Nothing beats waking up in the morning and digging into a hot bowl of oatmeal, topped off with a variety of fruit, nut butter, and other healthy add-ins. While this filling meal helps get us through the morning, we can’t help but love a serving of oatmeal for its assumed health benefits. Like many other foods, this breakfast staple can really get your morning started right. But if you’re not careful, your bowl of oatmeal can catch you off guard in terms of calories and sugar intake. So we decided to debunk a few oatmeal myths so you wouldn’t ever have to worry.
We might take oatmeal’s nutritional content for granted and assume it only offers up a wholesome start to the day. Sadly, the reality couldn’t lie further away. Just like breakfast cereal, some oatmeal provides better nutrition than other varieties, while certain add-ins can make or break your morning routine. By sorting through oatmeal myths we take as facts, we can get to the bottom of this grain and learn how to enjoy it best.
To help separate fact from fiction, we consulted a multitude of health experts to help guide us through the assumptions we make about our daily bowl of oatmeal. With a bit of guidance, you can see what makes this appealing cereal so irresistible and learn what to avoid next time you whip up your morning oatmeal. Here are the oatmeal myths you need to stop believing, and for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
“Oatmeal is very rich in carbohydrates,” Dr. Anam Umair, a registered dietitian at Marham said. “Also, oatmeal is often made in whole milk and topped with nuts, fruits, and honey. This makes it a pack of calories that can eventually lead to weight gain.”
“In most cases, the pre-packaged oatmeal options are loaded with sugar and other ingredients that add to the calorie and overall low nutrient quality of this form,” Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD says.
If you need to watch your daily calorie intake, make sure to keep an eye on what goes into your oatmeal, or else you might face some unintended consequences down the road. And steer clear of these Unhealthiest Oatmeals On The Planet.
Many would argue you need to balance out a plain bowl of oatmeal with toppings to fully round out the meal. If you need to start your morning with some quick energy, a small portion of oatmeal can only help get you moving.
“Oatmeal is actually a super great way to get in some fiber, a type of carbohydrate that can help keep you full,” Colleen Christensen, RD said. “Additionally, our bodies need carbs and they’re our preferred energy source. So having some in the morning is a great way to jumpstart your body’s energy stream [versus] a low-carb option.”
When in doubt, you can customize this cereal to your preferences and exact nutritional needs, like with these 11 Healthy Oatmeal Toppings That Help You Lose Weight.
“Another misconception about oatmeal is that it’s too low protein to have for breakfast,” Christensen says. “However, there are so many ways to amp up the protein content so you’re getting that fiber to help keep you full and the protein! Adding a scoop of protein powder as you prepare your oatmeal as you usually do, topping it with Greek yogurt, or even topping with a fried egg and having a savory option.”
When you have to select between all the different varieties of oatmeal available at the grocery store, you might assume that since all of the products feature oatmeal, all of the varieties should generally have the same health benefits. This assumption has the potential to steer your breakfast into some unsavory territory.
“Instant oats do not offer the same nutritional value as unprocessed, whole grain oats,” Sabrina Russo, RD said. “Instant oats have slightly less fiber per serving compared to old-fashioned or steel-cut oats. The flavored instant oat packets also contain a significant amount of sugar, approximately 12 grams per serving. It’s best to use plain oats and add a small amount of sweetener, or no sweetener at all.”
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Since oats lack gluten, you could easily make the assumption that the product wouldn’t cause a reaction for those with gluten sensitivity. While oats themselves can’t spark any intolerances, you have another thing coming if you make your breakfast with commercial oats.
“Pure oats are naturally gluten-free and safe for individuals with an intolerance,” says Russo. “However, oats often come in contact with gluten-containing grains. During processing, storage, and transportation, oats may come in contact with wheat, rye, or barley. If you’re sensitive to gluten, make sure to read labels to assure your oats are [gluten-free and] safe to consume.”
Despite the higher amount of carbs found in oatmeal, the breakfast staple doesn’t present a blood sugar risk greater than many other items with a high glycemic index.
“A number of scientific studies conclude that oatmeal can actually decrease glucose spikes,” Russo said. “The glycemic index of oatmeal is approximately 42 to 55, depending on the type of oats. This GI is significantly lower than other common breakfast foods, such as a number of fruits, white bread, and many cereals. Adding protein in the form of nuts, eggs, or soymilk in conjunction with oatmeal can also help you feel fuller, longer.”
When you go shopping for oatmeal, you can select a variety of different cuts. Although steel-cut oats sure are healthy in terms of their nutrition, that doesn’t mean you should set your beloved rolled-cut oats aside.
“[A] common misconception is you need to eat steel-cut oats to get the most nutrition out of your breakfast, which simply is not true,” says Mary Wirtz, MS, RDN, CSSD. “While oat bran and steel-cut oats are less processed options, rolled and old-fashioned oats are still an excellent source of nutrition and dietary fiber. Typically, I cook a quick bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal in the microwave if I am needing a quick and easy fast-food breakfast. Fortunately, this option is much more nutritious than other forms of fast food.”
Many believe that you can substitute oatmeal out for other carbs, thanks to the fiber count found in the average bowl of this hot cereal. While this does increase the nutritional value of your meal, eating too much oatmeal can cause some adverse side effects.
“Just because a given food hosts a wide variety of health benefits that does not imply that you can eat as much as you want,” says Wirtz. “A common misconception about oatmeal is that you can eat as much as you want. Oatmeal still has calories (approximately 160 calories per 1 cup cooked). It is important to listen to your fullness and satiety cues when you are eating oatmeal so that you do not overindulge first thing in the morning.”
So if you’re a lover of oatmeal and still want it a part of your daily routine, here are 7 Ways to Make Oatmeal for a Flat Belly.