Is Oatmeal Healthy? - The Living Well

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Is Oatmeal Healthy?

Oatmeal is a conflicting topic with some touting its benefits and others leaving it in the dust. So where does oatmeal stand and is it healthy?

a bowl of dried rolled oats with chia seeds

Is oatmeal healthy?

That depends on who you ask. And it also depends on each specific body. Even the research is conflicting, whether it’s based on carbohydrates or grains, it makes it confusing to understand where oatmeal falls into the world of health.

Like everything, the health category of oatmeal depends on:

  1. How your body uses it. 
  2. How you pair it or layer it with other foods. 
  3. The time of day you eat it. 

Let’s cut to the chase and break down the truth about how healthy oatmeal is.

What the research says.

The research is split. Food companies would like you to believe that oatmeal has ‘cholesterol-lowering benefits’ while 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 look at oatmeal in itself, here’s what we could find.

Cons to eating oatmeal.

Let’s 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. Includes phytic acid, which has been studied to strip your body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals in the oats.
  2. It is a high starch or high carbohydrate food. So, in the end, yes, oats can spike your blood sugar, putting you on a “sugar-high” your body doesn’t necessarily agree with. This could potentially cause excess weight gain.
  3. It is a bland food that 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 believe there are no pros. But to create a realistic and simplistic approach to life, I don’t think it’s fair to discount a food without looking at the full story. Not to mention, it is potentially better than the majority of breakfast foods on the market.

Here are the pros:

  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, linking them to potentially reducing cholesterol and diabetes. 
  2. It contains a decent nutritional profile. Considering oats are not a form of produce {fruit or vegetables}, oats have a nutritional profile to look at. Definitely not one to toss out because of the carbohydrate load alone.
  3. They are versatile. There are countless ways to use oats or oat flour from breakfast to dinner. They make a great base for many healthy recipes that can simplify your diet.
  4. They are quick and easy. This is quite possibly the biggest reason I keep oats at home {especially true with children}. 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 are a pantry staple in our house.
a bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries and pecans

Should you eat oats?

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 important to note the cons given that oats are not an end all be all. The most important factor is listening to your body. How does it respond to a bowl of oats? 

If you feel inflamed, become excessively gassy, or feel exhausted after you eat them, it’s probably best to skip them, at least for the time being. 

If you’re worried about your weight, I promise you a bowl of oats a few times a week is not the culprit. 

But the secret to making oats healthy is not eating them alone or with a heaping mound of sugar.

The addition of too much sugar is where people go wrong.

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

What kind of oats should you eat?

If you dig into the nutrition difference between instant, rolled, old-fashioned or steel-cut, you’ll only find slight variations. In my opinion, it’s not worth worrying about. Eat the type you like. How you pair it is the essential element. 

The best way to eat oats.

Like all foods, the best way to prepare a bowl of oats or consume them is in addition to a healthy source of protein and fat—the staples of a well-rounded meal. 

Without protein and fat, oats are quickly digested and don’t leave you full for long. 

If you’re making oats try adding these ingredients to boost satiety and nourishment:

Healthy fat additions:

a jar of oatmeal

Try this quick hack.

The easiest way to make oatmeal healthy and convenient is to up-level regular oatmeal to store for future use. Here is the recipe I use:

  • 6 cups old-fashioned gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 cup flax meal
  • 1/2 cup Collagen Powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix it up and store it in an airtight container. 

When you’re ready to make a warm bowl of oatmeal, add your preferred liquid, whether water or milk, in a 1:2 ratio. Once it’s warmed, add in fruit, healthy fats, and a sweetener, or keep it savory with some wilted spinach, salsa, and a soft-boiled egg. 

The question is, do you prefer sweet or savory oatmeal!

  1. Dorothy Gordon says:

    Thanks very much. This will help to cut down the time to put all the ingredients together each time you need to prepare the dish.

  2. Kasey says:

    I’m looking for your original muesli recipe. Where can I find it?

  3. Jay says:

    Thank you for a brilliant explanation, really helpful.
    I am now aware of the right way and mix of eating oats. I love adding pistachios and almonds which I suppose is a good source of proteins and fats, surprisingly you haven’t mentioned nuts albeit some people might have allergies to it. Am I doing something wrong??
    No disrespect, ” milk in a 1:2 radio” made my day

  4. Dave hawkins says:

    I am now 82.. used to be Welter weight.. now I’m at bantam weight.. don’t think it is just age..
    Have frequent constipation .. have to make sure fiber large part of my diet while trying to gain back weight..
    Think I still get plenty of exercise.. have home gym and a cattle operation which gives plenty of running, lifting , and stretching, etc.. I prefer oats for breakfast, but need to eat high fiber cold cereal..

    Any advice??????
    Thanks

    I p

    • Alexa Schirm says:

      You could always add a high-fiber addition like flax meal, chia seeds, or psyllium husks to your oats. All of those would add a significant amount of natural fiber. We hope this helps!

  5. Lorie says:

    Hello!! I love this article… I use oats like a carb load before working out. It cuts down on overall fatigue during working out and keeps me from compensation eating. I make up the standard refrigerator oat meal with 1 cup of plain unsweetened yogurt, 1 cup of 2 percent milk and 2 cups of whole rolled oats. 3 heaping tablespoons per container and when I eat it, I add 1 teaspoon of raw honey, 1/4 cup of dried cranberries and pecans (my favorite) or 1/4 cup of fresh fruit and 2 tablespoons of nuts/seeds that I have on hand. I have known the benefit of this concoction eaten everyday before I leave for the gym.
    I love the idea of the coconut!!
    Many blessing to you!

  6. Irene says:

    I just started taking oats, to help with constipation. I would add oats into my hot drink for breakfast , followed by half boiled eggs & whole meal bread. A friend was telling me having oats with bread may not be a good. Can you please advise.

    • Alexa Schirm says:

      Oats with bread can be a lot on the system. Some would argue that the fibers and starches compete in the body and create a bit of a GI storm. However, this is very individualized so if you feel like it is going well, then listen to that. But if you feel like you are bloating or the constipation is worsening then stop. I am always a fan of food rotation to supply the maximum nutrients without overload on the body. I hope this helps. Let us know if you have further questions!

  7. Tambra Trujillo says:

    I usually toast oats in a medium frying pan with a little olive oil. When the oats are almost toasted (be careful not to burn them) I add some pecans. After they’re cooled I add some dried cranberries. I like to add 1/2 cup to some plain yogurt.

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