Oatmeal, commonly known as a kind of porridge, is usually prepared from dried and dehusked oats. These are combined with a heated liquid like milk or water. It is known to be very nutritious and is included in the list of meals for a weight-loss diet (5). As more people want to follow a healthy lifestyle, there is a rising interest in oatmeal and its recipes.
There are five different consumable types. The least processed are oat groats, steel-cut oats, Scottish oats, and rolled or old-fashioned oats. The most processed type are instant oats (10). The health benefits also vary, with the least processed ones typically being free of added sugar and other additives.
Oatmeal is full of many benefits and is included in many diets. Eating oatmeal daily can have three surprising effects: supporting weight loss, maintaining blood sugar levels, and improving cholesterol levels (2). However, it has come to light that oatmeal is not a superfood for just anyone. Rather, it might have negative effects for some people.
This is why it might be worth it to stop eating oatmeal altogether.
Let’s delve further into this topic and explore the pros and cons as well as determine whether or not oats are good for you!
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What Is the Nutritional Value of Oatmeal?
Despite the growing trend of low-carb food consumption, oatmeal, with its high-carb content, is still considered a healthy option. This is so because apart from healthy complex carbs, it has an abundance of other macronutrients that are required for the body’s healthy functioning.
As mentioned earlier, oatmeal has a lot of carbs. About 66% of oats are carbohydrates. Of this, 11% is fiber, and 85% is starch, which are essential for the body. Furthermore, most oats and oatmeal have no added sugars until you add some while cooking.
Oats are also protein-rich, with 11-17% being protein content. They also have a moderate amount of fats, maintaining a nutrition ratio better than many other grains (13).
According to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), 1 cup of oatmeal, cooked just in water without any added sugars, is said to have about 140 calories. It has no sugars and 28 grams of carbohydrates, of which 4 grams are fiber. In addition, there are about 5 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fats (16).
What Are the Pros and Cons of Oatmeal?
Packed with multiple benefits, oatmeal is an immensely nutritious food. Besides the previously mentioned macronutrients, it is also rich in other micronutrients that benefit your health.
It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and beta-glucan – a soluble fiber that aids in many bodily functions. The antioxidants found in oats may help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation and itching. The vitamins and minerals of oatmeal include magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin B1, and vitamin B5 (23).
Meanwhile, beta-glucan can help manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis found that oats intake had a beneficial effect on blood glucose control and blood lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes (20).
Along with these, oatmeal also has many other pluses. For instance, it can support gut health, promote weight loss, and provide sustained energy (1). Also, people with gluten insensitivity or celiac disease can freely eat oatmeal because oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, as long as there has been no cross-contamination (7).
Although eating oatmeal has many benefits, some considerations must be taken care of as it has some side effects. These were the reasons why stop eating oatmeal.
Among the list, one impact that eating oatmeal every day might have on your body is unexplained bloating and gas. Ironically, this bloating and gas is caused by the same fiber content that might be useful for constipation. If you are not used to eating a lot of fiber, it may cause bloating (22).
Also, the fiber, raffinose, and starch from oats are broken down by the action of bacteria in the large intestine, which produces gas (3). This may be why some people eliminate oatmeal from their diet schedules. After all, no one wants to feel bloated and gassy for the whole day! If you want to avoid this, try increasing your fiber intake gradually rather than all at once. This gives your body a chance to get used to it over time and can help minimize any gastrointestinal symptoms.
Another reason why some people avoid oatmeal is that it contains phytic acid. This substance hinders the absorption of some minerals, leading to concerns about deficiencies (17). However, this is rarely a problem as long as you eat a varied, balanced diet. On the other hand, phytic acid also acts as an antioxidant and may have health benefits.
Apart from these concerns, you can consider avoiding instant oatmeal because, despite the convenience, it is often filled with sugar and other additives that I prefer to avoid. Considering how plain oatmeal has little flavor, topping, spices, or sugar, these are usually added to it to make it more likable for the tastebuds. This increases the calorie and added sugar content of the meal.
This means that pure, least processed oats and oatmeal might benefit you but it takes more time to prepare.
Why Is Oatmeal No Longer Good for You?
It is a popular opinion that we can not fully trust anything bought in stores nowadays. With packaged oats, for example, it is difficult to know whether or not they have been gluten-contaminated during their harvesting or processing. This is a concern for someone with a gluten sensitivity. They need to stick with brands that are tested and certified gluten-free.
Some people experience gas and bloating after eating oatmeal, which is likely due to its fiber content. This doesn’t mean it is bad for you, but it is advisable to gradually increase your fiber intake over time if you aren’t used to it, rather than all at once.
Some people will claim that the phytic acid content of oats makes them a problem, but as long as you eat a varied and balanced diet, you should be getting enough minerals to avoid any kind of deficiency.
Highly processed, flavored instant oats may contain added sugars and other additives we’d rather limit or avoid. However, plain whole grain oats that you prepare yourself and control what you add to it are still a nutritious food with many health and nutritional benefits. Oatmeal is definitely still good for you.
Why Do I Feel Unwell After Eating Oatmeal?
Do you find yourself feeling exhausted, itchy, or sick after eating oatmeal for breakfast
If yes, it would be best if you consulted your healthcare provider. This is most likely to happen due to one of two reasons.
