Oatmeal: health benefits and nutritional value of oatmeal

Is oatmeal healthy? Of course! Oatmeal has many health benefits. Oatmeal is prepared from the grain oats. The health benefits of oatmeal have been documented in many hundreds of studies. In the present article, we will discuss some of the health benefits of oatmeal. Because one thing can be said with certainty: oatmeal is healthy. Start every day with an oatmeal breakfast and you will reap the full health benefits. Oatmeal, in combination with a healthy and varied diet, helps to lower cholesterol. It is well known that high cholesterol is a risk factor in developing cardiovascular disease. Research shows that beta-glucan fibers, which are naturally present in oats, significantly lower cholesterol levels. Oatmeal also has a positive effect on your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it is wise to have a bowl of oatmeal every day.

  • Oatmeal is a superfood
  • Nutritional value of oatmeal
  • B vitamins
  • Other vitamins
  • Trace elements and minerals
  • Protein
  • Dietary fiber
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat content
  • Caloric value
  • Dietary fiber makes oatmeal healthy
  • Beta-glucan
  • PYY 3-36
  • Health benefits of oatmeal
  • Oatmeal reduces the risk of asthma in children
  • Oats boost the nutritional profile of a gluten-free diet
  • Lose weight healthily with oatmeal
  • Beta-glucans in oatmeal improve your immune system
  • Oatmeal reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Oats can improve insulin sensitivity
  • Oatmeal lowers bad cholesterol
  • Oatmeal has a positive effect on your blood pressure
  • Oatmeal healthy for irritable bowel syndrome
  • Resolve constipation
  • Oatmeal contains many antioxidants
  • Preparing oatmeal
  • Ingredients
  • Different forms of preparation
  • Preparation on the stove
  • Quick preparation in the microwave
  • Preparation with boiling water
  • Slow cooking overnight
  • With cold milk
  • Tips for preparing oatmeal

Oatmeal is very healthy / Source: Tiia Monto, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Oatmeal is a superfood

Oats, also known as Avena sativa, are a whole grain product with a low gluten content and are usually consumed in the form of oat flakes, which are the uncut crushed oat grains. Oatmeal is usually eaten as porridge (oatmeal porridge), in muesli or as a healthy ingredient for many baked goods.

Health experts know that oatmeal is a real superfood. The unassuming oatmeal, often eaten in the morning, has it all. If plants can also relieve symptoms or even cure them, they are also called medicinal plants. Oats (Avena sativa) offer several very different active ingredients. The spectrum of applications ranges from skin treatment to gastrointestinal disorders to the prevention of arteriosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.

Nutritional value of oatmeal

Oatmeal contains a special type of fiber, namely beta-glucans. These prevent a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. This is especially interesting for people with type 2 diabetes.

Oatmeal is also healthy because of its nutrient balance. It contains extra fiber, minerals (especially magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc) and valuable vitamins. Of all grains, oatmeal has the highest content of vitamins B1 and B6 and provides a lot of vegetable iron (non-heme iron). For grains, the flakes also contain quite a lot of protein and little fat, making the composition of oatmeal healthy.

B vitamins

Oatmeal is rich in B vitamins such as vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B8. Valuable folic acid is also present in oatmeal.

Other vitamins

In addition to the B vitamins, oatmeal also contains vitamins E and K. Vitamin K is important for regulating blood clotting.

Trace elements and minerals

Oatmeal is so healthy because it consists of numerous trace elements and minerals. These include iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, selenium, manganese, iodine and fluoride.

Protein

Oatmeal consists largely of essential proteins (13.5 grams per 100 grams). These are particularly valuable because your body cannot make them itself. The body needs proteins or amino acids such as leucine, methionine, isoleucine, lysine, valine and phenylalanine, which are abundant in oatmeal. These amino acids support, among other things, the immune system.

Dietary fiber

Oatmeal has a high fiber content, namely ten grams per 100 grams. Dietary fiber aids digestion. They also produce the mucus produced when oatmeal is cooked. This oatmeal is considered particularly gentle on the stomach and well tolerated.

