Oatmeal may seem unassuming, but it stands as one of the more polarizing breakfast options, offering a multitude of health benefits that are simply too numerous to overlook. On one hand, it has garnered a reputation as a bland, gooey concoction, occasionally adorned with a few raisins. Conversely, social media has elevated oatmeal to a drool-worthy status, heaped with enticing toppings (just search #oatmeal on Instagram right now).
If you haven’t embraced team oatmeal yet, it’s time for a reconsideration. Oatmeal is a nutritious breakfast option rich in complex carbohydrates, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It serves as an ideal canvas for wholesome toppings such as nuts, seeds, and fruits, according to Ginger Hultin, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Seattle. She also serves as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owns Champagne Nutrition.
Furthermore, oats are naturally gluten-free, making them a valuable carbohydrate source for individuals with specific dietary requirements, like those with celiac disease. (It’s important to note that some oat brands may still contain traces of gluten, so always verify the brand you choose.)
Another aspect to consider is the type of oats you select. For the maximum health benefits of oatmeal, opt for steel-cut, old-fashioned, or rolled oats over instant or quick oats, as the former are notably higher in fiber, as pointed out by Hultin.
So, the next time you’re planning your breakfast and contemplating oatmeal, keep these six potential advantages in mind.
1.OatmealIs a GreatSource of Fiber
A bowl of oats can assist you in meeting the recommended daily fiber intake. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men under 50 should aim for a minimum of 38 grams (g) per day, while women under 50 should consume 25 g or more daily. However, it’s worth noting that most Americans only consume about half of this recommended amount, as highlighted by the International Food Information Council Foundation.
Cooked oatmeal contains approximately 4 g of fiber per cup, covering approximately 14 percent of the daily value (DV) for this essential nutrient, as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A diet that is rich in whole grains and incorporates other fiber-rich food sources has demonstrated protective effects against conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as breast, colon, and rectal cancers, as indicated in a study published in The Lancet in February 2019.
2.Oatmeal Helps in Lowering Cholesterol
Oats contain a specific type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, as mentioned in a review published in November 2019 in Frontiers in Nutrition. “The soluble fiber in oats has been shown to lower cholesterol. It works like a Roto-Rooter to clear out cholesterol that may be building up in arterial walls,” explains Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, CEO of Vital RD in Centennial, Colorado.
According to a review and meta-analysis of 58 trials published in October 2016 in the British Journal of Nutrition, daily consumption of beta-glucan was associated with lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels compared to control groups. Elevated LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, as noted by the American Heart Association (AHA).
3.Oats Can Help Energize Your Body and May Boost Its Immunity
When you enjoy a morning bowl of oats, you’re delivering a dose of B vitamins and essential minerals such as manganese, iron, magnesium, and zinc, according to Hultin. For instance, 1 cup of cooked oats contains approximately 2 milligrams (mg) of iron, equivalent to 11 percent of your daily value (DV). Iron plays a vital role in energizing the body and facilitating the transportation of oxygen from your lungs throughout your body, as highlighted by the NIH. Oats also supply 1.5 mg of zinc, a nutrient crucial for immune function, which accounts for 14 percent of your daily requirement, as reported by the NIH.
4.Oatmeal Can Boost Digestive Health
The fiber found in oats is beneficial for your overall health, with a particular emphasis on promoting a well-functioning digestive system, as highlighted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Oats not only offer insoluble fiber, which supports regularity, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, but they also provide soluble fiber, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Sources of soluble fiber possess prebiotic properties, as explained by Oregon State University. Ginger Hultin adds, “This can help nourish the beneficial bacteria residing in the gut, promoting a healthier microbiome.”
5. Oats Are Packed With Antioxidants to Help Protect Against Disease
While fruits and vegetables are often associated with disease-fighting antioxidants, your bowl of oatmeal is also packed with these beneficial compounds. Ginger Hultin highlights that oats contain a specific type of antioxidant called avenanthramides. A study published in September 2019 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that this antioxidant found in oats shows promise as a potential cancer fighter, although further research is necessary. But, really, do you need another reason to pick up that spoon?
6.A Bowl of Oatmeal Could Help Reduce Belly Fat
Oatmeal’s soluble fiber offers yet another benefit: it may help reduce visceral fat, the type of fat that surrounds your organs and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, even if your body mass index (BMI) is within the normal range, as noted by the AHA. A study published in September 2016 in the journal Nutrients, which focused on adults with type 2 diabetes, found that oats were more effective at reducing blood sugar, blood lipids, and weight compared to a control group that followed a healthy diet but did not consume oats.
Jessica Crandall Snyder references research that examined various lifestyle factors contributing to the reduction of visceral fat and its prevention from accumulating over the years. She explains, “They found that soluble fiber was one of the most significant factors in reducing fat stores in this area.”