocolate chips and roasted sunflower seeds make for a salty-sweet crunch in every bite.

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal Muffins

Image zoom Photo: Teresa Sabga

These delicious oatmeal muffins make a perfect grab-and-go breakfast or quick energizing snack. Mashed bananas and a load of delicious add-ins such as rolled oats, grated carrots, raisins, and pecans in the batter gives these muffins plenty of flavor and texture. And, they’re also gluten-free.

Steel-Cut Oats with Warm Berry Compote

Image zoom Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Cindy Barr

With 6.5 grams of fiber, this steel-cut oats recipe will serve as your go-to power breakfast. Enjoy it as precious all-day fuel after a morning workout. Feel free to mix up the simple mixed berry compote, too—swap in whatever fresh or frozen berries you have on hand such as blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.

Oatmeal Pecan Pie

Image zoom Cooking Light

What happens when you take two much-loved pies—oatmeal pie and pecan pie—and combine them into one, ultra-luscious dessert? This fall-inspired pie is truly the best of both worlds, boasting creamy oats and nutty pecans. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s even more divine.

Baked Oatmeal

Image zoom Cooking Light

Think of baked oatmeal as a cross between traditional oatmeal and oatmeal bars. The addition of eggs to the batter makes for a creamy consistency similar to bread pudding. Serve it warm from the oven as a breakfast casserole and store leftovers in the refrigerator for quick breakfasts later in the week. Baked oatmeal keeps quite well, and can be easily reheated in the microwave.

Kale, Avocado, and Fried Egg Oatmeal Bowl

Image zoom Sara Tane

Savory oatmeal may sound unconventional, but when you introduce delicious toppings like kale, avocado, and a fried egg, things start to get interesting. This breakfast staple totally works as an energizing lunch or nutrient-packed dinner—simply treat it like you would quinoa, farro, or any other whole grain. Here, we call for old-fashioned rolled oats, but if you prefer a crunchier texture, try steel-cut oats.

Sources:

Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food, 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Oldways Whole Grains Council, wholegrainscouncil.org

Duyff MS, RDN, FAND, CFCS, Roberta L. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, Revised & Updated 5th Edition. New York: Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2017.

At Macroom, the Creedons recommend a ratio of four parts water to one part meal, then suggest adding more liquid if needed. (That means that the yield per pound of meal is significantly higher with the Macroom than it would be with other oatmeal.) Bring the water to a boil, then slowly add the oatmeal, mixing constantly to avoid lumps. Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add a bit of salt to taste, then serve with soft brown sugar on top and some cold milk on the side.

In Ireland, this method is known as making porridge “on water.” This is certainly the most popular method in Ireland. Still, a well-spoken minority advocates making porridge “on milk.” Dublin food writer Maureen Tatlow told me once that using milk instead of water, or at the least, half of each, was the way to go. Having tried both, at home I generally go with the richer texture you get from cooking on milk, but both are certainly good.

The next question is, how do you serve a proper porridge?

The standard Irish method calls for cream or milk, and what the Irish call “soft brown sugar”. The sugar is basically traditionally-made brown sugar, the sort in which the molasses is left in rather than the commercial alternatives where it’s all removed then a bit of molasses is added back to give a bit of color. We know it as Muscovado .

Some people pour the cream–or milk–straight onto the bowl of oatmeal. Others like the liquid on the side; they sprinkle on the sugar, fill their spoon with hot oatmeal, then dip it into a bowl of cold cream or milk. If you’re after something really special, I’d have to say go with the cream; its richness triangles perfectly with the toastiness of the Macroom oatmeal and the sweetness of the sugar. Not being a sweets eater, I’m actually a little more inclined to the Scottish way of serving oatmeal, which seems to be limited to cream or milk and a little salt. Don’t skimp on the quality of the dairy product. Cream or milk from Calder Dairy (which we use for all our coffee drinks and for the cow’s milk cheeses and the gelato we make at the Creamery) definitely makes a big difference!

One challenge with traditional oatmeal like Macroom is that it takes a bit longer to prepare in the morning than you may have time for. The Creedons deal with this by starting the process the previous evening. They bring the water to a boil, add the meal, bring it back to a boil then turn it off and let it sit on the stove covered overnight. Then in the morning, they just heat it up and eat it.

Savory Oatmeal Suppers

A few years back I had a conversation with author and food historian William Rubel that altered my oatmeal outlook, and the way I eat it, too, forever. William pointed out something that, having heard it, seems kind of obvious, but which up until he said it, I’d never thought about. He said that although our current approach to oatmeal is that it’s only a breakfast food to be served with sweet accompaniments like honey, sugar or raisins, it must have, at one time, also been a base for savory toppings. Because like other comparable dishes–think polenta, grits, or rice porridge–oatmeal was the main source of sustenance for 19th century poor people in Britain. Which means it was eaten at all times of the day, and that it would have been eaten with all sorts of accompaniments, savory and sweet.

Is Oatmeal Healthy? Here’s What the Experts Say

Oatmeal is a near-universally beloved breakfast. While it has historically been enjoyed across Europe, Russia and the U.S., oatmeal is rapidly gaining popularity in developing countries because of its affordability and its perceived health properties. But is oatmeal really good for you?

To answer that question, it’s first important to differentiate among all the different types of oatmeal. There’s steel-cut and rolled, quick-cooking and instant. But all of these terms refer to different methods of preparing hulled oats for cooking.

“You can’t eat an unprocessed oat straight from the field,” says Joanne Slavin, a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Harvested oats are wrapped in a hard husk that must be removed before cooking and consumption, Slavin says. When that husk removal is done, what’s left is the oat’s groat—which is its entire bran, endosperm and germ, the three components that constitute a whole grain. You can buy and cook whole oat groats. But all other types of oatmeal involve some type of processing to facilitate cooking.

