Are oats healthy? Depends! May 8, 2013 healthy products, nutrition, weight management 16 Comments Are oats healthy? So over the last few days I have made a few presentations, and the topic of nutritious breakfast choices has come up multiple times! As the colder months start to creep in it seems people are wanting a warmer option, and oats seem to be the hot topic of conversation! Where shall we start…? I’m not sure if I am going to get a slap on my knuckles from my colleagues, but I have never thought that plain oats, with about 3g of fibre per serve, are really going to keep you full all morning. Yes for a couple of hours, but if you start at 7am for example, I wouldn’t be surprised if come 10am you are ravenous (I probably would be!). In particular, the people who think they are saving calories and making it up with water, rather than milk, which results in quite a low protein breakfast too. One standard serving of traditional rolled oats will usually provide around 2.6g-3g of fibre. I would tend to think that you should be able to attain far more fibre in the one meal (to put this into perspective, a typical serving of All bran would provide around 13g), to give you the start you need to really get on your way to attaining the recommended 25-30g a day. Traditional oats – 2.6g fibre per serve Many people are told that oats are good for lowering cholesterol as a result of a certain type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan being present in them. In other countries a recommendation of 3g of beta-glucans a day is made in order to attain these cholesterol lowering benefits. One serve, or 30g – 40g, of traditional rolled oats, will usually provide around 1.6g of beta-glucan. As you can see, you would need to have almost 2 serves of oats in order to reach your daily target for beta-glucans (but with that comes double the amount of calories too). Moving onto glycaemic index, or GI, although traditional oats do have a low GI, how many people in todays busy world stand over the stove with their pot for the 4 minutes in the morning? Most people I have spoken to in my time tend to consume the quick oats from the sachets. Now although these oats have a similar nutritional profile on the back of the pack to traditional rolled oats, due to the processing, these oats actually have a more moderate to high GI (not good for sustained energy as we know!). So where does this leave our humble oats: Pros: They are low in sodium (if you are trying to avoid it for one reason or another) and trans fats, sugar (if you get the plain variety), and calories (if you have a portion controlled serve, and this is a focus of yours). Cons: The quick oat varieties have a moderate to high GI, and almost all of the varieties are not an excellent source of fibre, are not particularly high in protein, and you would need around 80g to reach the beta-glucan target to have any potential cholesterol lowering effect. So what does this mean? Is the dietitian saying oats are bad? No, no she is not 🙂 So what is she saying? Range of ‘boosted’ oats, check the ingredients list, they are not all as ‘natural’ as each other. Traditional rolled oats are a far better choice than the new varieties of quick sachets that are now on the market. No matter if they are “wholegrain” or “multigrain” or contain some sort of “superfood” added ingredient, these quick sachets on their own should be seen more as a healthier snack option or healthier dessert, as opposed to the wonderous breakfast option they are often touted as. High fibre Uncle Tobys oats. Weightwise oats- higher protein and fibre than the flavoured varieties, but quite a long ingredients list for an oats product. “But Travelling Dietitian, I really love my bowl of warm oats..what should I do?” I too am a fan of a warm bowl of hearty oats, but every time I consume them, I add in a range of other delicious healthy ingredients to help bump up the fibre, healthy fats, and protein, so that I actually feel full for a few hours from them. Amazing bircher muesli that is high in fibre and protein from the recipe my book “The Clean Separation” Here are some examples: Protein – Top your oats with Greek style yoghurt, low fat ricotta cheese, or low fat cottage cheese – putting a few tablespoons or so on will bump up the protein by about 10-15g which will make a significant difference to how full you feel. You can also mix in a natural protein powder, such as one made from sacha inchi or pea protein which could provide around 20g of protein (dependent on how much you use) to really hit the spot. You could even add some hemp hearts which are a mix of plant based protein and healthy fats. An example of a natural protein supplement with nuts and flavours already in it for you to mix in with your oats. Hemp protein powder available in Australia at some health food stores and online. Healthy fats – Use an unsweetened almond milk instead of water, it is low GI, provides some Vitamin E, as well as some mono-unsaturated fats, you also could add in some chia seeds, hemp seeds, LSA mix, grounded mixed nuts, or even a teaspoon of a natural nut butter of your preference. Nuts butters Fibre- Some of the examples above also provide fibre such as the chia seeds or the LSA mix, you could also use a psyllium husk fibre supplement, some dried coconut meat flakes, or place some berries on top of your oats. Chia seeds Fibre boosters Super high fibre gluten free coconut cereal Extra flavours which you may enjoy- I love to add 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon (which has been shown to help regulate your blood sugar levels, leaving you with a more sustained energy release), a drop of vanilla essence, and even some raw cocoa and shredded coconut (just don’t go overboard