OATMEAL: Compact Nutrition

Oatmeal is made from the oat groat, which in its raw form is inedible. Oatmeal comes in many forms, including steel-cut oats, stone-ground oats, rolled oats, and instant oats.

  • Steel-cut and stone-ground oats are not processed like regular oatmeal, are inedible in their raw form, and take significantly longer to cook than regular oatmeal—anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes depending on the amount and kind of oats used.
  • Rolled oats can be eaten on their own or made into oatmeal in about 10 minutes. 
  • Instant oats are a quick-to-cook variety of regular oatmeal, and take no more than a minute or two to prepare.

Why is it so special? 

It’s the perfect food for diabetics and non-diabetics alike due to how compact it is with nutritional content. For starters, it has a very low glycemic index (GI) of 55 per 250gm. The GI of a given food is important for diabetics who have to pay attention to their blood sugar throughout the day, as a blood sugar level that is too high or low can be dangerous for them.

Those who are diabetic are usually at risk of having high blood cholesterol, if they don’t already have it to begin with. Oats are one of the few foods that are rich in beta glucans, which have been proven to lower high blood cholesterol and maintain acceptable levels of blood cholesterol in the case of healthy patients.

Additionally, as a low GI food, the slow release of carbohydrates obtained from eating oatmeal means that you will feel fuller for a longer time. Foods like white rice or white bread have a high GI, which means that the carbohydrates in those foods are released into the bloodstream very quickly, creating a spike in blood sugar that falls quickly. This spike in blood sugar, while usually harmless, poses a critical danger to diabetic patients. Oatmeal is one of the “safe foods” that release energy in a controlled manner.

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Who is this suitable for?

It’s highly suitable for pre-diabetics, those with type-1 or type-2 diabetes, and those with high blood cholesterol. It is versatile enough to suit people from all walks of life, as the pros of eating it outweigh what few cons it has—the instant oatmeal variety can contain all manner of excess sugar, salt, and fat if you’re not careful, so pay attention to the labels while shopping!

When should I eat this?

Oatmeal used to be a breakfast food that was traditionally eaten by both the Scottish and Irish, and its usefulness remains the same right into the 21st century. As a low GI food, its slow release means that you’ll feel full much longer than you would have otherwise had eating foods with a high GI. It’s also the perfect food to kick-start your day with, without the unwanted blood sugar spikes.

 An alternative would be to eat it after workouts, at a time when it’s needed the most to replenish depleted stores of energy within the body. Instead of gorging yourself on a large amount of food when the post-workout hunger pangs strike, oatmeal is perfect in terms of its amount to satiety ratio: a little bit of it goes a long way towards avoiding overeating.

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How should this be served?

As a grain food, oatmeal is versatile and flexible enough to be served with just about anything, and its serving suggestions are wide-ranging, from sweet to savoury to everything in-between.

One thing to look out for while purchasing oatmeal is to read the nutritional labels on packets instant oatmeal closely. Instant oatmeal is not as advisable as the other non-processed varieties of oatmeal due to the amounts of other ingredients added to it during processing in order to get it to cook quickly. Things to look out for include sugar, salt (sodium), and fat content, in addition to any food preservatives or colouring that shouldn’t be in oatmeal to begin with.

It’s easy to go overboard adding garnishing and other ingredients to what seems like a plain bowl of oatmeal, so be mindful of the GI of whatever you add to your oatmeal—if you’re using milk instead of water to cook your oatmeal, don’t forget that it contains carbohydrates too! While nuts and fruits of all kinds go very well with oatmeal, the fat content of nuts and the sugar content of fruits should be noted, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.