Written by Lukas Lengauer, BSc on December 18, 2019

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is considered healthy because it is rich in fiber and micronutrients. Therefore many people eat it daily for breakfast or as a snack.

But has oatmeal other ingredients that make it particularly recommendable? In this article we look at this and some other facts.

What exactly is oatmeal?

Oatmeal is a staple food that many people eat for breakfast. As their name suggests, they are obtained from a grain called oats.

Per 100g oatmeal contains around 13.5 grams of protein, 58.7 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat. Most of the fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids, which should make up about two thirds of your daily fat intake. In addition to the macronutrients mentioned above, oatmeal provides 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams, which is quite good for a cereal.

The final product is always made from the whole grain. Oatmeal is therefore always whole grain, even if it is stated on the package that it is fast cooking oatmeal.

During production, the oat is treated for several hours with steam and other heat, which gives the end product its classic, slightly nutty aroma.

Oatmeal is heat treated because otherwise it would become rancid due to the oxidation of the fatty acids. All in all, it would have a bad taste and would not be healthy if it not heat treated.

In general, oatmeal is a processed food, but compared to other cereal products it is still very natural because it consists of nothing but oats.

Why is oatmeal healthy?

If you’ve ever googled the term “oatmeal” on the Internet, you’ve probably noticed that many magazines and blogs report about it.

Headlines like these are not uncommon:

Oatmeal has many healthy ingredients and can lower cholesterol levels.

Oatmeal is extremely healthy and should definitely be included in your daily muesli.

Oats are one of the healthiest grains in the world.

Oatmeal: The Powerfood, which you should have for breakfast every day

But what are the reasons for these statements? Is this food really as healthy as everyone claims?

Below we look at various scientific facts about oatmeal that show why it is so healthy.

1.) Oatmeal contains a lot of fiber

For every 100 grams, oatmeal provides 10 grams of fiber. This makes them one of the cereals with the highest fiber content.

One of the plant substances contained is also a rather special one: The so-called beta glucan.

This dietary fiber is soluble and ensures, among other things, that oatmeal thickens so much when you cook it. Anyone who has ever prepared porridge knows what I mean.

Scientific studies have already shown that beta glucan has numerous positive  health effects.

Among other things this includes:

1.) A reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”). The beta glucan causes us to excrete more bile acids. Since the bile acids also contain cholesterol, it is simply excreted.

2.) A strong effect on satiety, which can be used effectively against hunger when you want to lose weight. This effect can be explained by the fact that oatmeal binds a lot of liquid and thereby increases its volume considerably.

3.) A reduction in blood sugar levels and a reduced insulin secretion after eating.

4.) As a soluble dietary fiber, beta glucan is broken down by our intestinal bacteria. This can contribute to the growth of gut friendly bacteria.

2.) Oatmeal contains very high amounts of various micronutrients

In addition to fiber, oatmeal is also rich in micronutrients. Among the micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and trace elements, which are known to be very important for various body functions.

According to Nutritiondata, 100g of oatmeal contains:

  • 51% of the daily requirement of vitamin B1
  • 14% of the daily requirement of folic acid
  • 13% of the daily requirement of pantothenic acid
  • 26% of the daily iron requirement
  • 44% of the daily requirement of magnesium
  • 52% of the daily phosphorus requirement
  • 26% of the daily zinc requirement
  • 246% of the daily requirement of manganese
  • 31% of the daily copper requirement

All in all, you can quickly see that oatmeal provides a multitude of important micronutrients. They even contain so much of some vitamins and minerals that one can easily cover the entire daily requirement with one or two other foods.

In addition to the listed ingredients, oatmeal also contains phytic acid, which makes the minerals slightly less available. However, this does not change the fact that oatmeal remains a very good source of minerals, as the quantities contained are pretty good.

3.) Oatmeal contains special antioxidants

The term antioxidants refers to chemical compounds that can counteract so-called oxidation. Among other things, they protect us against free radicals.

In addition to fruit, vegetables and other foods, oatmeal also contains antioxidants. They even contain special antioxidants, the so-called avenanthramids.

According to a scientific study, these avenanthramids have anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, they also seem to work against itching.

The avenanthramides could also play a role in the prevention of atherosclerosis together with the cholesterol-lowering effect.

However, the listed studies are not studies with humans. We still must wait for really meaningful results on the antioxidants from oatmeal, even if the first results sound very promising.

4.) Oatmeal can be used effectively against constipation

Only in recent years it has become known how important it is to have a healthy intestine. Due to their positive effect on our gut bacteria oatmeal is one of the best foods you can eat in this regard. In addition, they may also help with constipation.

The so-called oat bran was successfully used for this purpose in a study. Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat grain, which is also contained in oatmeal.