with this so the calories don’t sky rocket up). I use the cocoa brew on the right hand side as a raw chocolate flavoured ingredients for flavour If you want to sweeten your oats you could use one of the acai berry blend mixes (I use a nutra-organics one), as this gives the oats a berry flavour, with minimal added sugar or calories, and still provides a touch of sweetness. Otherwise, a piece of fresh fruit, or a cooked apple with natural juices that come out could work too! You can also use a touch of stevia and/or erythritol to sweeten your oats without adding too many calories or spiking your blood sugar levels. Stevia/erythritol mixes I sometimes add the acai berry blend into my oats or yoghurt to give it a berry flavour with a touch of sweetness (plus all the nutritional benefits!) For those of you that are still set on your quick oats, there are BARLEYmax based oats called Barley and Oats 1st which are low GI, and actually provide almost the full 3g of beta-glucan in the one 40g serve (so double what you get in the other oats), they also have 7g of fibre per serve, rather than 3g (in the plain variety at least). So potentially going for them, and still adding in a mixture of the additions I mentioned above, will ensure you are getting a nutritionally sound, and filling option, that you can enjoy, which actually keeps you full all morning! Barley and Oats 1st- impressive ingredients list and nutrition information panel for oats (and they are low GI even though they are ‘quick’ oats) I hope this post is useful for some, Look forward to hearing any of your additions that you could suggest to others! For now, The Travelling Dietitian x ps- If think information was of interest to you, then you will absolutely love my book The Clean Separation which covers a range of topics, including; weight management, feeling full from the foods you select to eat, clean eating, and wholesome and nutritious living. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Related 16 Responses Andrew Bashfield May 8, 2013 Great article – plain rolled oats are a key part of our diet as my wife Andrea and I work through the Live Below the Line Week on food costing only $2 per day per person. It’s a fund raising exercise, but it does not allow for luxuries, so a little honey is the only extra on the oats. Bircher muesli is my preferred breakfast when travelling. Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian May 8, 2013 Thanks for sharing Andrew. I would think something like skim milk powder could be valuable in this instance even if it could fit in the budget. I would think legumes or lentils could be an alternative breakfast that are higher in protein and fibre, that are lower in cost too. Log in to Reply Samantha Kozica May 9, 2013 Great post, thanks for the practical strategies to increase satiety, fibre and protein! Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian May 9, 2013 Thanks Sammy 🙂 Glad you found it useful x Log in to Reply Andrea May 9, 2013 Well, you just made me feel better! I soak my rolled oats & chia seeds in a little water over night and then top with a couple of tablespoons of greek yoghurt, cinnamon and frozen berries in the morning. If i’m feeling fancy I add vanilla bean paste. So i’m on the right track, I guess! I use 1/2 cup of oats and around a tablespoon of chia. Are these the right volumes, do you think? Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian May 9, 2013 Sounds great Andrea, yep, you are definitely on track! Log in to Reply Nadine Hoffman May 9, 2013 Great Article! As kids we always ate rolled oats with powder milk and honey yum! I always make sure I have a source of protein in every meal and to be honest, although I love oats they do not love me so much anymore so I now use quinoa instead 🙂 Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian May 9, 2013 Sounds great Nadine! Quinoa porridge is a fantastic option. I actually have a recipe made like that in my book! Go you! Log in to Reply Debbie Whittle May 9, 2013 What a fantastic article. I like to soak my oats overnight in almond milk, add a medjool date and some sunflower seeds – no cooking required and absolutely delicious! It actually does keep me going even when I have done a workout! Going to add some berries and chia seeds next time to though! Log in to Reply Toni Wood June 1, 2013 Great article, thanks! I always have yoghurt with my oats & include a serve of fruit 🙂 My favourite is vanilla, fresh dates & roasted hazelnuts… Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 2, 2013 Thanks for the comment Toni! Sounds yum 🙂 Log in to Reply Jenny June 3, 2013 So instant, plain oatmeal out of the packets have moderate to high GI? I’m curious to read more about this, can you please share the link where you found this information? I thought instant oatmeal had more processing/ breakdown so it can cook faster. -Jenny Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 3, 2013 Hi Jenny, you can search the GI databases to find this information out. That processing that allows it to cook faster obviously impacts on how quickly we digest it too. Log in to Reply Jamel December 2, 2013 I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s articles or reviews every day along with a mug of coffee. Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian December 4, 2013 Glad you are enjoying! Log in to Reply website December 9, 2013 Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody that genuinely understands what they are discussing on the net. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people really need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you are not more popular since you surely have the gift. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.