Oatmeal

What Is Oatmeal?

Oatmeal is a breakfast food made from oats and liquid like water or milk. Many foods fall in and out of favor as health trends come and go. Not oatmeal. This whole-grain powerhouse has been packing serious nutrition and hearty flavor into breakfast for generations. It’s one of the few comfort foods that’s as good for you as it is just plain good.

To get the most out of this superfood, be a bit picky.

Some packets of instant oatmeal, for example, are loaded with sugar -- as much as 8 teaspoons per serving -- and high in sodium. Always check the label to see what you're getting.

Great oatmeal starts with plain rolled oats, or steel-cut oats, cooked in a little water or milk, and topped with wholesome ingredients. It's a feel-good start to the day, and if you make it a habit, it can do your health some favors.

If you're on a gluten-free diet, look for oats that are certified gluten-free. Though oats themselves don't contain gluten, they can get tainted with gluten when they're being processed or growing.

Oatmeal Benefits

Oatmeal’s claim to fame is its proven ability to lower bad ( LDL) cholesterol. Chalk that up to a type of soluble fiber called beta glucan.

Eating oats is linked to an average 7% drop in LDL cholesterol, research shows. Many other things also affect your heart's health (like what else you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke), but oatmeal is a simple heart-smart start. Oatmeal also:

  • Lowers blood sugar levels

  • Provides antioxidants

  • Promotes healthy bacteria in your gut

  • Helps you to feel full to manage your weight

  • Eases constipation

  • Relieves skin itching and irritation

  • Lowers your chance of colon cancer

Types of Oatmeal

When you shop for oats, you'll see several types on the store shelves. They're all based on "oat groats," which are the whole oat kernel.

  • Instant oats: Oat groats that have been steamed and flaked.

  • Rolled oats(also called regular or old-fashioned oats): Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.

  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): You get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.

  • Scottish oats : These are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.

  • Oat groats: This is the whole oat kernel -- no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

You can cook oatmeal on your stove top, in your microwave, or in a slow cooker. "Overnight Oats" are also popular. These are oats that are soaked overnight in a liquid like milk or yogurt.

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How to Prepare Oatmeal

To make oatmeal, mix 2 ¼ cups of water and a dash of salt in a small saucepan and turn the heat to high. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat to low and add 1 cup of rolled oats. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes or until the oats absorb the water. Add any toppings, stir your oatmeal, put a lid on the pan, and turn off the heat. Let your oatmeal sit for another five minutes, then it’s ready to eat.

Toppings

Your bowl of oatmeal gets even tastier when you top it with spices. Try cinnamon, ginger, or pumpkin pie spice.

Swirl in a bit of almond butter, or any kind of nut butter. Or sprinkle walnuts (which are rich in heart-healthy omega-3s) or any of your favorite types of nuts on top.

Spoon in some frozen berries, and the warmth of the oatmeal will defrost them for you. Or try applesauce, or dried fruit.

You can add milk (dairy, almond, soy, or whatever else you like), too.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on November 11, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

McDonalds.com.

Whole Grains Council: "Types of Oats" and "Whole Grains A-Z."

Othman, R. Nutrition Review, June 2011.

Bob's Red Mill: "Basic Cooking Instructions for Oat Groats."

The World’s Healthiest Foods: “Oats” “Perfect Oatmeal.”

Nutrients : “The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”

Journal of Drugs in Dermatology : “Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties.”

The British Journal of Nutrition : “Oatmeal porridge: impact on microflora-associated characteristics in healthy subjects.”

Nutrition Journal: “The role of meal viscosity and oat β-glucan characteristics in human appetite control: a randomized crossover trial.”

Mayo Clinic: “High-fiber diet.”

Dairy Council of California Let’s Eat Healthy: “Health Benefits of Oatmeal.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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