7 Reasons Oatmeal Is A Good for You Superfood

Published on January 09, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

January is National Oatmeal Month, and a great time to cozy up with a piping hot bowl of oatmeal goodness.

Plenty of experts and research tell us oatmeal is good for us, but is it good for everyone?

Should you eat it every day? 

What type of oatmeal is healthiest…and what about the carbs?

With all the conflicting opinions about modern nutrition, it’s hard to know what’s healthy and what’s not.

However, when it comes to oatmeal, the science is clear: oatmeal is very good for you and provides a variety of health benefits.

For starters, oats are naturally gluten-free*, high in fiber, and loaded with body-building nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

*Note: if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, always look for gluten-free oats. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they may become contaminated with gluten if processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing products like wheat, spelt, and rye.

In this article, we’ll look at the different types of oatmeals (and which ones are healthiest), share the top 7 health benefits of oatmeal, and discuss how to get more oats in your diet.

The Different Types of Oatmeal & Which are the Healthiest

Oats have been part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years. 

Per the Whole Grain Council, traces of wild oats were found in a cave occupied by paleolithic hunter-gatherers approximately 32,000 years ago. 

In the Jordan valley, over 120,000 wild red oat seeds were found at an 11,000-year-old Neolithic-era archaeological site.

They became a popular staple in Europe when the Romans brought the crop to the British Isles. 

Oat crops flourished in Western Europe, especially Scotland, where they became a staple part of the Scottish diet. The British reserved oat crops mostly for their horses but soon took to them as a nutritious and inexpensive breakfast staple.

Oats have endured the test of time as a nutritious, economical, and easy-to-make breakfast staple enjoyed by generations.

Today, oats are available in various forms, such as:

  • Groats: The hulled kernels of oats
  • Steel-cut oats: Groats that have been cut into smaller pieces
  • Rolled oats: Whole oats that have been steamed, rolled flat, and dried
  • Quick oats or instant oats: Whole oats that have been steamed, rolled flat, and dried but more intensely than rolled oats
  • Oat bran: The outer part of the whole oat groat
  • Oat flour: Ground-up oats used for baking, breading, thickening, and more.

All types of oats can be made into oatmeal or oat-based porridge.

So, which type of oats and oatmeal is the healthiest?

All types of oats are healthy thanks to their fiber and various nutrients.

However, the less processed groats and steel-cut oats have some additional benefits:REF#233REF#234

  • They’re lower in calories
  • They’re slightly higher in protein
  • They are somewhat lower in carbs
  • They can make you feel fuller and longer due to less processing
  • They have a slightly lower glycemic index scoreREF#235
  • And may contain more heat-sensitive nutrients due to their heat-free processing.

Plus, many brands of quick oats contain added sugar and artificial flavors, which degrades their health benefits.

The takeaway: all types of oatmeal are nutritious. 

However, if you’re counting calories or macros, have blood sugar issues, or are committed to eating the most nutrient-dense foods, groats or steel-cut oats may be the best option.

7 Health Benefits Of Eating Oatmeal

#1: Oatmeal is Nutritious

As previously mentioned, oatmeal contains a variety of nutrients, includingREF#233REF#234

  • Protein
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Various types of fiber (more on this coming up)
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium (a powerful antioxidant)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B1, Thiamin
  • Vitamin B5, Pantothenic acid
  • Folate
  • Iron—vegans, take note!
  • Zinc
  • Copper 
  • And other antioxidants

Add on a splash of your favorite milk, plant milk, or yogurt, a few tablespoons of hemp seeds or walnuts, and a handful of berries, and you’ve got yourself a super-tasty and nutrient-dense breakfast.

#2: Oatmeal Supports Gut Microbiome Health

If you’re concerned about gut and digestive health, oats should have a place at your table.

Oats contain gut-friendly fiber, which supports healthy elimination. 

Their fiber is also a source of beta glucans, a component of dietary fiber that causes oats to congeal when cooled.REF#236

The congealing effect of beta glucans helps coat the digestive tract and feed friendly gut bacteria, resulting in healthier microbiome diversity, strong immunity, and better digestion.REF#237

#3: Beta Glucans in Oatmeal Promote Normal Cholesterol and Heart Health

Research has proven that beta glucans aren’t just good for your gut but also your heart.

Per a 2021 Review published in the journal Foods titled: “A Review of Health-Beneficial Properties of Oats,” REF#236 beta-glucan is the main active compound in oats and has proven cholesterol-lowering effects. 

Regular consumption of oats has been shown to reduce serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers noted that unrefined and whole oat-based products are more effective in lowering cholesterol than processed oat products which disrupt the oat’s tissues.

Researchers found oat beta-glucans lower cholesterol by forming a viscous layer or film in the small intestine. This layer inhibits cholesterol uptake and increases bile acid's excretion by preventing reabsorption.

How much oatmeal should you eat to receive these benefits? 

Per the FDA, you need a minimum of 3 grams (or more) per day of beta-glucan-containing oat fiber to positively impact cholesterol and heart health. 

That’s about 1 ½ cups of cooked oatmeal daily.

