Alex Shaw

Oats: A Great Addition to Your Meal Plan

For good reason, oats have a stellar reputation, they have dozens of useful properties. If you want to start eating healthy (or you already started), oats are a great option that you should include in your diet.


Nowadays, oats have a reputation as an excellent breakfast food. But in earlier times oats were not a popular food item. For the Romans, oats were meagre horse food and those who ate them were mocked as ‘oat-eating barbarians’. It was regarded as little more than a sickly variety of wheat by the Greeks and Romans in ancient times. It took people a long time to understand the benefits and useful properties of oats. Oatmeal had to go a long way and undergo many changes to become one of the most popular breakfast options in the world and receive its well-deserved recognition.

Oats – Nutrition facts

Oats have a rich and well-balanced nutritional profile. Despite a high carbohydrate content (67.7 grams per 100 grams of oats) oats have an optimal 5:1 carbohydrate-to-fibre ratio, which will help you live an active and healthy life. Oats also have a relatively high protein content.


The benefits of oats

Oatmeal would not would not have gained its current fame without it’s wonderful health benefits.

1Great and fibre balanced energy source

Oats are one of the most nutrition-dense products that you can find. It has balanced nutritional characteristics. Oats have a good combination of carbohydrates and fibre, which play an important role in our bodily functions. Carbohydrates give our body energy so we can handle our everyday tasks, and fibre is important for our digestive health.

2High protein content

Oats are loaded with protein with 13 grams of protein per 100 grams of raw product. For reference, products that we perceive as protein-rich foods, like cottage cheese (11g of protein per 100g), Greek yoghurt (10g of protein per 100g) and eggs (13g of protein per 100g), have a similar protein content.

Oats are also loaded with vitamins and minerals including thiamine (B1 vitamin), Niacin (B3 vitamin), Pantothenic acid (B5 vitamin), Magnesium, Potassium, and Zinc.

3Can help lower your risk of heart disease

If you want to make your heart stronger and less prone to disease, you should pay attention to oats. A 2019 research paper published in Scientific Report shows that oats may reduce levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is often called ‘bad’ cholesterol, as well as decreased inflammatory markers, which indicates that oat consumption may reduce inflammation.

4Can improve insulin response

Researchers studying the metabolic effects of oat consumption in Type 2 diabetes patients discovered that the β-glucan water-soluble dietary fibre found in oats improves insulin response. This type of water-soluble dietary fibre is linked to several health benefits, including improved insulin response. When we consume carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, will use glucose in the bloodstream to give us energy; if our body has a poor insulin response it will be harder to manage blood sugar.

5Can help you manage hunger and control your weight

Do you know that feeling when, even after a large meal, you still feel hungry and want to eat more? One of the reasons for this is a lack of dietary fibre in your diet, particularly those types of β-glucan dietary fibre. In 2015, the Nutritional Reviews journal published an analysis of different studies that were trying to find out the effect of β-glucan on the level of satiety. Several positive effects of oat β-glucan were observed during this study. Participants who were given β-glucan cereals had lower energy intake; also, those who were given a 250-kcal serving of ‘old fashioned’ oatmeal with 2.6 g of β-glucan had higher perceptions of satiety, which confirms that oats can make you feel fuller and more satisfied.

6Can protect you from blood sugar spikes

As we mentioned earlier, your body converts food into nutrients each time you eat. Carbohydrates that you consume will be broken down into glucose by your body. This process will give us the energy we need to stay active. However, consuming too many carbohydrates at once may result in a blood sugar spike. As a result of this, we can gain extra weight. Fortunately, oats can protect us from that. Oats help to prevent blood sugar spikes in two ways: first, oats are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes and dips because they have a GI score of 55 or lower. Foods that have a low glycemic index are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes and dips. Secondly, authors of a meta-analysis published in 2021 examined how β-glucan impacts blood sugar levels after eating. They discovered evidence that carbohydrate-based meals containing β-glucan can lower blood sugar levels.

7Cost-efficient and very convenient food

Cost factor is crucial – explain it with some figures And give more details about how easy to implement oats into diet

The downsides of oats

Oats appear too good to be true. However let’s explore some of the downsides you should consider:

You may experience bloating

If you are someone who has not tended to eat a lot of oats before they can cause a side effect known as bloating. That can happen due to the increased amount of fibre that gets into your system with the oats. This harmful effect will fade as your body becomes accustomed to consuming more fibre. To decrease this unwanted effect, it is recommended to start with a small portion of oats and gradually increase it over time.

If you ‘enrich’ oats too much, oats can cause weight gain

Oats can be very helpful when it comes to weight loss. However if you cook oats and add too much sugar or other sweeteners the nutritional value of oats can be decreased while the number of calories, carbohydrates and fat increases. You also need to be careful with the type of oats that you choose. For example, instant oats that are presented in grocery stores are often loaded with a portion of added sugar.

