Within the nutrition world, there is a lot of confusion around eating whole grains and specifically oats. Many people have been led to believe that oats can cause inflammation in our gut and that it is simply bad for us to eat. While I do not recommend all types of grains and only recommend eating whole grains or sprouted grains, I am often asked what my opinion is on oatmeal.
In short, my answer is they are fantastic. This is, of course, if you don’t have an allergy to them. The best way to find out if you have an allergy is to eliminate only that food from your diet while keeping the rest of your diet the same. Once you have taken it out for a few weeks, reintroduce it and pay very close attention to how you feel after eating it. Do you feel good or lethargic? Is your stomach bothered? This is called intuitive eating, essentially paying close attention to how your body reacts to different foods and then creating a diet around what makes you feel phenomenal.
Where Do You Get Your Fiber From?
Back to the oats. The reason I love oats starts with their fiber content. It is amazing how many people are consistently deficient in the healthy amount of daily fiber intake. In the picture below published in the Journal of Nutrition you will see a graph of the difference between the daily-recommended intake and the actual intake for both men and women in the U.S.
On a side note, this is something that has always made me scratch my head because vegans or plant-based eaters are often asked, “where do you get your protein from?” Dr. Garth Davis wrote an entire book Proteinaholic, that we have created a top 5 takeaways HERE, about the misunderstanding of the amount of protein that we actually need. On top of this, you can find almost no cases of protein deficiency in the academic literature other than from those who are also calorically deficient, meaning they simply aren’t eating enough food. The real question for everyone, not just vegans, should be, “where do you get your fiber from?” *Something important to know is the only place you can get fiber from is plant-based foods.
We are wreaking havoc on our bodies by being fiber deficient. Greater fiber intake has been associated with reduced rates of type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, blood cholesterol, weight gain, and more diseases (Schmier) and oats are a fantastic way to increase your daily fiber intake!
On top of the fibers within oats, there are also anti-inflammatory (polyphenols), antioxidant phytonutrients, and other constituents that can help fight atherosclerosis, help maintain arterial and endothelial functioning, immunomodulatory (helps regulation of immune system), and helpful in reducing childhood asthma (Andersson) (Singh).
This one is also strange because of the reported inflammatory effects of grains and oats yet there is evidence to suggest just the opposite. I am not under the impression that just because a study says something that it is 100% true and I am sure there are other studies saying something different. This takes us back to paying close attention to how you feel after eating oats.
Why I bring this up is for the reason of trying to dispel any aversion people may have to eating oats. They can and do have fantastic benefits to our health and this is becoming widely recognized in the health world. Changing your breakfast from eggs, bacon, flapjacks, sugary cereals, English muffins, or a number of other options to a bowl of oats with flaxseeds, blueberries, and cinnamon can be a huge step in the right direction for your overall wellness.
Clemens, Roger, Sibylle Kranz, Amy R. Mobley, Theresa A. Nicklas, Mary Pat Raimondi, Judith C. Rodriguez, Joanne L. Slavin, and Hope Warshaw. “Filling America’s Fiber Intake Gap: Summary of a Roundtable to Probe Realistic Solutions with a Focus on Grain-Based Foods, 2.” The Journal of nutrition 142, no. 7 (2012): 1390S-1401S.
Schmier, Jordana K., Paige E. Miller, Jessica A. Levine, Vanessa Perez, Kevin C. Maki, Tia M. Rains, Latha Devareddy, Lisa M. Sanders, and Dominik D. Alexander. “Cost savings of reduced constipation rates attributed to increased dietary fiber intakes: a decision-analytic model.” BMC Public Health 14, no. 1 (2014): 374.
Singh, Rajinder, Subrata De, and Asma Belkheir. “Avena sativa (Oat), a potential neutraceutical and therapeutic agent: an overview.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 2 (2013): 126-144.