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Rolled oats, for example, are simply groats that have been steamed and smashed flat. Quick-cooking and instant oatmeal are typically rolled oats that have been further flattened, steamed or precooked to cut down on prep time. Steel-cut oats are groats that have been sliced up into small pieces instead of being rolled. But regardless of which you choose, Slavin says all types of oatmeal are considered whole grains, and all should be more or less equal in terms of their basic nutritional properties.

In other words, all kinds of oatmeal are healthy, experts say—with some caveats.

“Based on the existing evidence, eating whole grain oats is definitely good for our health,” says Shengmin Sang, a professor of food science and human health at North Carolina A&T State University who has examined the nutritional properties of oats. “Eating whole grain oats can prevent diabetes and lower cholesterol levels, which could prevent cardiovascular disease.” Some studies show that oats have anti-inflammatory effects, Sang says, “which could prevent inflammation related to chronic disease.”

Fiber is oatmeal’s main health attribute. “Fiber is good for so many things throughout the digestive tract,” Slavin says. In the stomach and small intestine, for example, fiber helps slow down food processing and absorption in ways that promote fullness and mellow the body’s insulin response. All that could reduce a person’s risks for type 2 diabetes and metabolic disease, she says. Move farther along into the large intestine, and fiber feeds beneficial gut bacteria and promotes healthy stool, she says.

And unlike wheat and most other grains, oats contain large amounts of a specific type of fiber called beta glucan, which studies have consistently linked to healthier cholesterol scores and a reduced risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But oatmeal’s health attributes extend beyond fiber. “There’s now increasing evidence showing that whole grain oats contain many phytochemicals, meaning plant-made small molecule compounds, that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects,” Sang says. He points to one particular oat phytochemical—called avenanthramide—as a promising inflammation fighter.

Oats are also an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium, says Edward Giovannucci, a professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. But he warns that loading oatmeal up with sugar, sodium or other additives can quickly diminish or offset its health benefits—a warning voiced by other experts. “Instant has all the whole grain components, but my concern is the sugar added,” Sang says.

And while oats are naturally gluten free, cross-contamination with other grains can potentially expose people to gluten. That’s concerning for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. “Oats can be contaminated with gluten containing kernels of wheat, barley and rye at the field, during storage or during transportation,” says Ronald Fritz, an R&D scientist for PepsiCo (the company that owns Quaker Oats), who has researched the risks of gluten contamination in oatmeal. Fritz argues that Quaker employs technology to scrub its oats of gluten. But it’s not clear just how often oatmeal products are contaminated, or how consumers can reliably avoid this issue apart from relying on producers to ensure their products are gluten-free.

Those concerns aside, pretty much everyone agrees that eating oatmeal—assuming you’re opting for a type free of sugar and other unhealthy additives—is a good idea. “Whole grains are beneficial and healthy foods, and I can say that oatmeal is definitely beneficial,” says Qi Sun, an assistant professor of nutrition at Harvard, citing both his past research on whole grains and also some soon-to-be-published work he’s done on oatmeal. “Eating oatmeal for breakfast is a good choice.”

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“People really do not understand that the gluten-free diet is for celiac what insulin is for diabetics.”

The FDA requires that foods labeled “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 parts per million. Foods labeled “certified-gluten free” may be held to even stricter standards—such as 5 or 10 ppm, depending on the certifying organization. But recovery of inflamed, damaged intestines eludes more than a third of celiac sufferers, and researchers think it’s likely due to cross-contamination.

Clearly, the labels aren’t doing enough. In fact, I believe the gluten-free fad has become so lucrative that companies are getting sloppy, as well as secretive, about the sourcing, production and testing of gluten-free foods.

General Mills, for example, now faces a class-action lawsuit for shipping—and then later voluntarily recalling—1.8 million boxes of gluten-contaminated Cheerios that were labeled gluten-free. Though class action lawsuits after recalls are not uncommon, the celiac community has been up in arms about the exposure, which made numerous children and adults sick.

“In an isolated incident involving purely human error, wheat flour was inadvertently introduced into our gluten-free oat flour system,” Jim Murphy, senior vice president of the company’s cereal division, said when the recall was announced in October.

General Mills confirmed to Quartz that on 17 days, in one of their Cheerios facilities, they did not test their final packaged product for the presence of gluten. (They claim to test three times in the process of making gluten-free Cheerios.) But testing final products is exactly what celiacs need from manufacturers, in order to catch human error.

Testing final products is exactly what celiacs need from manufacturers, in order to catch inevitable human error.

Another problem is that General Mills sources regular “commodity oats,” according to dietitian Tricia Thompson, who runs the site Gluten Free Watchdog and whose research has been published in journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine. Commodity oats are often grown adjacent to, or in rotation with, crops that contain gluten, and processed in facilities that contain those crops as well.

Such oats are more likely to be cross-contaminated by gluten from very-similar looking barley. General Mills and other manufacturers have admitted to using mechanical and optical sorting machines to clean these commodity oats. The machines were originally designed to sift grain and remove foreign grains, stones, sticks and other debris. They haven’t been proven purify the oat supply to meet a gluten-free standard. They may miss some grains, which would then be ground up along with the oats.

General Mills’ gluten-free testing poses another issue. The company ensures that its products meet a gluten-free standard by taking the average of tests from twelve extractions. That raises the question whether some samples that test higher than 20 ppm could be packaged and shipped. Thompson tells Quartz: “All extractions from all boxes should test below 20 ppm gluten.”

