Expert Advice: Best and Worst Oatmeal for People with Diabetes

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Oatmeal is a warm, go-to breakfast item that’s easy to prepare.

But, typically a carbohydrate-heavy food, is oatmeal okay for people with Type 2 diabetes? The answer is yes, but it turns out not all oatmeal is created equal.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the different types of oatmeals and which ones are best for someone with diabetes.

Oats contain several properties that offer health benefits.

Oatmeal is a great source for many important nutrients including fiber (insoluble and soluble), and important minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, thiamine, and zinc.

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the primary type of soluble fiber in oats is beta-glucan, which has been shown to slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite.

Beta-glucan can bind with cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestine and transport them through the digestive tract and eventually out of the body.

Whole oats also contain plant chemicals that act as antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation that is associated with various diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

dLife caught up with Cindy Dillard, RD, LDN, CDE, at Novant Health Diabetes Center at Forsyth Medical Center to learn more about oatmeal and how it affects a person with diabetes.

“Oatmeal is definitely okay to eat if you have diabetes,” Dillard says, “while oats are a significant source of carbohydrates, these carbohydrates are high fiber and can easily fit into a healthy diet for people with diabetes in moderation,” she says.

One cup of cooked oats would contain 30 grams of carbs, which would be an acceptable amount for anyone with diabetes, Dillard says.

However, she reminds us that carbs from fruit or milk should be taken into account as well.

If someone is unsure about the amounts of carbohydrates they should consume at a meal, she recommends meeting with a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Care and Education Specialist.

Dillard explains that oats are high in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and relieve constipation.

“High fiber carbohydrates digest more slowly, resulting in better post-meal blood sugar,” she says. “Oatmeal contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It helps you feel fuller, which can help promote weight loss.”

With this knowledge in hand, there are many choices to pick from as you go down the oatmeal aisle at the grocery store.

The most common choices you will find are steel-cut or Irish, rolled or old-fashioned and quick or instant. Here are the differences:

  • Steel-Cut or Irish: Oats that have been cut into two or three smaller pieces either using a steel blade. Because the size of the oats is larger, it will take longer for these to cook.
  • Scottish Oats: Oats that have been stone-ground into a meal. When these are cooked, the take on more of a porridge-like consistency.
  • Rolled or Old-Fashioned: Oats that have been steamed, rolled and flattened into flakes, and then dried to remove moisture so they are shelf-stable.
  • Quick or Instant: These oats are steamed for a longer period of time and then and rolled into thinner pieces so they can be cooked quickly.

According to Dillard, it’s better to have rolled or steel cuts oats, rather than instant oatmeal packs.  “The instant packs will contain added sugar and sodium,” she says.

While she says the convenient instant packs are probably better than skipping breakfast altogether, a better choice would be rolled or steel-cut oats.

“Overnight oats are a good solution,” she says. “You can mix oats with water, milk or unsweetened almond milk, and fruit or nuts, place in the refrigerator overnight and then heat or eat cold the following morning.”

If it’s too difficult to go for steel-cut, Scottish, or rolled oats, Dillard suggests adding cinnamon or one teaspoon of honey or brown sugar to them before they are ready to serve.

She says a low-calorie sweetener like sucralose or stevia is okay as well.

A few other ideas Dillard has to make steel-cut, Scottish or rolled oats more palatable is to add one tablespoon of nut butter or nuts for added protein and healthy fat, a small amount of fruit (1/4 cup berries, ¼ banana, ¼ apple chopped), or cinnamon or vanilla flavoring.

Enjoy this simple, velvety recipe for overnight oats. This is a great way to eat old-fashioned or rolled oats without the long cooking time. Prepare a batch for the whole family ahead of time for an instant breakfast. It’s instant oatmeal without the instant oatmeal!

You can take a look at some other fiber-rich foods with our slideshow of 10 best fiber foods for diabetes.

Overnight Oats

overnight oats

Serving size: 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup old-fashioned or rolled oats
  • ½-1 cup liquid such as dairy milk, soy milk, or nut milk
  • ½ cup of any chopped fruit (banana, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries)
  • Few tablespoons of Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of chia/flaxseeds
  • Nuts such as almonds
  • A dash of cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. In a medium-sized Mason jar, add ½ cup old-fashioned or rolled oats, ½-1 cup liquid such as dairy milk, soy milk, or nut milk
  2. Top of the mixture ½ cup of banana, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.
  3. Additional optional ingredients include a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt, 1-2 tablespoons of chia/flaxseeds, nuts, or any spices like cinnamon.
  4. Screw on the lid and shake the jar vigorously until all ingredients are mixed well.
  5. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The oats will soften and be ready for breakfast the next day.

Nutritional information (per serving): Calories: 400; Total Fat: 7.8g; Saturated Fat: 2.1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1.2g; Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium: 116.2mg; Carbohydrate: 71g; Dietary Fiber: 12.2g; Sugar: 30.6g; Protein: 15.3g.

NOTE: The nutrition facts may vary depending on the ingredients used in the recipe. The nutritional information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified nutritional professional. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your specific dietary needs.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified nutritional professional. While the diet has proven benefits, it’s still controversial. Discuss any changes in medication and relevant lifestyle changes with your doctor.  Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your specific dietary needs.

Sources:

  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved September 19, 2019, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/oats/