Are oats just as healthy as experts claim?
It’s a good thing medical experts recommend oatmeal as a healthy breakfast—there’s so much you can do with a container of oats. You can enjoy them warm, soak them overnight, bake them into bars or muffins, or even blend them into a waffle batter. Yet besides such delicious versatility, why exactly do health experts recommend oatmeal as a go-to morning meal? How does a simple bowl of oats affect your long-term health? Here’s what the science says about consuming oatmeal on a regular basis.
You May Feel Fuller for Longer
Oats are a great source of fiber, a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Because fiber slows down digestion, you won’t feel as hungry for a longer period, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eating fiber-rich foods helps avoid spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels while reducing feelings of hunger. “Having oats for breakfast or incorporated into different foods as meals and snacks is a great way to give the meal more staying power and help you feel fuller for longer,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN. According to the USDA’s FoodData Central, 1 cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber, which is 16% of the recommended daily value.
You’ll Have an Easier Time in the Bathroom
“Oats contain a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan,” says Michalczyk. “Beta-glucan forms a gel-like consistency in the gut and helps to keep things moving in your digestive tract and keep you regular.” This helps with bulking up your stool, making it easier for your bowel movement later. Plus, pairing your oatmeal with sources of insoluble fiber—like unpeeled sliced apples, nuts or blackberries—can also help keep things moving in your digestive tract and make things easier in the bathroom later.
Your Risk of Heart Disease Will Decrease
Starting your morning with a bowl of oats can benefit your heart health in more ways than one. Because of the fiber content, oatmeal can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels and even lower high blood pressure—all of which play a significant role in minimizing risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Your Gut Bacteria Will Thrive
Oatmeal is also a prebiotic food, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria—also known as your gut microbiome—will benefit your body’s immune system, improve your mood and digestion, and help to ward off diseases. A 2021 systematic review published in the Journal of Nutrition found a link between oat consumption and increasing beneficial bacterial groups within one’s gut, making it a gut-friendly and heart-healthy breakfast. “Incorporating a wide variety of plant foods like oats is also beneficial for gut diversity, which is another important aspect of gut health,” says Michalczyk.
You’ll Manage Your Weight Easier
Along with these positive benefits, research shows this popular breakfast can even support weight-loss and weight-management efforts. According to a 2021 review published in Foods, oat beta-glucan has positive effects on hyperglycemia, lowering blood lipid levels and reducing weight. “The fiber content of oatmeal is filling and satiating, which in turn can help with eating fewer calories throughout the day and managing your weight,” says Michalczyk. “Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY, a hormone produced in the gut that helps with satiety.”
The Bottom Line
Oatmeal’s high fiber content and prebiotic qualities may benefit your body in more ways than one. Making oatmeal a regular part of your menu can potentially lower your disease risk, help your gut health thrive, make bowel movements easier and keep you feeling fuller for longer. If you’re ready to start your morning with a bowl of oats, try our Cinnamon-Roll Overnight Oats.