Carbohydrates

The proportion of carbohydrates is also high: 58.7 grams is 100 grams, of which 0.7 grams is sugar. However, oatmeal contains slow carbohydrates. If you eat these, your blood sugar will remain quite stable.

Fat content

The fat content of oatmeal is 7.0 grams of 100 grams; 76 percent of the fats present are healthy unsaturated fatty acids.

Caloric value

100 grams of oatmeal has a caloric value of 360 calories.

Dietary fiber makes oatmeal healthy

Beta-glucan

Thanks to the many fibers, you will feel full for a longer period of time after eating oatmeal. The soluble beta-glucan from dietary fiber in particular has it all: it lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels, has a positive effect on the insulin response, provides a longer feeling of satiety and stimulates the growth of good intestinal bacteria.

Beta-glucan produces a gel film and delays gastric emptying. This leads to a long-lasting feeling of satiety: less is eaten and fewer kilocalories are consumed. It also slows down the breakdown of nutrients and thus the rise in blood sugar levels. It is recommended to eat 30 grams of oatmeal per day. By the way, a bowl of oatmeal, made from 6 tablespoons (30 grams) of oatmeal with 250 ml of water, provides only 115 kcal.

PYY 3-36

In addition, the fiber releases the peptide hormone PYY 3-36, or PYY. This is a hormone that suppresses appetite and gives the body a greater feeling of satiety. This satiety hormone has been proven to reduce calorie intake, reducing the risk of obesity.

Health benefits of oatmeal

Oatmeal is very healthy. Start every day healthy with a bowl of oatmeal.

Oatmeal reduces the risk of asthma in children

A Finnish prospective study among 1,293 children shows that children who eat oatmeal porridge at an early age are almost two-thirds less likely to develop asthma later. The earlier children are introduced to oats, the less likely they are to develop asthma. The Finnish scientists had the parents of almost 1,300 children report the eating patterns of their offspring from birth until they were five years old. The same study also showed that fish helps against hay fever at a young age.[1]

Oat flakes / Source: MarkusHagenlocher, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Oats boost the nutritional profile of a gluten-free diet

Two recent studies from Scandinavia show that adding oats to a gluten-free diet boosts the nutritional profile of a gluten-free diet, especially in terms of vitamins and minerals, but it also increases antioxidant levels. Antioxidants are able to neutralize free radicals – which arise during normal metabolism and are harmful to your body. Oats are naturally gluten-free, although oats may come into contact with wheat, barley and rye during cultivation, harvest, transport and storage. For that reason, only certified gluten-free oats fit within a gluten-free diet. Research shows that thanks to their high nutritional quality, oats can be an important addition to the existing gluten-free diet.[2]

Lose weight healthily with oatmeal

lose weight healthily with oatmeal ? A bowl of oatmeal will not only make you feel full for longer (half a cup of oatmeal contains about five grams of fiber), but oatmeal also promotes the production of cholecystokinin. This hormone plays an important role in regulating appetite. Oatmeal is therefore an ideal breakfast for people who want to lose weight naturally. The good carbohydrates and good fiber in oatmeal also ensure that your blood sugar level remains constant, making it easier for you to lose weight without a weight-loss diet followed by the infamous yo-yo effect.[3]

You can vary endlessly with oatmeal: oatmeal with fresh fruit and cranberries / Source: Annafood, Pixabay

Beta-glucans in oatmeal improve your immune system

Research shows that beta-glucans (fibers) naturally present in oatmeal strengthen the immune system’s defense against pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites). Beta-glucans, as it were, wake up your immune cells. They are mobilized and strike more quickly as soon as they spot pathogens. This makes it easier to stay disease-free.[4]

Oatmeal reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Researchers in Mannheim, Germany, conducted a nutritional intervention among 14 patients who had uncontrolled type 2 diabetes (formerly called “old-age diabetes”) and insulin resistance. The patients were put on an appropriate diet of oatmeal during a short hospital stay and were re-examined after four weeks. The patients achieved a 40% reduction in the insulin dose they administered daily and maintained this reduction even after returning home for four weeks.[5]

How does this happen? Oatmeal lowers blood sugar levels. Thanks to its fiber-rich structure, oatmeal has a low glycemic index value. The glycemic index (abbreviated as GI) provides an estimate of the speed at which blood sugar levels rise when you have eaten carbohydrates. A low GI means it helps reduce blood sugar spikes. It therefore ensures a more gradual energy flow.