#4: Oatmeal Contains Protective Antioxidants

When it comes to antioxidants, colorful fruits, vegetables, and superfoods typically get all the press. 

However, oatmeal contains a substantial amount of protective antioxidants. 

Pllant-based compounds, known as polyphenols, are rich in antioxidants called avenanthramides.

Avenanthramides exist almost exclusively in oats and have been shown to REF#236

  • Increase the production of nitric acid, which can lower blood pressure
  • Improve circulation and blood flow
  • Reduce inflammation and itching

Oatmeal also contains the mineral-antioxidant selenium, which is essential for various bodily functions, including:REF#237

  • The production of thyroid hormone
  • Immune function
  • Mood and cognitive processes
  • And cardiovascular health

Additional antioxidants in oatmeal include tocols (a component of vitamin E), phenolic compounds, and sterols.

#5: Oatmeal Helps Blood Sugar Balance

Maintaining blood sugar balance is essential to good health and preventing disease. 

Unfortunately, blood-sugar-related conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypoglycemia are becoming exceedingly common.

Per the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes rates are higher than they’ve ever been with:REF#238

  • 1 in 10 (10%) Americans have diabetes
    • Of those, about 1 in 5 (20%) have Type 2 diabetes, with 1 in 5 unaware they have it 
  • More than 1 in 3 (33%) Americans have prediabetes
    • More than 8 in 10 (80%) of adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

Diabetes is now the seventh most common cause of death in the United States and costs over 327 billion annually in medical expenses and lost wages.

The good news is research has shown certain types of blood sugar issues, such as Type 2 Diabetes, can often be prevented and/or controlled through lifestyle choices, such as diet.REF#239REF#240

Oatmeal can be a helpful ally as part of a healthy, prevention-based lifestyle.

Studies have shown oat beta glucans can support a healthy blood sugar response by slowing the digestion of starch REF#241REF#242, which prevents blood sugar spikes. 

The fiber in oatmeal also helps you feel fuller longer,REF#240 which can help keep blood sugar stable and prevent overeating, which can lead to blood sugar issues.

Oats have also shown promise in animal studies for reducing obesity, a risk factor for diabetes. Adding oats to the animals’ diet led to decreased body weight, fat accumulation, serum glucose and lipid levels, and improved gut microbiome composition.

Additionally, a 2016 study published in the journal Nutrients titled: “Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial”REF#243 studied the effects of 100 grams of oats daily on 298 subjects with Type 2 Diabetes.

Participants who consumed the oats had significant reductions in fasting and post-meal blood sugar compared to those who did not consume oats.

The group that ate the oats also had a more significant decrease in body weight. 

The researchers believe this was due to their diet's higher amount of beta-glucan.

The big takeaway: an impressive body of evidence suggests eating oatmeal daily may help control blood sugar.

#6: Oatmeal Contains Anti-Inflammatory Compounds

Grains are often demonized as an inflammatory food.

However, oats contain several anti-inflammatory compounds, including:REF#243

  • Avenanthramides
  • Beta glucans
  • Polyphenols

This partially explains why oats were used topically as a home remedy to stop itching from rashes. The avenanthramides and polyphenols have been shown to have an anti-itching effect.

Oats have even been shown safe and beneficial for those with celiac disease,REF#233 making them a genuinely non-inflammatory food.

In addition, the beta glucans’ positive effects on gut microbiota may help support a normal inflammatory response throughout the body.REF#245

#7: Eating Oatmeal May Help You Lose Weight

We’ve alluded to this in previous points, but there is evidence to support the use of oatmeal in promoting a healthy weight.

Oatmeal helps with weight in several ways, including:

  • It’s a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food
  • The fiber in oats slows digestion, helping you feel fuller longerREF#246
  • Oat beta glucans help promote a healthier gut microbiome, which may help reduce your risk of obesity
  • Oat fiber supports normal elimination, which reduces bloating
  • Oats help control blood sugar, which research has shown, can help you lose weightREF#243

    How to Make Eating Oats and Oatmeal More Fun 

    Oatmeal may be fantastic for your health, but it can be dull when served plain—especially if you plan on eating it daily.

    Here are some creative ways to make eating oatmeal more fun:

    • Switch it up by going savory. You can find recipes for savory oatmeal with tahini sauce, parmesan cheese, greens, fried eggs, and more for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
      • Bake and bread with oat flour. Oat flour is naturally gluten-free and can be used on its own or combined with other flours to create almost any baked good you can imagine. It’s also delicious as a breading agent or as a thickener in sauces.
    • Add leftover oatmeal to pancakes and waffles. You can typically add up to a cup without adjusting the recipe.
    • Add a few tablespoons of oats to thicken pureed soups. This technique can even replace the addition of cream if desired.
    • Go granola! Look for low-sugar varieties of granola, or make your own using whole organic rolled oats, natural sweeteners, shredded coconut, whole nuts and seeds, and healthy oils.
    • Make some muesli. This European version of granola combines lightly toasted oats with nuts, dried fruit, and low-sugar cereal. It’s also easy to make at home.

    These are a few of the many ways to incorporate more oats into your diet. Celebrate National Oatmeal Month with a bowl of deliciously filling and hearty oatmeal for breakfast!


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