Another serious concern, says Thompson, is that gluten is not evenly distributed in oat grain or flour, or even in extractions used for testing. Over a period of weeks earlier this fall, Thompson paid an independent laboratory to test five boxes of gluten-free Original Yellow Box Cheerios. These boxes were still available and were not part of the Cheerios recall. She reports that, “The results illustrate that gluten contamination varies by box and that gluten contamination within each box of Cheerios is difficult to evenly distribute.”

General Mills is not the only manufacturer that raises questions for me. For years, Bob’s Red Mill has boasted on its website that it sources only “purity protocol” oats from Canada (grown under strict standards that ensure the oats are gluten-free). But the company has started using suppliers in recent years that rely on sorting technology to separate commodity oats from other grains containing gluten.

They admitted the truth to Thompson on Nov. 12 when she asked them in writing, noting that “Our suppliers are innovative in controlling the presence of gluten by either avoiding crop rotation with gluten containing grains or using optical sorting technology to remove grain containing gluten.” Bob’s Red Mill was also slapped with a recall in 2013 when a spot-check of their sorghum flour by Canadian authorities found it contained excess gluten.

I asked Matt Cox, vice president of marketing at Bob’s Red Mill, how they test. He said they use a scientifically validated method called R5 Elisa, and that “incoming product/ingredient shipments that are to be processed as gluten free are typically sampled 22 times per load.” Bob’s Red Mill did not respond to my requests for further clarification about the testing process, including whether, like General Mills, the company uses the average of their tests from the 22 extractions.

A number of other companies also use commodity oats mechanically and optically sorted to be gluten-free, including Grain Millers, which recently sold its Country Choice brand to Nature’s Path, and Quaker Oats. Last October, Quaker debuted three “gluten-free” oatmeal products—Quick 1-Minute Oats, Instant Oatmeal Original, and Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar.

Some manufacturers play on consumer naiveté by using sleight of hand.

Finally, there are the manufacturers who play on consumer naiveté by using sleight of hand. They advertise their foods as “naturally gluten-free.” But this doesn’t tell celiacs whether those foods could be cross-contaminated. A case in point: Umpqua oat products. Says Thompson:

“According to a photo sent to me, product packaging includes a “no gluten ingredients used” versus a “gluten-free” claim. Products making this claim do not have to comply with the FDA gluten-free labeling rule. Based on photos of product packaging on the manufacturer website, the label also includes a logo (see image) that could be very confusing.”

A final issue is that every company considers their testing data to be proprietary. This means celiacs simply have to trust that they are throwing out any product with more than the legal 20 ppm. But would manufacturers get away with advertising grams of sugar for diabetics—and say their test result verifying that sugar level was proprietary, or that nobody should know the test results outside the company?

As more companies embrace the gluten-free fad, a growing number of celiacs like me may be forced to reconsider our purchasing habits. Lately, I’ve begun turning to smaller, more stringent firms like Portland’s Big River Grains or Canada’s Kinninnick, or local purveyors of, say, stone-ground heritage corn from places like Riverview Farms. Nary a gluten-containing grain passes through their production facilities in the first place–which means I can sit down to a bowl of oats in the morning without gambling on my health.

The Whole (Grain) Story

Health benefits of gluten-free whole grains, how to identify whole grains in the grocery store, and easy whole-grain meal and snack ideas for your family to enjoy

For many years, gluten-free grains didn’t get much attention, but the popularity of the gluten-free diet has made some of these “ancient grains” new again. Quinoa, for example, shows up frequently on grocery store shelves and even on restaurant menus. From buckwheat to sorghum, these grains add significant nutritional value to the gluten-free diet, as well as taste and variety. However, research still shows that those on the gluten-free diet do not eat the recommended amount of grain servings—in particular, whole grains. Early versions of gluten-free foods often did not contain whole grains; they relied heavily on white rice flour and corn or tapioca starch. The good news is that trend seems to be changing as manufacturers introduce more products containing gluten-free whole grains.

What exactly is a whole grain?

Figure 1.

According to the Whole Grains Council, “whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.” In short, the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain must be present (see Figure 1). Refined grains differ in that they are milled, which removes the bran and germ, and unfortunately much of the nutritional benefits. See Table 1 for a list of gluten-free whole grains.

Table 1.

Whole grains for the whole body

A diet rich in whole grains can help prevent chronic diseases. A 2016 review of 14 studies published in the journal Circulation showed that those who ate the most whole grains had lower risk of overall death, death from heart disease and death from cancer than those who ate the fewest. However, only those who ate at least 30 grams of whole grains per day—for example, a half-cup of cooked brown rice or one-third cup of gluten-free oatmeal—exhibited the reduced risk of cancer death. Researchers also noted an even further reduced risk of death for those who ate more than 30 grams per day. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that among 55,000 Danish adults, those who ate the most whole grains every day had the lowest risk of a heart attack, with oats being particularly protective against heart disease. Whole grains may even protect your brain, as a 2016 study in Clinical Nutrition found that increased consumption of whole grains reduced inflammation in the brain.

Gluten-free grain goodness

Whole grains confer a multitude of health benefits for those on the gluten-free diet. Before diagnosis, those with celiac disease are likely to suffer nutritional deficiencies due to impaired absorption. But even after adopting the gluten-free diet, there are still risks of nutritional shortfalls, specifically fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and magnesium. Many gluten-free breads and cereals are not enriched like gluten-containing cereals. Additionally, those with celiac disease may have some other food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, which can cause further deficiencies. Gluten-free whole grains can help provide good sources of these needed nutrients.

