A longtime breakfast favorite, whole grain oatmeal offers a variety of far-reaching health perks.
Oats in general support healthy weight management and overall nutrition thanks, in part, to the amount of fiber and other key nutrients packed into their cereal grain.
Whether you’re enjoying steel-cut oats, rolled oats, or unsweetened instant oatmeal, each bite can help regulate blood sugar, control hunger, and even support heart health. It’s important to make sure your instant oatmeal isn’t the sweetened variety to avoid added sugar — you can choose your own sweetener at home if you choose.
There are plenty of ways to add a healthy kick of flavor to your oatmeal, too, including tossing in fresh fruit, cinnamon, ginger, nuts, seeds, or other plant protein.
Here are just a few reasons to consider adding oatmeal to your morning routine.
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Health Benefits of Oatmeal
Oatmeal supports heart health
Whole grain oats are a major source of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber rich in antioxidants associated with protection against heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and inflammation reduction. There’s no denying that regular whole grain consumption is good for your cardiovascular system.
It reduces blood sugar levels
The beta-glucan in oatmeal can prevent and manage diabetes, according to a recent study published in the National Library of Medicine. In the study, researchers evaluated the use of oatmeal as a short-term intervention for blood sugar regulation in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found eating oats led to a significant reduction in blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
It improves immune function
Not only can beta-glucan, a dietary fiber, reduce blood sugar levels and support a healthy heart, but it can also support healthy immune function and protect against infection. This prepares your body to fight illness and keep you healthy.
It supports healthy digestion
Packed with fiber, oatmeal helps maintain bowel regularity and prevents constipation. Many consider cereal fibers more effective than fiber from fruits and vegetables at improving certain digestive issues, including diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. This fiber also helps prevent inflammation in the gut.
It helps manage weight
Oatmeal can prove a valuable option for those trying to manage their weight and control their hunger levels due to its high water and fiber content. This fiber and overall volume can help to keep you feeling full for longer, making you less likely to snack in the hours after breakfast. By adding healthy protein and fats like nuts, you can get an even bigger nutritional bang for your buck.
Types of Oatmeal
How much the oat groat, or kernel, has undergone processing determines whether oatmeal is steel-cut, rolled, or instant. All three offer nutritional benefits, but less-processed oats, like steel-cut, may contain slightly more fiber than their counterparts.
Steel-cut oats: These are less refined oat kernels (called groats), sliced into smaller pieces rather than flattened like old-fashioned oats. Because they’re sliced, they take longer to cook — sometimes taking as long as 20 minutes of stovetop simmering to soften.
Rolled oats: Sometimes called old-fashioned oats, rolled oats look like flat, round circles. They cook faster than steel-cut oats and absorb more liquid. They’re most often used in stovetop oatmeal, granola bars, and baked goods.
Instant oatmeal: Quick (or instant), oatmeal consists of precooked, dried, and flattened oats that cook within a few minutes. They’re the most processed of the oat varieties and slightly thinner than rolled oats. Many brands of instant oatmeal include flavoring or sweetener, so it’s important to make sure there is little to no added sugar in yours.
Simple, healthy oatmeal recipes
Apple-cinnamon overnight oats
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup diced apple
- Combine oats, almond milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a pint-sized jar and stir.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Warm up in the microwave the next morning and enjoy!
Peanut butter and banana oatmeal
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 sliced bananas
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Turn heat to low and add rolled oats, stirring occasionally for about five minutes.
- When oats are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid, remove from heat, add bananas, peanut butter, and agave syrup, and stir.
- Add almonds, if desired.
- Serve warm.
Chai tea and oats smoothie
- 2 tablespoon rolled oats
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 chai tea bag
- 1/2 frozen, sliced banana
- Make tea as directed and set aside.
- Combine rolled oats, water, banana, and freshly brewed tea in a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
About UPMC Nutrition Services
Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.