Health & Wellness

Did You Really Think Oatmeal Was Actually Good For You?

Is Oatmeal good for you

What is Oatmeal?
Oatmeal is one of those foods we all sort of know is good for us even if we don’t really know why.

It’s generally eaten at breakfast time, and without trying to state the obvious, it’s (or at least should be) just oats added to boiling water and/or milk.

The oats can be prepared in a variety of ways, rolled oats (where the oats have been rolled into flat flakes then steamed and toasted) being the most common, but steel-cut oats (where the whole grain inner portion of the oat kernel is cut into pieces) are also regularly seen, and are sometimes considered to be healthier.

Most of the oats we buy has been at least partially cooked since raw oats could take up to an hour to cook.

Is Oatmeal Good For You?

Other than the partial cooking, the oats won’t have been artificially processed or stripped of any goodness which means oatmeal remains a whole grain, keeping its germ and bran.

It also contains a number of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, which assists cell production and growth, and thiamine, which supports the functions of muscles and nerves, and helps metabolise carbohydrates.

Oatmeal is also a source of antioxidants, protein, iron, fiber, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.

The Health Benefits of Oatmeal

Other than its vitamin and mineral content, oatmeal is reported to reduce the risk of a couple of serious health problems: heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

Many studies (1,2) have looked into oatmeal’s effect on cholesterol, and the findings show that eating oatmeal on a daily basis can help reduce bad cholesterol, LDL, while leaving good cholesterol, HDL, unchanged.

It does this by binding to the bad cholesterol and removing it from the system. This has a knock-out effect on the risk of heart disease as it can reduce the risk of clogged arteries.

As a result of these studies’ findings, the American Food and Drug Administration permits oatmeal packaging to state that it can help reduce risk of heart disease.

Reducing bad cholesterol whilst maintaining high levels of good cholesterol also has an effect on the development of type-2 diabetes (3), as many people who develop diabetes show the reverse pattern: low levels of good cholesterol with concurrent high levels of bad cholesterol.

So, whether you are considered ‘at risk’ of developing diabetes or not, daily oatmeal can help prevent or daily its development.


A secondary benefit oatmeal has for individuals with diabetes is its levels of soluble fiber.

Oats contain more soluble fiber than wheat, corn or rice. Soluble fiber slows digestion allowing you to feel full for longer, helping to control your eating.

Slower digestion can also help stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent a sudden rise after eating, both of which are beneficial to diabetes sufferers. It is the soluble fiber in oatmeal that also helps reduce blood pressure in those that eat it.

Portion Size and Serving Suggestions

The recommended portion size for rolled oats is between ½ – ¾ cups, and less for steel-cut oats. These can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave, or baked in the oven, and it generally takes under 10 minutes.

This is as most oats have been partially cooked before packaging, as said before, raw oats will take up to an hour to cook.
Many people aren’t particularly keen on the taste of oatmeal, and this may prevent them making this healthy breakfast part of their daily routine. Luckily there are plenty of ways to spice up oatmeal, some healthier than others.

Adding fruit is an obvious option, bananas or berries are excellent choices, as are dried fruits and coconut.

Adding chopped nuts is another healthy addition to oatmeal, or try a couple of spoons of granola or dried cereal. For soft or sweet options you could try jam, maple syrup, cinnamon, stevia or yogurt. Remember though that this is supposed to be a healthy meal, don’t undo your good work!

The same goes for those who prefer to add milk to their oatmeal rather than water, try using low fat milk or cook it with water than add a bit of milk at the end for taste.

Is Instant Oatmeal Good For You?

Nowadays plenty of companies sell instant oatmeal, the benefit of it being that it has a cooking time of 1-2 minutes.

But, what are the other differences, and is it still good for you?

Well, instant oatmeal is very similar to rolled oats, only the pieces have been very thinly rolled and cut into small pieces before steaming. The problems with instant oatmeal is that many of the products commercially available contain artificial flavourings and preservatives, as well as salt and sugar.

It may take some detective work to find a variety that’s free of these, look for ‘regular’ flavour oatmeal as a starting point.

Some instant oatmeal varieties may actually have added health benefits when compared to regular oatmeal. For example, oat flour is sometimes added, and this increases protein and fiber levels.

Calcium Carbonate can be added too, giving instant oatmeal a higher calcium content, and sometimes vitamins are also artificially added.

