Is Oatmeal Good For Weight Loss? Here’s What A Dietitian Really Thinks
If you’re trying to lose weight, one of the best things you can do is eat your breakfast. Front-loading calories earlier in your day means you’re less likely to overeat later on in the day because you’re starting off full and satisfied. And when it comes to a healthy breakfast, one of the classics that probably comes to mind is…a big bowl of oatmeal. But is it really a good choice for weight loss?
Oatmeal is generally touted as a healthy food, as it can fuel you with energy and other good-for-you nutrients that can lower cholesterol and control your blood sugar levels. But it is a carb-heavy grain, so you might be wondering if oatmeal is actually a good food choice if you’re trying to lose weight, especially since many diets involve limiting carbs.
Here’s the thing: Whether or not oatmeal is a good breakfast for weight loss really depends on the kind you’re eating, and how you’re preparing it. Here’s what a dietitian says about eating oatmeal for weight loss.
How many calories are in oatmeal?
If you take a look at oatmeal’s nutritional profile, you’ll see that it’s mostly carbs, but it also packs fiber and other nutrients like zinc and magnesium. The number of calories a bowl of oatmeal holds depends on how you cook it or serve it, but here’s what the nutritional makeup of a typical cup of rolled oats might look like unprepared, according to the USDA.
- 307 calories
- 5 g fat
- 54 g carbs
- 1 g sugar
- 150 mg sodium
- 10 g fiber
- 10 g protein
What are the health benefits of oatmeal?
It can actually be a very healthy addition to your diet, as it’s super filling, says Linda Nikolakopoulos, a registered dietitian at Nutritious Measures. “Oats are whole grains, so they are a solid source of fiber, which makes oatmeal filling and great for keeping the digestive system on track,” she says. Oatmeal is loaded with the the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which can increase your feelings of fullness, lower your cholesterol, and even help improve certain skin conditions like eczema.
Oatmeal also contains a good amount of protein when compared to other grains, and is a great vehicle for incorporating other vitamins and nutrients, says Nikolakopoulos. Since your body uses protein to repair muscles, oatmeal can be a good complement to a strength-training routine. Its combination of protein and nutrients like iron, phosphorous and manganese make it an energy-boosting meal.
Can oatmeal help you lose weight?
Oatmeal can be a great breakfast option to aid weight loss, says Nikolakopoulos. “Not only is it nutrient dense, but this powerhouse meal will help promote fullness and satiety, preventing the urge for snacking between meals later on.” Beta-glucan fiber attracts water and basically makes your digested food thicker, slowing down how fast it can move through your digestive system. This means you feel fuller for longer, per research in Nutrition Reviews.
Eating oatmeal regularly may also lower your LDL (or bad) cholesterol and waist circumference, per a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. When a group of overweight and obese adults ate two portions per day of whole-grain oat cereal, they experienced a larger reduction in weight circumference than a group of people who didn’t, and these results occurred as early as the fourth week of adding the oatmeal to their diets.
Consuming oats containing beta-glucan for 12 weeks can also lead to reductions in BMI, body fat, and waist-to-hip ratio, found a study in the journal Plant Foods For Human Nutrition.
Eating oatmeal regularly can also help control glucose and insulin response, especially in people with diabetes, per a literature review of 16 studies published in the journal Nutrients. While oatmeal contains a fair amount of sugar, it’s considered a low-glycemic carb, meaning the sugar is digested slowly and therefore doesn’t cause a major spike in blood sugar and crash later. Basically, it’s a carb-y dish that provides sustainable energy.
What are the best ways to eat oatmeal for weight loss?
If you’re looking to lose weight or simply want a meal that won’t have you snacking five minutes later, Nikolakopoulos suggests making oatmeal with steel-cut or rolled oats. “Steel-cut oats can absorb more water than instant oats, and they’re also superior to instant oatmeal because they are less processed and have a better nutrient profile.”
To make your oatmeal less blah, you can spruce it up with toppings, like fresh fruit. “Try making the oatmeal with milk instead of only water, mix in some nut butter, and top with fresh or frozen berries and nuts,” says Nikolakopoulos. “These add protein, calcium, vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats, turning a simple bowl of oatmeal into a complete meal.”
To make your meal nutritious, though, you’re going to want to avoid some common mistakes—like piling on the dried fruit or syrup. “Try to let the fresh fruit provide the sweetness rather than adding honey or maple syrup as those contribute excess sugar and calories,” says Nikolakopoulos.
Try to keep track of your portion sizes using measuring cups or spoons, as it’s easy to go overboard and add unnecessary calories, making your bowl a less healthy breakfast option for weight loss.
You can also make your oatmeal into a healthy savory meal. “Using the cooked oatmeal as a base, you can create your own oatmeal bowl by incorporating various add-ins like egg, avocado, cheese, vegetables and spices of your choice,” says Nikolakopoulos.
The bottom line: Oatmeal can be a healthy option for weight loss if you prepare it with unprocessed, steel-cut oats, healthy toppings, and watch your serving sizes.
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