So, is oatmeal healthy? It’s certainly one of those foods everyone thinks to be so, but is that really the case?
In this article, I’m going to break it down for you so you know the truth about oatmeal once and for all.
You’re going to learn why probably the oatmeal you have been eating isn’t healthy, what to look out for, whether or not instant oatmeal is an option
What Are Oats?
Traditionally, oats are said to lower bad cholesterol, keep us feeling fuller for longer, as well as being a good source of important nutrients.
Sounds pretty good!
And, if you normally eat Pop Tarts for breakfast, then yes, oatmeal is obviously a better choice.
However, if you think all oats are created equal, think again. There are definitely some oats which should not grace your breakfast table.
If we are to understand how to make a better breakfast choice, it’s important to understand exactly how oats are processed.
Oat groats are the oat kernels with the hulls removed. They can be used to make porridge, however, cooking takes a long time.
You won’t normally find the whole form of the oat groats. What you usually buy at the supermarket are steel-cut, rolled, or instant oats.
Steel-cut oats are whole groats chopped up. These take longer to cook, contain more of their original nutrients, and taste nuttier than regular oats.
Rolled oats are steamed groats that have been rolled out and flattened.
Instant oats are rolled, steamed, and precooked oats. These will often have sweet flavorings added, and are the least healthy option.
What Are The Benefits Of Oatmeal?
There are a number of benefits of eating oatmeal, although I’m not overly convinced that you can’t get those benefits from other foods just as easily.
Regardless, they are only a healthy breakfast option, if you make the right choice (more on that later).
Overall, they’re quite healthy
Oats are a good source of fiber, which can help to regulate blood sugar levels. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are a source of protein and complex carbohydrates.
You will often hear that eating oatmeal can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because of the soluble fiber content.
While I agree that soluble fiber is a very good thing in the diet, you can get soluble fiber from other foods. I don’t think the research confirms you need to get that soluble fiber solely from oats.
So, alternative sources of soluble fiber include fruits and vegetables, as well as oat bran, nuts, flaxseeds, lentils, dried peas and beans, and psyllium.
I am certainly not going to deny that oatmeal can be a healthy addition to your diet. The reality is, however, that most people do not eat plain oatmeal.
If you wake up in the morning to a fresh bowl of plain oats, with absolutely no additives (sugar, syrup, fruit, salt etc), you are in the minority.
On the other hand, if you take old fashioned oats, and adulterate them with lashings of sugar, cream, and jam, you should know it does not really breakfast, but dessert you’re having.
Instant Oatmeal Is NOT Healthy
I can definitely see the appeal of instant oatmeal when you’re pushed for time in the mornings and want to make a better choice than sugary breakfast cereals.
But, as I always say, you need to take a look at the package labeling, to see what you are actually eating. Don’t just fall for the “heart healthy” claim on the front of the pack.
Take, for example, Quaker Oat’s Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal.
It claims to be “heart healthy,” but a brief look at the nutrition label clearly shows it isn’t.
That fact that it contains no strawberries, and 12 grams of sugar, with half the fiber of regular oatmeal, is bad enough.
But, when the nutritional information states ingredients like, “artificial strawberry flavor,” “partially hydrogenated soybean oil,” and “flavored and colored fruit pieces,” which they admit are dehydrated apples, treated with sodium sulfite to promote color retention — this should be enough to make you seriously question your so-called heart-healthy breakfast choice.
Side-Effects & Allergies of Oats
Oats are a totally organic and gluten free grain and do not have any side effects to speak of. However, it’s always better to take a few general precautions. You can always conduct a brief patch test to determine how your body reacts to oats and whether or not you are allergic. On a general note, it is always better to speak with your physician before adding anything new to your diet or lifestyle. If you are choosing to get instant oats, always read the label carefully in case it contains any ingredients that you might be allergic to or are not supposed to consume due to any health reasons. Oats are safe for children too.
The Glycemic Index Of Instant Oats
When it comes to your blood sugar levels, lower and slower are generally better.
The glycemic index of old-fashioned oats is 55 vs 83 for instant oats, so instant oatmeal is significantly higher.
That means that a bowl of instant (or quick-cooking) oats quickly pushes up your blood sugar, so they won’t keep you feeling satisfied as long as rolled or steel-cut oats would.
Instant oatmeal has been processed to cook quickly, which means they are broken down and digested more quickly in the body, and this is why it has a higher glycemic index.
Even though you may not be diabetic, eating a lower glycemic index diet is much better for your health.