The wonders of oatmeal are often repeated in literature on good grains, but the short recommendations often do not explain why a hearty bowl of the breakfast favorite is actually good for you. The fact is that oatmeal contains soluble fiber which takes a longer time to leave the stomach and can help you feel fuller for a longer period of time. This alone has benefits when it comes to stopping overeating and controlling one’s weight. With a growing number of people facing issues with being overweight or obese, this is a benefit that should not be overlooked.
Even a half cup a day of oatmeal can be enough to get many of the health benefits associated with it over the longer term. The solubility of the fiber in oatmeal allows it to absorb water to make it even larger and more viscous as it moves through the gastrointestinal system. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, acts as a bulking agent and does not have the same dynamics within the intestines.
The soluble fiber in oatmeal can also help with another related condition to being overweight- hyperlipidemia, or excessive LDL cholesterol levels (LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol). Some studies suggest that the impact may be as much as 10-15% in terms of a reduction in LDL for those who regularly consume oatmeal. The fiber content may also be associated with benefits when it comes to reducing blood pressure and in turn also reducing cardiovascular risk.
Even the American Heart Association recommends a diet that is high in fiber (25-30 grams per day) and oatmeal can help reach that target. Recent data shows that only half of Americans reach that amount currently!
The great thing when it comes to oatmeal is that there are many different types as well as ways in which to consume it, making it more likely that you will find a way that is palatable to your tastes. Steel-cut oats contain the whole oat grain, which rolled oats are dehulled and steamed. Both have a unique taste. Instant oats are similar to rolled oats except that they are steamed for a long amount of time. Whatever you choose, there are many great recipes out there which can make it a delightful treat- just make sure you are not choosing products or recipes that have too much added sugar as that can negate some of the health benefit! This is especially a concern with the instant varieties available in grocery stores, but can be true of any oatmeal dish.
Once you find a low-sugar dish of oatmeal that you like, you can work it into your daily diet and will hopefully start to see results over time. The best time to consume the oatmeal is in the morning from the perspective that the GI impacts will be compounded with consumption earlier in the day. This goes perfectly with the accepted use of oatmeal as a breakfast food. Try adding different fruits to the dish for added flavor and nutrition.