Right alongside bagels, eggs and cereal, oatmeal is one of the most popular breakfast foods on the planet. In addition to packing an impressive punch of oatmeal nutrition into each serving, it has also been linked to increased weight loss, reduced cholesterol levels, better blood sugar control and more.
Not only that, but oats are gluten-free and a highly versatile ingredient that can be prepared, used and enjoyed in a variety of different ways.
So is oatmeal good for you, or are the health benefits little more than hype? This article will take a closer look at the potential oatmeal benefits and disadvantages, along with some easy ways to include it in your diet.
What Is Oatmeal?
Oatmeal is a common ingredient made from oat groats that have been either ground, cut or rolled to improve the texture and reduce the cooking time.
Some of the most common types of oatmeal include:
- Steel-cut oatmeal: This type of oat is the least processed, meaning that it retains more fiber than other varieties.
- Rolled oats: Also known as quick, old-fashioned or instant oatmeal, rolled oats cook much more quickly than steel-cut oats.
- Ground oats: These oats have been ground up to form oat flour, which can be added to baked goods and desserts.
Oat groats can also be consumed, but they need to be soaked overnight to help soften them up. Compared to other types of oats, the oat groats nutrition profile is even more concentrated as it contains all three parts of the grain, including germ, endosperm and oat bran nutrition.
In the U.S., oatmeal is usually served as a porridge cooked with water, milk or cream. Other ingredients are also often added, such as sugar, honey, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon or fruit.
Oats are also considered a breakfast staple in Scotland because they are well-suited for the unique growing conditions of the country. In Scotland, oats are typically ground up and used to make gruel, porridge, black pudding, haggis or oatcakes.
In Nordic regions like Finland, Denmark and Iceland, oats are also commonly consumed as either a salty or sweet type of porridge.
Benefits of Oatmeal
1. Can Help Reduce Cholesterol
Thanks to the presence of a specific type of fiber known as beta glucan, oats may help reduce cholesterol levels by promoting the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile out of the body.
One large review of 28 trials found that adding at least three grams of beta glucan to the diet was effective at reducing levels of both total and bad LDL cholesterol without affecting beneficial HDL cholesterol. Other research shows that beta glucan could also help decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
In addition, a 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials concluded, “Overall, the results from our analysis demonstrated that dietary consumption of oat beta-glucan may significantly reduce the level of [total cholesterol] and LDL [cholsterol] in patients with hypercholesterolemia.”
2. Supports Weight Loss
Thanks to their status as a high-fiber food and the low amount of oatmeal calories found in each serving, many studies show that regular consumption of oats benefits weight loss.
For example, a 2016 study published in Nutrients found that consuming 50–100 grams of oats daily led to significant weight loss in participants with type 2 diabetes over a one-year period. Similarly, another study showed that eating oatmeal helped promote feelings of fullness and reduced hunger, appetite and food intake to a greater extent than a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal.
For further proof, a 2023 review noted, “Many observational and clinical studies prove that oats have a positive effect on anthropometric measures like BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, lipid profile, total cholesterol, weight, appetite, and blood pressure.” Ultimately, the study authors came to the conclusion that “results of various studies revealed the therapeutic potentials of oats for body weight management, appetite control, strengthening the immune system, lowering serum cholesterol, and gut microbiota promotion by increased production of short-chain fatty acids.
3. Can Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
With four grams of fiber in each one-cup serving, adding oatmeal to your diet can help keep blood sugar levels steady to prevent spikes and crashes after meals. Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar in the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels and deliver a steady stream of fuel to the cells.
A number of studies have found a link between increased oat consumption and better blood sugar control. For instance, a 2015 review of 16 studies reported that oats were effective at reducing fasting blood sugar as well as levels of hemoglobin A1C, a marker used to measure long-term blood sugar control. Other research suggests that oats may also help enhance insulin sensitivity, improving your body’s ability to use this important hormone to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Meanwhile, a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nutrients unearthed evidence that oat intake (including by eating oatmeal) is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
4. Rich in Antioxidants
In addition to supplying a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals, the oatmeal nutrition profile also boasts a good amount of antioxidants in each serving as well. In particular, oats are a great source of avenanthramides, which are a type of polyphenol that act as antioxidants in the body.
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals to protect against oxidative cell damage and disease. In fact, studies show that antioxidants may aid in the prevention of many chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
5. Promotes Regularity
Oats are rich in fiber, which plays a central role in digestive health. Fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, adding bulk to the stool to prevent constipation and support regularity.
According to a 2012 review published in World Journal of Gastroenterology, increasing fiber intake can be an effective strategy to increase stool frequency in those with constipation. Fiber may protect against other digestive issues as well, and research suggests that it could also be beneficial against conditions like hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, stomach ulcers and acid reflux.