Those with celiac disease often complain of constipation; the gluten-free diet tends to be lower in fiber than a diet containing wheat products. “Fiber and whole grains go hand-in-hand, so these little kernels of flavor are the perfect way to sneak more fiber into the gluten-free diet,” says Kelly Toups, a registered dietitian with Oldways and the Whole Grains Council. “Gluten free does not mean grain free.” She says just a quarter cup of uncooked gluten-free oats or buckwheat has 4 grams of dietary fiber, while millet and teff have 3 grams. Adults should aim to consume around 25 grams of dietary fiber each day.

The health benefits of gluten-free whole grains extend beyond fiber. Quinoa, for example, contains the highest-quality protein of any grain or cereal. It is also high in zinc, magnesium and iron. Millet is another nutritional powerhouse, containing many B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, folate and B6, as well as fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc. Sorghum contains comparable amounts of protein to wheat while being a great source of zinc and iron. Teff contains more calcium than any other grain, a great help for patients who may be lacking this important mineral due to lactose intolerance. See Table 2 for the specific health benefits of various gluten-free whole grains.

The search is over

For many years, gluten-free products like crackers, breads and pasta relied heavily on less expensive and less nutritious starches like cornstarch and white rice flour. Fortunately, that trend seems to be changing, and finding products made with gluten-free whole grains is getting easier. “Today, products like quinoa pasta are practically mainstream,” Toups notes, “and brown rice bowls can be found at fast casual restaurants across the country.”

When shopping for whole grains, Toups advises that the keyword to look for on the ingredient label is “whole,” as in whole-grain cornmeal or whole-grain sorghum. “Some whole grains, such as millet, quinoa, brown rice, red rice do not always have the word ‘whole,’ but are virtually always whole grain.”

Figure 2.

Identifying whole grains quickly when shopping can sometimes be difficult. The Whole Grains Council created the Whole Grain Stamp in 2005 (see Figure 2). The Basic Stamp provides a guarantee that the product has at least a half serving of whole grains. Better yet, the 100% Stamp guarantees that all the grains in a product are whole grains. “The number inside the Whole Grain Stamp indicates how many grams of whole grains are in one serving of the product, making it easier for you to compare products and pick the one with the most whole grains,” Toups explains. The Whole Grains Council website makes finding products with the stamp easy, allowing consumers to search for products that are specifically gluten free. You can find this listing by going to wholegrainscouncil.org and clicking “Find Whole Grains.” Be sure to refine the search for gluten-free products only.

It is very important to note that some gluten-free grains are at risk for contamination with other grains. In 2009, Tricia Thompson, R.D., of Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC, tested 22 naturally gluten-free grains that were not labeled gluten free and found that seven (32 percent) of the samples were contaminated with varying amounts of gluten. In addition, she found that allergen advisory statements such as “made in the same facility with wheat” did not reliably indicate which grains were contaminated. It is important to keep in mind that the grains tested were not labeled gluten free; the goal of the testing was to determine whether some naturally gluten-free grains are at risk for contamination with gluten. For this reason, Thompson and other experts recommend that people on gluten-free diets purchase grains that are labeled gluten free. While these grains may be slightly more expensive, manufacturers will take extra steps to keep their grains safe.

Cooking it up!

Research has found that many on the gluten-free diet consume far fewer grains than recommended, and when they do choose grains they tend to gravitate toward white rice. This may, in part, be due to unfamiliarity in how to cook various gluten-free grains. Toups offers some tips for those who are new to these grains: “Moving from white rice to brown or from white gluten-free bread to whole-grain gluten-free bread are mindless swaps that don’t require a drastic departure from routine.” However, she encourages those who are more adventurous to find a “cornucopia of flavors and textures” in other grains.

“For those who miss couscous, sorghum is an excellent gluten-free alternative,” she remarks. “It works great in grain salads or as a hearty base for curries and stews.” She encourages sorghum flour for baking as it has a sweet flavor that closely mimics wheat (see recipe, below). She also encourages quinoa. “It cooks up in 15 minutes, far quicker than baked potatoes, rice and other gluten-free starches.” Quinoa substitutes well in recipes that call for rice, like stir fry and pilaf. “It also retains its texture when it is chilled, meaning it’s the perfect nutritious topper for all kinds of colorful salads and is a great base for gluten-free grain salads.” The Whole Grains Council offers a delicious Mediterranean-style breakfast dish with quinoa that can be prepared the night before (see recipe, below).

Amaranth is also very versatile. It can be “popped” in the skillet and eaten like popcorn, or made into stuffing or breading for meat or chicken. Amaranth flour can be added to gravy or used to boost the nutritional quality of baked goods; substitute one-quarter to one-third of gluten-free flour with amaranth flour. Buckwheat can be made into a side dish, hot cereal or stuffing. Ground buckwheat makes a nutritious hot cereal and may be labeled “cream of buckwheat.” Even though the name may be a bit confusing, there is no wheat in pure buckwheat; however, some baking items such as buckwheat pancake mixes may contain wheat flour, so always check the label.

Millet can be made into hot cereal and pilaf. It can also be made into crackers, or toasted and added to soups. Toups recommends Manhattan Millet Cakes (see recipe, below) as a good way to use up leftover millet. Millet flour has a light texture and can be substituted up to 30 percent in baked recipes. Millet flour does spoil easily, however, and should be stored in the freezer. Teff can be used to make veggie burgers by combining cooked teff with beans or tofu, garlic, herbs and onions. Teff flour combines well with other gluten-free flours, especially in darker items like brownies and cake. Pancakes and waffles can be made with 100 percent teff flour.

Regardless of which grain piques your interest, Toups recommends planning ahead. “It is helpful to cook up a big batch at the beginning of the week, to make mealtime run more smoothly on other days.” Freeze cooked whole grains to microwave later, or you can even purchase them precooked and frozen. “With these tricks under your belt, it will be a cinch to pour milk over a bowl of warm quinoa and raisins in the morning, toss a handful of sorghum into your chili, or throw together a millet and roasted vegetable salad for supper.”