Oats can improve insulin sensitivity

Researchers in Chicago conducted a double-blind randomized trial of ninety-seven men and women, in which half of the group were given foods containing oats beta-glucan, while the other half were not given these foods. At the end of the trial period, the oat group showed a significant improvement in their insulin sensitivity, while the control group was unchanged.[6]

Oatmeal combats high blood pressure / Source: Jesse K. Alwin – US Marine Corps, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Oatmeal lowers bad cholesterol

Researchers at Colorado State University randomly assigned a group of middle-aged, overweight men to eat either an oat or wheat product daily for twelve weeks. At the end of the three-month period, it turned out that in the group of men who had been given oats, the good cholesterol had increased and the bad cholesterol had decreased. The wheat group showed no change whatsoever. The good results of oatmeal are because it contains soluble dietary fiber that, like a sponge, absorbs and removes harmful cholesterol (which promotes fatty deposits in the arteries).[7]

Oatmeal has a positive effect on your blood pressure

Using a double-blind randomized study, 18 men and women with a mild form of high blood pressure (hypertension) were followed for six weeks, while half of them were given oats and the other half were given wheat. The oat group showed a 7.5 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 5.5 mm Hg decrease in diastolic blood pressure, while the wheat group showed no change whatsoever.[8]

Oatmeal healthy for irritable bowel syndrome

Oatmeal is also good for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Oatmeal contains a lot of dietary fiber. Fiber-rich food is of cardinal importance for good metabolism and intestinal function (bowel movements). Fibers form a natural lubricant in the intestines, which makes the digestion of food much easier. Oatmeal in your diet ensures that your metabolism and digestion are optimized, which will reduce your intestinal complaints.

Resolve constipation

It is not without reason that oatmeal porridge is a tried and tested home remedy for gastrointestinal complaints. The elderly in particular are often plagued by digestive problems, especially constipation. Many people use laxatives to cope with this problem. While these help, they can lead to weight loss and poor quality of life.[9] The outer shell of the oats is very effective in relieving constipation in the elderly. Their general condition improves if they eat oatmeal daily.[10]

Oatmeal contains many antioxidants

Oats contain many antioxidants and polyphenols, including avenanthramides. This antioxidant can lower blood pressure through increased nitric oxide production. The nitric oxide gas molecule dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.[11] Avenanthramides can also combat inflammation and itching. In general, antioxidants are good for protecting the body against free radicals, premature tissue aging and even cancer.[12]

Cytokines are substances that play a role as a messenger to inhibit or activate cells of the immune system. The cytokines in oats regulate cell growth, which can also prevent inflammation in arteries and thus prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).[13]

Preparing oatmeal

Preparing oatmeal is easy. It doesn’t take much to prepare delicious oatmeal porridge.

Ingredients

  • oatmeal
  • milk or water
  • other ingredients for flavor

Different forms of preparation

There are several methods to prepare oatmeal.

  • on the stove
  • in the microwave
  • with boiling water
  • ‘at night
  • with cold milk

Oatmeal with blueberries, granola and salted chocolate / Source: Paul Arps from The Netherlands, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

Preparation on the stove

The most common way to make oatmeal is on the stove or stovetop. For this you need oatmeal, water or milk (regular milk, oat milk, soy milk, oat milk, rice milk or coconut milk) and a saucepan. Add 240 ml of milk or water to the pan and bring it to the boil over medium heat. Add ½ cup of oatmeal. Stir well. Let the mixture simmer until the desired thickness is reached. Stir occasionally.

Then remove the pan from the heat and put it in a bowl and add delicious and healthy ingredients. Flavor ingredients can, for example, consist of peanut butter, fruit or raisins. You can sweeten the oatmeal with honey. Of course, herbs can also be used, such as cinnamon or allspice.

