Is oatmeal healthy?
As a registered dietician, I get a lot of questions about whether oatmeal is really healthy. Let's dig into the science and uncover the real food truth about oatmeal!
How does eating oatmeal every day affect your weight?
Eating oatmeal alone would not have negative consequences such as weight gain, for most people. Current guidelines recommend 25-35 grams of fiber daily. On average, one serving of oatmeal contains 3-6 grams of fiber. Fiber plays a role in helping to evacuate cholesterol, promotes regular bowel movements, helps stabilize glucose and insulin levels, reduces cancer risk, and helps us feel “full” - also known as satiety.
How does eating oatmeal affect your gut health?
Whole oats are a great source of beta-glucan fiber, a resistant starch. Beta-glucan from oats has been linked to an increased abundance of healthy gut bacteria.
Not all resistant starch is digested in the small intestine and is instead fermented in the large intestine, which creates short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are common bacterial metabolites. They are byproducts produced by our gut bacteria.
A diet rich in fiber will feed gut bacteria and the gut bacteria produce SCFAs as a byproduct. This is arguably one of the most important features of the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microbiome that inhabits their digestive tract. SCFAs play several important roles inside the gut, such as:
They act as a preferred fuel source for the cells lining the large intestine.
They promote the growth of new cells and repair those cells that have been damaged.
They have profound anti-inflammatory properties.
SCFAs improve and correct intestinal permeability by stimulating mucus production.
Emerging evidence suggests that they can improve glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity and may promote satiety.
SCFAs are butyrate, acetate, and propionate which make up 90-95% of SCFAs in the colon. People who have low SCFAs may experience:
Gut Dysbiosis (aka: leaky Gut)
The good news is that there are ways to increase SCFAs, and the best way is through your diet. Most of
these bacteria are anaerobic and cannot be supplemented with probiotics. Remember, your bacteria eat what you eat, thus the goal should be to increase the bacteria that produce SCFAs to indirectly increase SCFAs in the colon.
Are there positive advantages to eating oatmeal every day?
I would never recommend consuming the same foods every day. Eating the same foods regularly can cause food sensitivities to develop. Approximately 1 out of 7 Americans have food sensitivities they are not even aware of. That is why diversity in the diet is key. However, I would recommend consuming 25-35 grams of fiber daily.
Does it matter what kind of oatmeal you eat?
Instant oatmeal is processed (some more than others). As a result, it is likely to raise blood sugar more quickly than whole-grain oats. In addition, many instant oatmeals have added sugars. Studies have shown that people are not as hungry as quickly when consuming instant oatmeal versus cold cereal oats.
Instant oats and quick oats are some of the most popular types of oats available today. These products are slightly thinner compared to rolled oats, so you can cook them very fast; however instant oats have been fully pre-cooked, dried, and ground into a meal so that they are ready to eat when topped with boiling hot water.
Generally speaking, all types of oats are healthy. In other words, you can choose the overnight oats whether the oats are blended into smoothies, added to baked goods, or batters.
What's the healthiest type of oatmeal?
I recommend looking for brands that specify steel-cut or rolled oats because they are less processed. Then, make sure you check the added sugars on the back. Some brands have up to 24 grams of added sugar, some brands have 0. I would look for brands that contain 0-9 grams of added sugar, at least 3 grams of fiber, and 150-250 calories per serving.
A few good oatmeal brands include:
“Mush” Overnight oats
Natures Path Organic Hot Oatmeal
Why do I get bloated when I eat oatmeal?
If you are new to consuming a high-fiber diet (including oats), you may experience some bloating. Oats are a complex carbohydrate that has starch and fiber. Bacteria in the gut or large intestine can lead to gas and bloating. That is why is best to gradually increase your fiber intake to 25-35 grams daily.
Can I get healthy by eating oatmeal?
A healthy diet with vast diversity can help people have more energy, which leads to more exercise which can lead to better sleep and overall general health. But, it is never going to be just “one thing” that is going to make a person “healthy”. Not yoga, not a certain food, not a certain exercise. Being healthy requires a variety of activities, getting outdoors, eating a variety of foods, and adequate sleep to name a few things.