Some people won’t like this sounds of this because it’s not natural, only you can decide what’s best for you, but remember that almost all oats you buy will have been pre-cooked to some level as otherwise the home cooking time becomes ridiculously long.

For me, the main difference is in taste and texture; regular oatmeal is definitely a more satisfying breakfast, and if you don’t have time to prepare it each morning, try cooking a batch one day then covering and storing in the refrigerator, it can last up to four days like this.

Word of Warning

It seems then that eating oatmeal every day can support weight loss by helping stave off hunger.

However, one study (4) found that people eating oatmeal each morning put on weight. Further investigation found that the participants were adding sugar to their oatmeal, eating large portions and having mid-morning snacks on top. Indeed, many people suggest 1 ½ cups of oatmeal as a portion, which is well above what’s recommended.

(1)Jenkins, D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2005; vol 81:pp 380-87
(2)American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2002; 76(2):351-8
(3)Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, February 2008; 116(2):132-4

(Photo: nate steiner. via flickr/CC Attribution)

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 18

  • Thank you for the good article. I wasn’t so sure about oats but I’ll definitely be having them for breakfast.

  • I have Quaker Oats for breakfast (1/2cup oats). I make it with 1 cup of vanilla soy milk so I don’t have to add anything for flavor. Am I counteracting the healthiness? Sometimes I add a teaspoon of brown sugar if I’m feeling naughty. I eat this after doing Insanity or T25 by Beachbody.

    • Do some research on phytic acids; I strongly urge you to limit your consumption of oats. Diets high in phytic acid can impair your bones & oral health

        • Yea oatmeal is good for you. Especially compared to what most people have for breakfast. Oats come from the ground, there is nothing wrong with them.

  • Is the recommended portion size cooked or pre-cooked? I just learned that I’m a Type 2 and trying to adjust my diet.

    • Diana, if you are type II I hope you realize, that though oatmeal is a healthier option than sugar cereal. It will still cause major blood sugar spikes, and leave you feeling hungry shortly after eating. If you must combine with some nuts, or yogurt. Better yet,have an egg or two, and some yogurt. Ditch the grains, I watched my insulin usage go down by almost 30%!!

      • I’m reading the exact opposite. That oatmeal digests slowly, keeping you feeling full longer and staving off the blood sugar spikes. I wonder why there is such conflicting info online. :/

        This is my oatmeal recipe/routine:
        In a protein shaker/blender bottle I add 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 1/4 cups water, 1tblsp black chia seed, 1 1/2 tblsp of PB2 (powdered peanut butter). Stir it all up and let it soak overnight (this is so the chia seed soaks up water, they do not digest well if you do not soak them first). In the morning I stir it, microwave it for 90 seconds, stir it up and slice up a small banana and mix it in. This keeps me full until lunch and runs around 300 calories. Lots of fiber and its yummy ;)

  • I have type 2 diabetes I have been eating oakmeal every morning for the last month my blood sugar has been Between 97 and 126

  • Fellas i’ve been eating oatmeal 4 so long i don’t even remember. My job requires energy i sweat like crazy till i finish. Guess what is my main source of energy . . .yep Oatmeal, in fact (2) 500ml or 17 oz bottles of blended Oatmeal, banana need potasium, super green food, spirulina and grapes, that is 4 normal day of work , on weekends my breakfast goes just smoothie oat meal with spirulina. IF U want 2 add any sugar U better go get McDonadls

  • I wonder what is a cup… Have you been informed that there is a metric system? Litre, it’s multiples and submultiples it will be more accurate. But you also have the kilogram, it’s multiple and submultiples.

  • Steel cut COOKED oatmeal is the healthiest for you…it’s au natural. READ what’s in the prepared “instant” packed and flavored oatmeals sold by Quaker and others. It’s pretty scary stuff. Add fresh, organic fruit (blueberries, etc.) or raw flax seed, which is excellent. If you must add sugar, make it honey or agave nectar. There is an amber agave nectar which adds a more maple like flavor and it’s pretty good as well as healthier for you than other sweeteners.

  • So you write an article with a title that implies oats are unhealthy, only say they are health. Nice bait and switch scare tactic….

  • I love oatmeal! You can eat it every day and not get bored, because there’s so many ways to flavor it. Any fruit, blueberry, apple and cinnamon, raisin, craisin – and I really like to make my own “cinnamon roll” flavor, too!

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