Quick preparation in the microwave

Oatmeal can be prepared very quickly in the microwave. All you need is oatmeal, water or milk and a microwave-safe bowl. Place ½ cup of oatmeal in the microwave-safe bowl. Add 240 ml of water or milk and then
stir well. Place the filled bowl in the microwave. Heat on high for 1.5 to 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave. Stir and let cool briefly. Add flavor ingredients if necessary.

Preparation with boiling water

This preparation method requires oatmeal, water and a pan. Bring 240 ml of water to the boil. If desired, add a pinch of salt for extra flavor. Place ½ cup of oatmeal in a bowl. Pour boiling water into the oatmeal while stirring constantly. Then let it cool. Add flavor ingredients. Example: raw cacao nibs and mango.

Slow cooking overnight

The advantage of this method is that the porridge is ready in time for breakfast. This preparation variant requires oatmeal, milk and an empty jam jar. Place ½ cup of oatmeal in the jam jar and add 1/2 ½ cup of milk. Mix the substance well until a uniform consistency is achieved. Close the jam jar and place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the oatmeal from the refrigerator and enjoy it, cold or warm. Add flavorful ingredients before eating. The longer the porridge sits in the refrigerator, the softer it becomes. However, the porridge should not be left in the refrigerator for more than 10 hours, as after this time it becomes sticky and no longer edible.

With cold milk

Probably the fastest and easiest preparation of oatmeal is the preparation with cold milk. Place the oatmeal in a bowl, add sugar if necessary and finally add the cold milk. Stir and you’re done.

Chia seeds / Source: ValeriaLu, Pixabay

Tips for preparing oatmeal

Water or milk are ideal for preparing oatmeal. Soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk can also be used instead of cow’s milk. Milk makes the porridge creamier. 240 ml of water with 1/2½ cup of oatmeal seems like a lot, but it is not. That’s because oatmeal absorbs the liquid. Porridge in stock? No problem if it is kept in the refrigerator. Just add two tablespoons of milk or water and heat before eating. Oatmeal is great for experimenting with flavors. It doesn’t always have to be the usual. Coconut flakes, chia seeds, dried apples or cherries. You can add whatever tastes good to the porridge.

The perfect bowl for oatmeal bowl is large and deep. Eventually, oatmeal swells and can quickly overflow into a small bowl. A large, deep bowl also allows the oatmeal to combine well with all kinds of ingredients that you put on it. Stirring well is very important with oatmeal. But if you stir too long, the porridge will become sticky and lose its flavor. The reason for this is the breakdown of the starch in the oatmeal, which is increased by stirring too much. Especially when preparing oatmeal on the stove, it must be taken into account that the porridge continues to thicken as it cools. It is therefore advisable to remove the porridge from the stove a little earlier.

Notes:

  1. British Journal of Nutrition, January 2010; 103(2):266-73
  2. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2010; 64:62-67, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.113 and The European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, December 2009; e315-e320
  3. Nutrition Research, October 2009; 29(10):705-9
  4. Minerva Medica, June 2009; 100(3):237-45
  5. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, February 2008; 116(2):132-4
  6. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007; 61(6):786-95
  7. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2002; 76(2):351-8
  8. Journal of Family Practice, April 2002; 51(4):369
  9. Norton C. Constipation in older patients: effects on quality of life. Br J Nurs. 2006 Feb 23-Mar 8;15(4):188-92.
  10. Sturtzel B, Dietrich A, Wagner KH, Gisinger C, Elmadfa I. The status of vitamins B6, B12, folate, and of homocysteine in geriatric home residents receiving laxatives or dietary fiber. J Nutr Health Aging. 2010 Mar;14(3):219-23.
  11. Meydani M. Potential health benefits of avenanthramides or oats. Nutr Rev. 2009 Dec;67(12):731-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00256.x.
  12. Sur R, Nigam A, Grote D, Liebel F, Southall MD. Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity. Arch Dermatol Res. 2008 Nov;300(10):569-74. doi:10.1007/s00403-008-0858-x. Epub 2008 May 7.
  13. Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, Chon S, Kaur S, Mahmood K, Kizoulis M, Southall MD. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jan;14(1):43-8.

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