“Reasons to Eat Carbs in Oatmeal” was written by Katie Lees and reviewed/edited by Kasey Hageman MS, RD, LD. Katie is a dietetic student at Brigham Young University.
When it comes to weight loss, you may have been encouraged or told that cutting out carbohydrates is an effective method, including cutting carbs in oatmeal. The good news is that there are many benefits of carbs in oatmeal.
Some of these include promoting weight loss, reducing serum cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
This article explains why the types of carbs in oats are beneficial, gives tips for understanding the number of carbs, and discusses the health benefits of carbs in oatmeal.
What is Oatmeal?
Oatmeal is made from whole grain groats, which have either been ground down into smaller oats or left larger and made into steel-cut oats. Some of the different types of oats include rolled oats, old-fashioned oats, steel-cut oats, and quick/instant oats. Each type of oatmeal is different in size and therefore have different cooking methods.
Types of Carbs in Oatmeal
When it comes to carbohydrates, understanding the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates is important.
Simple carbohydrates include foods like candy, fruits, baked goods, and juices. Foods high in simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy.
Complex carbs include foods such as whole-grain bread, beans, and fiber-rich vegetables. These types of carbs cause a slower spike in blood sugar. Therefore, these complex carbohydrates in oatmeal are very beneficial. An individual should not omit them from the diet.
The majority of your carbohydrates should come from complex rather than processed or refined sugars.
Types of Oatmeal
As previously mentioned, oatmeal comes from whole oat groats which are the whole grain of the oats, minus the hulls. From the oat groats, you will find the following versions of oatmeal.
Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats, are the oat groats steamed and rolled into flakes. The larger surface area means they will cook more quickly than steel-cut oats.
- Serving size: ½ cup (dry)
- Calories: 180
- Carbohydrate: 33g
- Fiber: 5 g
Steel Cut Oats
Steel-cut oats are groats cut into 2 or 3 pieces with a sharp blade. They cook more quickly than whole oat groats and retain a chewy texture.
- Serving size: ¼ cup (dry)
- Calories: 160
- Carbohydrate: 31g
- Fiber: 4g
Quick/instant oats are cut into more pieces, rolled thinner and steamed longer. They will not have much texture and can become rather mushy when cooked but generally need very little cooking time. Quick/instant oats have the least nutritional benefits out of all the oatmeal types.
- Serving size: ½ cup (dry)
- Calories: 150
- Carbohydrate: 27g
- Fiber: 4g
Types of Fiber
There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon.
Insoluble fiber, however, is not dissolved in water and can not be broken down by the colon. As a result, insoluble fiber does not contribute to total calories.
However, both types of fiber benefit your gut health. For example, soluble fiber helps with weight loss, balancing blood sugar levels, and reducing serum cholesterol. In addition, insoluble fiber helps with bowel health and research has shown can help prevent colon cancer.
Overall Benefits of Fiber
- Proven to reduce serum cholesterol
- Maintains blood glucose control
- Protects against certain cancers such as colon cancer
- Helps bowls function properly by adding bulk to the stools
- Helps with weight loss
Gluten Free Oat Flour
Although a gluten free diet isn’t necessary for everyone, those who have celiac disease can also benefit from gluten free rolled oats and gluten free oat flour.
Oat flour can be used to make baked goods that would normally be made with gluten-containing flour. For that reason, gluten free oats are a way to increase carb consumption in those with celiac disease.
That being said, it is important to read nutrition labels when buying gluten free products. By doing this, you can assure foods were not packaged in facilities handling gluten-containing products.
Do Carbs in Oatmeal Cause Weight Gain?
A question often asked about oatmeal is “Do carbs in oatmeal cause weight gain?” The answer to this question is NO!
The carbs in oatmeal are so beneficial in many ways and do not cause weight gain. In fact, carbs in oatmeal may help with weight loss due to the higher fiber content and low glycemic index.
Your body needs energy from carbohydrates to survive, and since oatmeal is a great source of complex carbohydrates, they are a great choice for those who are trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Micronutrients in Oatmeal
One final benefit is the micronutrients in oatmeal. Rolled oats are fortified with many of the B vitamins. Some of these vitamins include – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid.
Most Americans consume these micronutrients by eating whole grains. Someone who cuts carbohydrates out of their diet may not get enough of these micronutrients. Since B vitamins increase energy production, consuming oatmeal can help increase energy throughout the day.
The carbs in oatmeal are extremely beneficial to your health. Oatmeal helps increase fiber consumption, reduces risks for heart disease, and helps blood glucose control.
By eating oatmeal a couple of times a week, in addition to other whole grains, you can reduce future health risks.
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Glycemic index for 60+ foods – Harvard Health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods. Published 2021. Accessed February 21, 2021.