Get the kids on board

Popcorn is a pleasing whole-grain snack for kids and adults alike! Toups recommends making popcorn even healthier by skipping butter in favor of olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt. When packing lunch, think whole grain when choosing bread, wraps or tortillas. “To cater to kids’ love of finger foods, create a bento box filled with fruits and vegetables cut into fun shapes, along with cheese, gluten-free whole-grain crackers, and dips like hummus or yogurt,” says Toups. “There are so many delicious gluten-free whole-grain crackers on the market to choose from.”

Whole grains can add a lot of nutrition to the gluten-free diet in addition to the welcome variety and flavor. Choose products that contain whole grains, and utilize tools like the Whole Grain Stamp to easily identify those foods made at least partly with whole grains. “By embracing different whole grains, producers delight the gluten-free market with new products, flavors and textures, as well as boast a more impressive nutrition panel,” says Toups. As a result, watch for even more gluten-free whole-grain products to be available in the coming years.

The Basic Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-Free Whole Grains Update

What is Celiac Disease?

Molasses Sorghum Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

You’ll be surprised at how smooth and creamy your cookie dough becomes when you make gluten-free molasses cookies with whole-grain sorghum flour.

Ingredients

¾ cup softened butter, plus more for baking sheet

1¾ cups whole-grain sorghum flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

¼ cup unsulfured molasses

Raw, coarse or sanding sugar (or white sugar) for coating

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Oil or butter a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the molasses and mix until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Beat at medium speed until the mixture doesn’t stick to the bowl, adding more flour if necessary.

To form each cookie, make a golf-ball-sized ball, and then flatten it between your hands. Dredge each flattened ball in the raw sugar. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 1 to 2 inches apart, and bake for 6 to 7 minutes. It’s important not to overcook the cookies, to make sure they stay soft and gooey. Cool on a rack.

Recipe courtesy of Sara Baer-Sinnott, reprinted with permission from The Oldways Table, by Sara and co-author K. Dun Gifford. Oldways photo.

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 4

In this Mediterranean-inspired quinoa recipe, dried fruit and cinnamon contribute all of the sweet taste—no added sugars needed. Dried figs are deliciously sugary, and when joined with Turkish apricots, raw walnuts and cinnamon, this breakfast cereal has a decidedly Mediterranean flair.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained (any color—we used red)

3 cups water

4 extra-large dried figs (or 8 smaller dried figs)

8 dried apricot halves

¼ cup walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups milk

Directions

Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 15 minutes, until the outside coat of the grain separates into a curly tail and all of the liquid is absorbed.

While the quinoa is simmering, chop the figs, apricots and walnuts into bite-sized pieces.

Add the chopped fruit, nuts and cinnamon to a large bowl.

When the quinoa is done cooking, add to the bowl and toss with the fruit and nut mixture until combined.

To serve, divide the quinoa mixture among 4 mason jars, and add ½ cup milk to each jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. This allows the fruit to soften a bit and the flavors to mingle more freely. Alternatively, you can keep the quinoa mixture in a covered container in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, simply scoop about 1 cup quinoa mixture into a bowl, top with ½ cup milk and eat like regular cold cereal.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Kelly Toups, R.D., and the Oldways Whole Grains Council. Visit www.wholegrainscouncil.org for more.

Manhattan Millet Cakes

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked millet

3 cups water

10 chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup pitted green olives, chopped

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup packed grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or plant-based cheese)

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups mixed salad greens

Mustard

Directions

Combine the millet and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain if necessary and transfer the millet to a bowl. When cool, add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olives, sunflower seeds, cheese, capers and oregano. Stir well, mashing the ingredients together. Use dampened hands to form 6 patties. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the patties until lightly brown and crisp, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve on a bed of greens with the mustard.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Oldways. Visit www.oldwayspt.org for more.

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Is Eating Raw Oats Healthy? Nutrition, Benefits, and Uses

Because oats are packed with many health-promoting compounds, they provide various health benefits (7, 8, 9).

May help lower cholesterol levels

Oats are rich in the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in multiple studies (10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

Beta-glucan acts by forming a gel in your small intestine. This gel restricts the absorption of dietary cholesterol and interferes with the reabsorption of bile salts, which play an essential role in the metabolism of fats (15, 16).

Research has determined that daily doses of at least 3 grams of oat beta-glucan can reduce blood cholesterol levels by 5–10% (10).

What’s more, a test-tube study discovered that raw oats release around 26% of their beta-glucan content during digestion, compared with only 9% for cooked oats. Thus, they may affect fat metabolism and cholesterol levels to a greater extent (11).

May promote blood sugar control

Blood sugar control is vital for health and especially important for people with type 2 diabetes or those who have difficulties producing or responding to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

Beta-glucan has been shown to help control blood sugar due to its ability to form a gel-like substance in your digestive system.

The viscosity slows the rate at which your stomach empties its contents and digests carbs, which is associated with lower blood sugar levels after a meal and stabilized insulin production (17, 18).

A review of 10 studies in people with type 2 diabetes found that daily intake of foods containing at least 4 grams of beta-glucan per 30 grams of carbs for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels by 46%, compared with the control group (19, 20).

May benefit heart health

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, which is one of the most common conditions and a leading cause of death worldwide (9, 21).

Soluble fibers like beta-glucans in oats have been associated with blood-pressure-lowering effects (22).

One 12-week study in 110 people with untreated high blood pressure found that consuming 8 grams of soluble fiber from oats per day reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers of a reading), compared with the control group (23).

