Yes, Oatmeal Is Perfectly Healthy to Have for Breakfast

Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN
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From Good Housekeeping

Whether you're making overnight oats or adding oats to your smoothie, you’re getting a nutrition powerhouse with some major health benefits. Oats and oatmeal are packed with fiber, protein, and tons of vitamins and minerals. They are such a versatile food and can be incorporated into practically any meal of the day. Oats are a staple in many pantries, and for good reason!

Oatmeal Nutrition Stats

Serving Size: ½ Cup Dry Quaker Old Fashioned Oats

  • 150 calories
  • 3g total fat
  • 0g cholesterol
  • 0g sodium
  • 27g carbohydrates
  • 4g dietary fiber
  • 1g total sugars
  • 0g added sugar
  • 5g protein
  • 0mcg vitamin D
  • 20mg calcium
  • 1.5mg iron
  • 150mg potassium
  • 0.2mg thiamin
  • 130mg phosphorus
  • 40mg magnesium

Health Benefits of Oatmeal

Heart Health

The soluble fiber in oats can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels by signaling the liver to pull that bad LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. A better LDL cholesterol level and lipid panel also puts you at reduced risk for developing heart disease. Additionally, more research is revealing that a type of compound known as avenanthramide (AVE) found in oats may play an important role in protecting the heart.

Blood Sugar Control

High-fiber foods can help slow the digestion of food in the intestine, which can help to keep blood sugars from rising very rapidly. Beta-glucan, which is a type of dietary fiber found in abundance in oats, may also help improve blood sugar control. Recent research suggests that oats intake has a beneficial effect on glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Fullness

The fiber in oats can help keep you full longer and enhance satiety, which is an important weight management tool. Just ½ cup of oats has at least 4 grams of fiber making it a great choice. Not only does the soluble fiber in oats help to reduce LDL cholesterol, but weight loss can lower LDL cholesterol as well which makes this a winning combination.

Digestive Health

Ideally, most Americans should be aiming for at least 25-30 grams of dietary fiber daily. Fiber is important for regulating bowel movements and can help relieve constipation. A ½ cup of raw oats is considered a good source of fiber and can help keep things moving.

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What Are the Different Types of Oats?

  • Old Fashioned Oats: Traditionally rolled, old fashioned oats are firm in texture and take about 5 minutes to cook on the stovetop or 2-3 minutes in the microwave.
  • Quick Oats: Rolled and cut, quick oats have a smooth texture and cook on the stovetop in 1 minute or about 1-2 minutes in the microwave.
  • Instant Oats: Finely cut, instant oats are prepared in the microwave in 90 seconds and have a soft texture.
  • Steel Cut Oats: Cut but not rolled, steel cut oats have a hearty texture and take about 25-30 minutes on the stovetop to cook. According to oatmeal experts at McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, steel cut oats are the least processed of oats whereas rolled oats are steamed and flattened and quick oats are further processed to decrease the cooking time.

Can Oatmeal Help You Lose Weight?

As part of a balanced diet, oatmeal can be a great weight loss tool. The fiber and protein content of oats can enhance satiety and keep you full. Plus, for the volume that you get with oats, the calories are relatively low coming in at only 150 calories for ½ cup dry oats which expands when cooked to yield 1 cup. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) suggests that individuals who eat oatmeal actually tend to be healthier in general and have a lower body weight compared to those who don’t eat oatmeal.

Are Oats Gluten-Free?

"What many people might not know is that oats are inherently gluten free, but may come in contact with wheat, rye and barley at the farm, in storage or during transportation,” said Kristin Harris, Ph.D., Senior Principal Scientist at Quaker. So it's best to look for specially marked gluten-free oats if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity.

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Unique Ways to Incorporate Oats Into Your Diet:

Instead of a plain bowl of oatmeal, try dressing oats up with these unique recipe ideas:

Savory Oatmeal: Oats aren’t just for breakfast, they can make for a delicious and hearty lunch or dinner too. Try adding sautéed kale, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and goat cheese to plain oats for a savory twist. Top with a fried egg for extra protein and you have a complete meal! These unusual oatmeal combinations are a total game changer.

Overnight Oats: A breakfast that requires no cooking? Sign me up! Overnight oats are practically effortless: just combine oats with your choice of milk/milk alternative, chia seeds, and fruit. Place them in a tightly sealed mason jar overnight and viola! You have a delicious, nutritionally balanced breakfast ready-to-go in the morning.

Crockpot Oats: This is a great version of overnight oats if you want to wake up to a nice warm bowl of oats in the morning. Since steel cut oats take a while to cook, they are perfect for slow cooker recipes. This easy make-ahead breakfast solution is hearty, warm, and flavorful. Take five minutes to add all of the ingredients to the crockpot before bed, then wake up to a big batch of delicious slow cooked oats for the entire week!

Smoothies: Does your smoothie leave you starving after an hour? Try adding in scoop of nutrient-dense oats. They blend well and add a good source of dietary fiber to your smoothie to keep you fuller for longer.

Oat Milk: If you have dairy allergies or intolerances, plant-based milks can be a total game changer. Oat milk is not only dairy-free but also nut-free which makes it school-safe. Naturally low in fat and cholesterol free, oat milk can be a great milk alternative.

Oat Flour: You can make your own oat flour at home by simply adding rolled oats to a blender and blending for about 15-20 seconds until you have a powdery fine flour. Oat flour typically works well in recipes that require a dense texture like pancakes or banana bread.

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