First, it may be that you have gluten sensitivity or suffer from celiac disease and have opted for oatmeal as an alternative to other gluten-rich grains like wheat. But, you may have overlooked that although oats are gluten-free, they are often processed alongside or grown near other gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
Oats can be cross-contaminated when processed in the same facilities and treated with the same equipment as other grains (8). A study revealed that most oat-containing products found in North American and European markets had considerable gluten (12).
This means oatmeal, especially those prepared from processed oats, can no longer be automatically considered a reliable gluten-free source. If you have gluten sensitivity, it’s essential to stick with oats that are tested and certified gluten-free.
Another reason for not feeling well after eating a bowl of gluten is that you may suffer from oat intolerance or allergy. This intolerance usually stems from your sensitivity to a protein called avenin, found in oats. This protein, similarly to gluten, triggers a response from some people’s bodies’ immune systems. As a result, antibodies are formed to fight avenin, which is perceived as a threat (15).
What Are the Symptoms of Oat Intolerance?
If you want to know which of the two reasons you feel unwell after eating oatmeal, you can check whether you have an oat allergy. If not, then it might be because your oats were contaminated with gluten, and you have a gluten intolerance.
You can consult a medical professional to check for oat allergy and get your tests done. Or you can look out for the symptoms of oat allergy. These symptoms usually include an immediate and a delayed allergic reaction.
Immediate allergic reactions that might appear within 2 hours of eating oatmeal can be a flushed face, runny nose, mild swelling on lips, eyes, or face, sneezing, nausea, diarrhea, watery eyes, itchy throat, or itchy rashes on any body part and stomach cramps. Meanwhile, allergic reactions that can be delayed for 4 to 6 hours involve conditions like eczema, constipation, frequent crying or distress, diarrhea, swelling of the bowel, significant stomach pain, and stunted growth (24).
If it is an oat allergy that you are suffering from, then be sure to steer clear of all oat-containing products, as you never know when the allergic reaction will become too severe. This means you should avoid oat cookies, oat flour, oatmeal cereals, oatcakes, and granola bars containing oats (14).
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What Are the Gluten-Free Alternatives of Oatmeal?
For a long time, I ate oats for breakfast, but now, I am out of breakfast options because of oat allergy or gluten intolerance. I have rounded up some options if you are in the same boat and looking for alternatives. These are some gluten-free alternatives for oatmeal, in case you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
- Amaranth is a gluten-free ancient grain with a sweet, nutty taste. It is also rich in proteins, fiber, iron, and manganese (18).
- Millet is one of the best substitutes for oatmeal that can make a delicious porridge. It is extremely nutritious, with vitamins and minerals like phosphorous, magnesium, folate, and gluten-free (4).
- Quinoa flakes are a flavorful oatmeal alternative with their nutty taste and high protein content. It is also rich in fiber, iron, folate, and magnesium (18).
- Buckwheat is a delicious breakfast option that is quite easy to cook. It also has a high protein content. It is abundant in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.
You can also opt for other alternatives, like chia seeds and brown rice. These all have a texture similar to oats and can make a delightful breakfast cereal or porridge that would not only keep you full for a longer time, but also have many health benefits just like oatmeal, as they are rich in many vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate, etc.
Do cardiologists recommend oatmeal?
Cardiologists do recommend oatmeal as it is beneficial for heart health. It helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This helps reduce the risk of chronic heart disease. (23) However, they tell you to be careful not to use too many processed, instant oats. Try using steel cut or rolled oats instead.
What is a good substitute for oatmeal?
If oatmeal does not suit you and you are looking for alternatives, here are some examples that can help you, especially for breakfast. Try using chia seeds, which have a texture similar to oats. You make a pudding or a porridge with chia seeds. Another great alternative is brown rice, a nutritious whole grain with a mild flavor. Quinoa and buckwheat can also be used as a substitute.
How many times a week should you eat oatmeal?
If your body has no adverse effects from oatmeal, then there is no harm in building up the habit of eating oatmeal every day. It will help you reap the benefits of oatmeal and boost your overall health. Just try eating the least processed ones. But if you have a gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, or oat intolerance, then even once a week might be harmful to you.
What is the best oatmeal to eat?
Best oatmeal is the least processed one. Considering this, steel-cut oats make the best oatmeal as they are not very processed and contain the highest fiber content (19). However, they take some time to prepare. Rolled oats are quicker to cook, and are still a nutritious whole grain without any additives.
The Bottom Line
Every individual’s body reacts differently to every food. If you have been eating oatmeal regularly for a long time but have not faced any adverse reactions, you can continue to do so without worry, as oatmeal does not harm your body. You can use this to your advantage and reap the benefits of oatmeal. It can aid you in weight loss, keep your cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check, and provide you with many nutrients that help your body’s healthy functioning.
If you observe any negative effects after eating oatmeal, you should address the problem immediately. Check for oat allergies by consulting with a physician as soon as possible. Avoid eating any food that has oats in it, and be sure to check the ingredients of the products you buy at the store beforehand. If it isn’t an oat allergy but due to contamination of gluten, then you should also stop eating oats unless they are certified gluten-free as it might end up triggering your gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The One Good-For-Your-Gut Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Your Overnight Oats (2017, mindbodygreen.com)
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- What are the benefits of oatmeal? (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)
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