The participants of the study, who had previously taken laxative medication, were able to completely stop taking it thanks to the consumption of oat bran. This is a very desirable effect, as one should only take medication when it is really necessary.

Since oat bran and oatmeal have similar ingredients, they will both have a similar effect on digestion. However, it should be noted that oat bran contains significantly more fiber and beta glucan. Therefore, this effect would require more oatmeal than oat bran.

Is oatmeal unhealthy?

As we have just seen, oatmeal can certainly be classified as healthy. But does it also have any disadvantages or can it even be unhealthy for certain people?

Actually, no, unless you have an intolerance or allergy against oats.

Some people also find, that eating oatmeal leads to a spike in blood sugar levels, which can cause cravings. However, this effect does not occur in all people by and also contradicts the study mentioned above.

People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should avoid oatmeal, as we will discuss in a second.

Some people may experience gastrointestinal problems when eating uncooked oatmeal. This is because they are not easy to digest uncooked, which is especially true for old fashioned oats. However, by cooking or soaking them beforehand, this problem can easily be avoided in the majority of cases.

In summary, it can be said that the negative effects of oatmeal are very limited and they are only unhealthy for certain people.

If you are healthy and you are not doing a strict low carb diet, oatmeal is a suitable food for your daily diet that provides many important nutrients.

Is oatmeal gluten free?

Gluten should be strictly avoided by people who suffer from celiac disease. Otherwise, a strong reaction can occur, which is very unpleasant for those affected.

Since gluten is contained in many cereals, celiac patients often look for alternatives. Oatmeal itself does not contain gluten, but it contains avenin. This is a protein that is quite similar to gluten.

International Celiac Disease Societies therefore recommend that those affected avoid oatmeal and other products containing oats.

For all those who do not have celiac disease, avenin from oats is not problematic.

Calories and nutritional values

Per 100 grams oatmeal contains on average:

  • 372 calories
  • 13,5g protein
  • 58.7g carbohydrates, of which 0.7g are sugars
  • 7,0g fat
  • 10,0g Dietary fiber

Considering the high content of micronutrients and the other positive effects oatmeal can have, these nutritional values are definitely very good.

Other cereals, which provide significantly less micronutrients, often contain a similar number of calories per 100 grams.

The oatmeal diet – good or nonsense?

Just as with potatoes, there is also a diet with oatmeal, where you mainly eat this food.

However, we must advise against the oatmeal diet for the following reasons:

1.) Unbalanced nutrition

It is true that oatmeal is healthy, but it should not make up your entire food intake.

For a healthy diet it is important to eat many different foods. Otherwise, certain nutrients may be absorbed in too small amounts.

Especially with monotonous diets such as the oatmeal diet, this occurs relatively frequently, which is why we can’t recommended it.

2.) You’ll hate oatmeal after the diet

Maybe you know this: A food tastes extremely good to you and therefore you incorporate it into your daily diet. Maybe you even eat it several times a week.

But at some point, you are fed up with it and can no longer eat any more of it.

If you do the oatmeal diet, you can be sure that this phenomenon will sooner or later occur. All in all, this very negative.

Should I still eat oatmeal if I want to lose weight?

As long as you don’t do a ketogenic diet, this is definitely possible and even recommendable. Since oatmeal binds a lot of liquid when you boil it, it saturates very well and is therefore suitable during weight loss.

It is best to combine them with berries and a source of protein such as Greek yoghurt. This covers a good part of your daily protein, fiber and micronutrient requirement.

Those who are on a low carb diet can also eat small amounts of oatmeal, as it is a very high-quality food. When you do a low carb diet, it is far more important that you watch your total carbohydrate intake.

Old fashioned vs. quick cooking oatmeal: Which one should you buy?

In the end, it depends on your personal taste whether you choose quick cooking or old fashioned oats.

Old fashioned oatmeal has more texture, which some people like. In addition, this variant takes much longer to soften when cooked or soaked.

From a health point of view, there are little to no differences between the two varieties, since both are made from the whole oat grain. For me personally, the quick cooking oatmeal tastes much better, which is why I always go for them.

In addition, quick cooking oatmeal is also easier to digest as it dissolves completely. People with a sensitive intestine should therefore pay attention which variety they tolerate better.

The bottom line

Oatmeal is a cereal product that is mainly eaten for breakfast. In addition, they can also be used for baking and other dishes.

Oatmeal contains a special dietary fiber called beta glucan, which can positively influence our blood lipids.

In addition, there are several other factors that suggest that this food should be regularly incorporated into the diet. Among other things, this includes the high content of micronutrients and dietary fibers.

Do you also eat oatmeal regularly and classify it as healthy? Leave a comment and let me know!