Similarly, in a 6-week study in 18 people with elevated blood pressure levels, those consuming 5.5 grams of beta-glucan per day experienced a 7.5 and 5.5 mm Hg reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively, compared with a control group (24).

What’s more, in a 4-week study in 88 people taking medication for high blood pressure, 73% of those consuming 3.25 grams of soluble fiber from oats daily could either stop or reduce their medication, compared with 42% of participants in the control group (25).

Healthy for your gut

Another health effect attributed to oats is their ability to support a healthy bowel by increasing fecal bulk (9).

This effect is due to the insoluble fiber in oats, which, unlike soluble fiber, is not water-soluble and thus doesn’t form a gel-like substance.

The bacteria in your intestines don’t ferment insoluble fiber to the same extent as they ferment soluble fiber, which increases your stool size.

It’s estimated that oats increase stool weight by 3.4 grams per gram of dietary fiber consumed (26).

Research has also revealed that daily intake of oat fiber may be a useful and low-cost approach to treat constipation, which affects about 20% of the general population (27).

One study in people with constipation found that 59% of participants who consumed oat fiber from oat bran could stop taking laxatives (28).

Raw oats naturally contain oat bran, though you can also buy it on its own.

May promote weight loss

Higher intake of whole-grain cereals like oats is linked to a lower risk of weight gain and obesity (21).

In part, this may be because soluble fibers can help you feel fuller for longer (29).

Increased feelings of fullness are linked to reduced food intake, as they help suppress appetite (30, 31, 32).

Two studies determined that eating oats increased feelings of fullness and suppressed the desire to eat over four hours, compared with ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. These effects were attributed to the beta-glucan content of the oats (33, 34).

Thus, raw oats may help you maintain or lose weight.

Summary Raw oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that may lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Eating raw oats may also relieve constipation and promote weight loss.

Oatmeal is a great healthy breakfast staple, but we might be sabotaging our diets. Our friends at YouBeauty have the scoop…

With fall just around the corner, you may already be daydreaming about cozy cashmere sweaters and curling up to a hot and hearty bowl of oatmeal to fend off the morning chill.

And chances are, you’d give yourself a big pat on the back for choosing a healthy breakfast option like oatmeal rather than grabbing a fat-filled muffin or buttery bagel. After all, oatmeal has been on a health pedestal for years–and for a good reason. Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. In fact, having 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides six grams of fiber. It’s also good for diabetics since oatmeal takes a while to digest, preventing unwelcome spikes in blood sugar, and is often recommended by nutritionists for weight loss because it helps keep you feeling full.

MORE: Eating Habits to Overcome Obesity

The problem is that some people don’t like the taste of oatmeal but make themselves eat it because they know it’s good for them. And that can backfire. To make it more palatable, they often pile on sugar–or worse, pick up oatmeal at fast food chains like McDonald’s even though they’re full of sugar and additives–knocking the breakfast staple right off its health pedestal.

In one study, 1,000 people were asked to follow three small behavior changes, including eating oatmeal for breakfast, every day for three months. Surprisingly, the oatmeal eaters gained weight. So study author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think wanted to find out why. Turns out, the oatmeal eaters put on extra pounds because they were loading their morning oatmeal with sugar, eating well beyond the recommended portion size of a half cup, or were rewarding themselves with additional calories in the form of a mid-morning snack.

In other words, they managed to undo the health benefits of eating oatmeal faster than you can say “instant oatmeal.”

QUIZ: What is Your Eating Style?

“Oatmeal has a health halo,” says Wansink. “As a result, people think it’s a lot healthier for them than it actually is. Eating it with too much sugar jacks up the calories. So does eating too much.”

Adds Wansink, “If you don’t really like the taste of oatmeal, it defeats the purpose of eating it because you’re going to find some other way to compensate, such as putting in a lot of brown sugar to make it a little more palatable. But you can also do that by varying the texture of oatmeal by putting good stuff in it.”

RESEARCH: Skipping Breakfast is Associated with Health Risks

The solution: Transform boring oatmeal by adding a touch of sweetness or texture the healthy way–with a small handful of dried fruit, sliced almonds or walnuts, or with flavorful spices such as cinnamon.

Or skip it all together. There are plenty of other healthy breakfast options out there.

MORE: Heart Healthy Tunisian Egg Scramble

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Is oatmeal healthy?

It’s a common question, in fact it may be one most of us are asking even if we’re not asking out loud. We hear so much conflicting information about carbs and grains it makes it confusing on where oatmeal falls into the world of health.

So lets just cut to the chase because the alternative I have to share with you is spot on. I crave it, want it, need it in my life nearly every day and I’m perfectly okay with that. Not to mention, it is easier to make than oatmeal.

Wait?

Yep, easier than doubling the water and heating it up. Stay tuned to find out.

But in the meantime lets break down the truth about oatmeal.

Is oatmeal healthy?

Well the research is split. The food companies would like you to believe that oatmeal has ‘cholesterol lowering benefits’ and others would tell you it spikes your blood sugar putting you on the roller coasters of highs and lows.

But if we move beyond the noise and just look at oatmeal in itself here’s what we could find.

Cons to Eating Oatmeal

Lets start with the bad first, because it’s always good to end on a high note.

If we pulled all of the negatives out of oatmeal here would be the list:

  1. It is a grain, meaning it has all of the anti-nutrient properties that grains do. The phytic acid which can strip your body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals in the oats themselves.
  2. It is a high starch or high carbohydrate food. So in the end, yes it can spike your blood sugar putting you on a high your body doesn’t necessarily agree with in. This could potentially cause excess weight gain.
  3. It is a bland food which leaves many people to spice it up with an extra heaping mound of sugar or two. So problem number two now escalates into a third, fourth and fifth problem.