A 2020 pilot and feasibility study examined the effects of oatmeal consumption in children to assess markers of bowel function. Researchers found that:
A significant decrease in reports of incomplete evacuations of bowel movements was seen in the second week of oatmeal consumption compared with the baseline (P = .01). Self-reported stool frequency was significantly increased from baseline to both weeks 1 and 2 of oatmeal consumption (P = .02 and P = .007, respectively).
6. May Relieve Skin Problems
Taking an oatmeal bath is a common natural remedy used to soothe itchy or irritated skin. Recently, oat-based skin products have also started popping up all over the market, thanks to their ability to relieve inflammation and treat conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Colloidal oat extract, in particular, is an ingredient produced by grinding oats into a fine powder and then processing them to extract the colloidal material. Studies show that colloidal oatmeal can help reduce markers of inflammation and improve skin health by decreasing symptoms like scaliness, itching, roughness and dryness.
Oatmeal Nutrition Facts
Take one look at the oatmeal nutrition data and it’s easy to see why these power-packed whole grains are so stellar for your health. Not only does each serving contain a low amount of oatmeal calories, but oats are also a great source of fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients, like manganese, selenium and phosphorus.
A one-cup serving of cooked oatmeal nutrition (about 234 grams) contains approximately:
- Calories: 166
- Total Carbohydrates: 28.1 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Sugar: 0.6 g
- Total Fat: 3.6 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.7 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.3 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Protein: 5.9 g
- Sodium: 9.4 mg (0.4% DV*)
- Manganese: 1.4 mg (61% DV)
- Selenium: 12.6 mcg (23% DV)
- Copper: 0.2 mg (22% DV)
- Zinc: 2.3 mg (21% DV)
- Thiamine: 0.2 mg (17% DV)
- Magnesium: 63.2 mg (15% DV)
- Phosphorus: 180 mg (14% DV)
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.7 mg (14% DV)
- Iron: 2.1 mg (12% DV)
- Potassium: 164 mg (3% DV)
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
In addition to the nutrients listed above, oatmeal nutrition also contains a small amount of folate, niacin, calcium and riboflavin.
How to Make It (Recipes)
There are plenty of options for how to enjoy this healthy whole grain.
The most common way to prepare oatmeal is to heat water or milk in the microwave or on the stove before combining with oats. Most recommend using a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats, but you can easily adjust this based on your personal taste and preferences.
Once your oatmeal is cooked, you can start topping it off with your choice of fruits, nut butters, herbs, spices and seasonings to ramp up the flavor and add a hint of sweetness.
Need some more inspiration? Whether you’re looking for a creative yet healthy oatmeal recipe or detailed instructions for how to make oatmeal on the stove, there are tons of oatmeal recipe ideas out there to help get you started.
Here are a few interesting oatmeal recipes that you can try at home:
- Overnight Oatmeal
- Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
- Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
- Basic Oatmeal Recipe
- Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
- Gluten-Free Oatmeal
Risk and Side Effects
Despite the many benefits of oatmeal nutrition, there a few downsides to consider as well.
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that not all oats are created equal. In fact, highly processed oat-based products with added flavors and sweeteners may not boast the same health benefits as regular oats.
Many people also wonder: Is oatmeal gluten-free? While oats are naturally gluten-free, many oat-based products are produced in facilities where wheat, barley and rye are also processed, which can increase the risk of cross-contamination.
Therefore, if you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, it’s important to select oats that are certified gluten-free whenever possible.
Finally, note that increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods too quickly can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas and constipation. There are nearly 11 grams of fiber in the uncooked oats nutrition profile per 100 grams, and each one-cup serving of cooked oats contains around four grams.
For this reason, it’s best to increase your intake gradually, and be sure to drink plenty of water to help keep things moving through the digestive tract.
- Oatmeal is a common ingredient made from oats that have been rolled, ground or cut to improve the texture and speed up the cooking time.
- The oatmeal nutrition profile boasts a good amount of protein and fiber, plus antioxidants and important micronutrients like manganese and selenium.
- Some of the potential benefits of oatmeal nutrition include increased weight loss, reduced cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control. Research also shows that oatmeal benefits skin health and digestion.
- Is oatmeal gluten-free? Although oats are naturally gluten-free, many types are processed in facilities where gluten-containing ingredients are produced as well, which can increase the risk of cross-contamination.
- Furthermore, keep in mind that highly processed forms of oatmeal are often pumped full of additives, flavorings and artificial sweeteners and may not carry the same health benefits as regular oats.
- There are tons of oatmeal recipes out there, along with detailed instructions on how to make oatmeal with milk, water or other ingredients as well.
- With so many options for how to customize this classic breakfast staple, oatmeal can be a versatile, nutritious and delicious addition to just about any diet.