Good oats versus bad oats

If you want to add oats to your meal plan, you need to pay attention to one detail. There are many types of oats, and not all of them are created equal. Some of them with the marketing labels like ‘natural’, ‘wholegrain’ etc can be very unhealthy. Let’s take a slightly deeper look at them.

The good oats

Rolled oats are probably the most popular type of oats because of their versatility. Another thing that makes them so popular is that old-fashioned rolled oats are less processed than other oat varieties.

Steel-cut oats (also known as ‘Irish Oats’) are a type of oat that is not very popular and less often seen in stores. Though steel-cut oats have the same benefits as rolled oats, their cooking time is much longer (20 to 30 minutes). Their long cooking time is why they are not as popular compared to their rolled alternative

The not-good version of oats

Quick cooking oats (also sold as ‘Instant oats’) are a type of oat that is most easily prepared. Simply add boiling water to these types of oats, and they’re ready to eat. Instant oats are the most processed of all oat varieties. When purchasing quick oats, make sure to read the ingredient list carefully because they frequently include processed sugars.

You need to be extra careful with instant oatmeal. Even though the packaging says ‘oats’ (and as we found out, oatmeal is one of the healthiest dishes), what is inside may not be healthy for your body. Instant oats are more heavily processed. As a result, your body digests them more quickly, and they cause your blood glucose to rise faster. This can be especially problematic for diabetics and other people with blood sugar problems. Also, packets of instant oatmeal frequently contain significant quantity of added sugar and artificial colouring.

Healthhack from Healthypedia

Do not be fooled by the pretty packaging, and always read the labels to know what you’re getting. Look for rolled oats when deciding which oatmeal to buy. By selecting old-fashioned oats, you can be certain that you will reap all of the benefits of oats and, at the same time, avoid all the disadvantages that may come with instant oats.

Fun & curious facts about oats

  • Oats were one of the earliest cereals cultivated by man. They were known in ancient China as long ago as 7,000 B.C.

  • Only about 5% of the world’s oat crop is consumed by humans; the other 95% is primarily used as food for livestock. But unlike people, horses and cows consume exclusively natural oats 🙂

  • Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary defined oats as ‘A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.’ The Scotsman’s retort to this was, ‘That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!’

Oats in the Blue Zones

Oats are one of the favorite meals of the Loma Linda population. In this Adventist community in California, men live 7.3 years longer than the average Californian. The same applies to women; they live 4.4 years longer than other women in California. It is impossible to quantify the years oats are adding to Adventist people’s lifespans however it certainly has a positive impact.

Oatmeal. Experiment by Healthypedia

Anna is Healthypedia’s helper and diligent glucose monitoring volunteer. She has a family history of metabolic issues, diabetes specifically, and she decided to find out what foods and dishes are bad and good for her. Anna uses continuous glucose monitor and the app which shows how the food affects her blood glucose, and displays it in the meal score from 1 (bad) to 10 (good).
Oats glucose test result Nutrition
Blood glucose

I always try to make wise choices for breakfast. One of my go-to meals when it comes to a healthy breakfast is Hercules porridge which is basically oat flakes cooked in water. Not only is oatmeal delicious, but it also doesn’t affect my glucose levels in a negative way. The meal score turned out to be perfect – 10 out of 10. Plus, it is quick and easy to make, which makes it a perfect choice for a busy morning.

Healthypedia - Anna
Anna Healthypedia’s tester

Oats summary

Oatmeal is a near-perfect food. Oats have a lot of useful properties. Carbohydrates in oats give you energy and keep you going for a long time; the fibre will take care of the digestive system’s health, and the high amount of protein in oats helps you build stronger and bigger muscles. At the same time, oats have few disadvantages and these downsides are easy to avoid by choosing the right kind of oatmeal and preparation method.

Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues

Check out this video in which Dr. Alan Mandell tells us about what will happen if we start eating oatmeal three times a week. Dr. Mandell has helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with his self-help videos to get well naturally, without the use of drugs, dangerous side effects, and invasive treatments.

Healthypedia FAQ

There are four different types of oats: old-fashioned oats (also called rolled oats), Irish oats (also called steel-cut oats), quick-cooking oats (instant oats), and oat flour.

All types of oats are healthy, but if you want to get all the possible benefits, choose rolled oats; rolled oats are not only extremely nutritious but also easy to cook and do not contain added sugars.

Oats can help you lose weight because of their high fibre content. Foods that contain more fibre can make you feel fuller longer, and as a result, you may eat fewer calories throughout the day.

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