One of the frequent questions I get asked from clients is, “is it okay to eat oatmeal for breakfast?”
My answer is “that depends on your particular metabolism and what type of oatmeal you plan on eating.”
Let’s break it down for simplicity.
In 1987 a book came out on the magical properties of oatmeal lowering cholesterol. Since then Quaker jumped on the statements in this book and proudly shows a slogan on every package of its product stating it lowers cholesterol.
Oatmeal contains fiber, and fiber lowers cholesterol. Many foods contain fiber – not just oatmeal.
For example, here are some fiber containing foods:
Oatmeal, 1 cup 4 grams fiber
Apple, 1 medium with skin 5 grams fiber
Raspberries, 1 cup 8 grams fiber
½ medium avocado 7 grams fiber
1 cup steamed broccoli 5 grams fiber
½ cup garbanzo beans 6 grams fiber
As you can see fiber exists in many types of food – not just oatmeal. However, oatmeal contains a type of carbohydrate known as beta-glucans, which can lower cholesterol. Beta-glucans also exists in bran, baker’s yeast and certain types of mushrooms.
However, cholesterol is very complicated and just adding oatmeal in itself is not going to lower cholesterol, just as adding or subtracting any food may not change your cholesterol numbers.
The most important thing is to look at the integrity of your diet.
Do you eat whole foods vs. processed foods?
Does your diet contain enough overall fiber?
Do you exercise regularly?
With respect to oatmeal the best type is steel-cut oats which contains the most fiber and nutrition. Steel-cut oats take about 20-30 minutes to prepare, a far cry from pouring an instant packet of oatmeal, whether plain or filled with sugar. However, you can make the night before since it heats up nicely in the morning.
And finally if you are insulin-resistant (vs. sensitive) having just a bowl of oatmeal is not enough protein to start your day.
If you desire oatmeal I would keep the amount to less than 30 grams of carbs and add protein to it (whether you add in protein powder to your oatmeal and top it with nuts or just adding an egg or cottage cheese on the side), and limit to twice a week.
If you desire oatmeal more often consider having it later on in the day for a snack since you are the most insulin resistant in the morning (hence needing more protein early in the day and tolerating more carbs later).
Oatmeal a miracle food for cholesterol? Healthy, and helpful for many diets but not a panacea. If you are insulin sensitive having oatmeal on a daily basis can be a healthy part of your lifestyle.