Pros to Eating Oatmeal

The paleo community and our low-carb fans are definitely thinking there are no pros. But in fact that really are and in order to be realistic and create a healthy simplistic approach to life, I don’t think it’s fair to discount a food that is better than the majority of breakfast foods on the market.

  1. It contains a healthy amount of fiber. Given that over 90% of people are no longer getting sufficient amounts of fiber in their diet oats can help push people past the critical threshold. Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber and thus the linking to help with heart disease, cholesterol and diabetes.
  2. It contains a decent nutritional profile. Considering it is not a form of produce {fruit or vegetables} oats really do have a nutritional profile to look at and definitely not one to toss.
  3. They are versatile. From breakfast to dinner there are countless ways to use oats or oat flour as a base to many healthy recipes that will help simplify your diet.
  4. They are quick and easy. This is quite possibly the biggest reason I can’t stand the thought of not eating oats {especially with children} is they are a quick and easy source of nutrition on the fly. From granola bars, to granola or even a warm and comforting bowl of oatmeal in the morning, they definitely are a pantry staple in our house.

Should you eat them?

So, back to the original question… is oatmeal healthy? I think it is fair to say that the pros of oatmeal still outweigh the cons. Although it is still important to note the cons given that oats are not an end all be all. It is just one simple food, from nature that can be eaten in a good rotation with other foods. But the secret to this is also not eating them alone, with heaping mounds of sugar.

The addition of too much sugar is really where people go wrong. I will first suggest that you use the right type of sugar (click the link below to get the guide on the ONLY sugar substitutes I recommend) and also pair it with a bunch of other highly dense nutritional foods and a good amount of healthy fat.

Maybe we should say oats can become what you make it?

The better alternative to oats:

The better alternative to oats that still contains oats is muesli.

Muesli is a mixture oats with other grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits coming together in a delicious array of flavors and textures. It most definitely is the best way to eat oats in my opinion. Although I’m still a sucker for these granola bars and crunchy granola.

Muesli is the no-prep form of oats and that is really what I love. It’s as easy as pouring a box of cereal and adding a bit of milk. Not to mention it helps me add a lot of health foods that I otherwise have to figure out like hemp hearts, chia seeds, flax meal and coconut flakes.

I was first introduced to Muesli at a photography workshop I went to in Minneapolis. A sponsor of the event was an amazing and healthy Muesli company called Seven Sundays. I can’t deny it but muesli changed my breakfast world that day. It was the ease, the amazing flavor and the comfort that we all run to with oatmeal. It had it all going on.

I would still recommend their Muesli hands down. If you’re in a pinch or have no motivation to make your I would suggest purchasing Seven Sundays and trying it out for yourself.

However, I wanted to add a few more of those superfoods and cut back on the cost knowing that if I made this in bulk it was going to be pretty inexpensive. So I set off to do it and was blown away myself by the ease.

It’s a dump and mix kind of recipe that made over eight cups of Muesli. So what I’m saying, is there really aren’t any excuses to not change the way you do oatmeal and breakfast for that matter.

My favorite way to eat Muesli is to add it to a bowl, pour on milk, let it sit to thicken and top with fruit, additional nuts and seeds and an occasional drizzle of honey. My taste buds are blown and my children are in food Heaven. I can assure you, this is what you need to make for a breakfast on the fly. It’s all the flavors, all the nutrition and all the comfort you’ve been looking for.

What you need:

I know you may be thinking, where do I even get all of these ingredients? So I wanted to show you the best deals and brands I purchased on Amazon. If you know you want to make it, you can click below to get everything put into your cart at the lowest price.

Otherwise here is what you’ll need:

  • Gluten-free oats
  • Finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Hemp hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax meal
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Buckwheat Groats

Additional Ingredients

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Raw Honey

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Muesli Prep time 5 mins Total time 5 mins Author: Alexa Schirm Serves: 22 Ingredients

  • 4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups finely shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 cup hemp hearts
  • ⅔ cups chia seeds
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups buckwheat groats
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Store in airtight container.
  3. To make, mix 1 part muesli with slightly less than 2 parts liquid (I used almond milk) and let sit overnight or for 10 minutes.
  4. Top with your favorite toppings.

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Is too much oatmeal bad for you? Topic

Lucinda68 10/04/10
My husband and I are dieting. He eats oatmeal every morning and I eat it every other morning. We were recently told that it was bad to eat more than 3 times a week. Is this true?

Maptab 10/04/10
Welcome to MND. I see you are new. Enjoy the ride this program has been very helpful for me. To much of anything can be bad for you, but if you keep things within your plan (nutrients and otherwise) it should be fine. I am pretty sure that Kathy will have a more detailed answer for you.

Lucinda68 10/04/10 replied to Maptab
Thankyou. I’ve been on MND for 3 weeks and have lost 12 lbs, my husband 15. I love it.

Snipper5159 10/05/10
I eat oatmeal almost every morning, not the packaged flavored ones but the old fashion Quaker Oats and I don’t add salt.

Kamdis 10/05/10
I don’t think that eating oatmeal more than 3 days a week could be bad for you, unless you are not eating something else that you need the nutrients from. Oatmeal is especially great for breakfast when you’re trying to lose weight, because it has lots of fiber and is a whole grain, which helps you feel fuller longer.
I used to eat oatmeal almost every day for breakfast (the flavored kind even, though organic) and didn’t see any ill effects. I did get a little sick of it after a while though.

Dietitian 10/05/10 replied to Lucinda68
There is nothing wrong with eating oatmeal every morning! I would go with the unflavored type (low in both salt and sugar) and add your own flavorings to control calories. Steel cut oats are also delicious but they do take longer to cook. I soak mine overnight so it only takes about 10 minutes to cook in the morning.
I’m not sure why some folks told you it is bad to eat oatmeal more than three times per week. Sounds arbitrary to me. Fortified breakfast cereal is high in iron and folate, but you can get those nutrients from other food sources.
Best,
Kathy Isacks, MPS, RD

Lucinda68 10/05/10 replied to Dietitian
Thankyou! It didn’t make any sense to me. They said the doctor told them it would raise the cholesterol level? But I was sure it didn’t.

Snipper5159 10/06/10
Your friends must have heard it wrong ,oatmeal helps lower cholesterol!

Vindicar 10/06/10
I prefer steelk cut oats they havve a nice chewy flavor – and I sprinkle in a little cinnamon and a teaspon of honey for minimal calorie impact and maximum taste – if you are in a rush Trader Joe’s has premade frozen steelcut oats that are very good and prepackaged in ready serving size of 150 calories – a nice bit of fiber to start your day and even with the Honey well under 200 calories

Febrown 10/06/10
have never eaten oatmeal as the look of it is very unappealing to me but am willing to try. Can anyone give suggestion as to the best why they have ever had it. I fell so bad saying this but since I reached goal I am having a great difficulty bringing my calories up. Who would have thought that 135 pound ago! It is a problem now as I am terrified of opening Pandora’s bax. Will say this maintanence is harder for me than I thouhgt. Having been on this program so long it is tough to adjust believe it or not.Tough problem to have I know lol but I am below goal not that upset but need to get stablized.I know this is not a problem that perhaps is appropriate here but any reasonable suggestion will be appreciated. I cannot regain that weight ever.well I can but don’t ever want to. My calorie have been set by a dietitian at 1510. Lower than mnd (I have no idea why that is) ,must be using a different calculation formulary. I give all of you my greatest respect. I know how difficult it is. Keep it up.

Is too much oatmeal bad for you?

Too much oatmeal (white oats)

Oatmeal is a soluble fiber product that is produced by milling of the oat groats, also known as white oats.

Benefits of oatmeal

Oatmeal has gained its popularity due to the prominent health benefits reported by some studies

  • Cholesterol levels – oatmeal contains beta-glucans that have been linked to maintaining normal blood cholesterol concentrations, when combined with low-fat diet. Furthermore, antioxidants called avenanthramides help to prevent free radicals from negatively affecting LDL cholesterol, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Sugar levels – stabilization of blood sugar levels is a result of the fiber that slows down rapid sugar absorption, helping to balance an insulin secretion. Oatmeal also contains considerable amounts of magnesium which assists the body in glucose utilization, thus lowering the risks of type 2 diabetes
  • Heartburn, gastritis and ulcers – the thickness of oatmeal is beneficial for coating a damaged stomach lining, which helps to alleviate the associated pain and inflammation from digestive acids coming in contact with a damaged intestinal wall
  • Constipation & diarrhea – the fiber content helps to bind the stool while increasing its bulk for easier movement through intestines. It is worth noting that too much oatmeal in terms of fiber content may aggravate constipation
  • Breast cancer – some studies have shown that moderate but not an excessive consumption of fiber that comes from whole grains minimizes the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 40 percent.
  • Nutritional value – oatmeal contains beneficial amounts of thiamine, niacin and folate which are the B group vitamins. It is also rich in minerals, antioxidants, protein and iron
  • Immune function – beta-glucans have a positive effect on the cellular immune activity that helps to suppress bacterial infections

All of the above would be beneficial for health only if an unflavored and unsweetened oatmeal in its pure form is consumed. Instead of sweetening, mix in some chopped fruits after the oatmeal is cooked.

Dangers and side effects of too much oatmeal consumption

Although oatmeal may seem like a harmless and beneficial product to consume in any amounts, it is not as safe as commonly perceived. Too much oatmeal may lead to adverse health conditions or aggravate the existing problems.

  • Increased risk of diabetes from flavored types of oatmeal that contain artificial ingredients and significant amounts of sugar
  • Intestinal blockage – eating too much oatmeal that is undercooked or raw may create an intestinal blockage and severe constipation
  • Impaired digestion – oatmeal contains Phytic acid. Phytates chelate and make important nutrients unabsorbable by intestines. It mostly applies to calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, however, other nutrients are affected long term as well
  • Deficiency in nutrients created by excessive oatmeal consumption overtime may lead to many serious conditions
    • Sleep disorders
    • Bone disorders
    • Chronic muscle spasms and weakness
    • Agitation and anxiety
    • Neurological disorders resulting in chronic pain and impaired organ functions
    • Depression and memory loss
    • Cataracts
    • Slow nail growth
    • Blood clots
    • Fatigue
    • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Kidney disease
    • Migraines
    • Raynaud’s syndrome
    • Excessive tooth decay
    • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Gluten sensitivity (including non-celiac) – although the oatmeal does not contain gluten, it is often grown in fields that had grains such as wheat and barley or in close proximity to current fields of wheat and barley, which contaminates the oats with gluten. This oatmeal contamination may create symptoms from mild to severe, which may include
    • IBS like cramping and bloating
    • Diarrhea
    • Skin problems such as rashes and seborrheic dermatitis and dermatitis herpetiformis
    • Brain fog
    • Joint pain and numbness in extremities
    • Endocrine disorders

How much is too much oatmeal?

Daily moderate consumption of oatmeal for extended periods of time can do more harm then good. The depletion of the minerals and vitamins by consuming too much oatmeal is a slow process. However, once the vitamin and mineral depletion has done the damage to a body, the recovery may not be as easy as normalizing the levels of the nutrients. Some conditions may become chronic and difficult to treat.

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