Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They’re a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Here are 9 evidence-based health benefits of eating oats and oatmeal.

What are oats and oatmeal?

Oats are a whole grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa.

The most intact and whole form of oats are oat groats, which take a long time to cook. For this reason, many people prefer rolled, crushed, or steel-cut oats.

Instant (quick) oats are the most highly processed variety. While they take the shortest time to cook, the texture may be mushy.

Oats are commonly eaten for breakfast as oatmeal, which is made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is often referred to as porridge.

They’re also often included in muffins, granola bars, cookies, and other baked goods.

The nutrient composition of oats is well-balanced. They are a good source of carbs and fiber, including the fiber beta-glucan.

Oats are also a good source of high quality protein, with a good balance of essential amino acids.

Oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant plant compounds.

Half a cup (40.5 g) of dry oats contains:

The nutritional profile of one cup of prepared oatmeal (one half cup dry oats with water) also includes:

  • 27.4 grams (g) of carbs
  • 5.3 g of protein
  • 2.6 g of fat
  • 4 g of fiber
  • 153.5 calories

2. Whole oats are rich in antioxidants

Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats.

Research has found that avenanthramides may help oxidative stress by increasing the production of nitric oxide gas. This gas molecule helps dilate (widen) blood vessels, which may lead to better blood flow. In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects.

Beta-glucan may also lower blood pressure, but additional studies are needed.

3. Oats contain a powerful soluble fiber

Oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber. Beta-glucan partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in your gut.

The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include:

4. Oats can lower cholesterol levels

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. One major risk factor is high blood cholesterol.

Many studies have shown that the beta-glucan fiber in oats is effective at reducing both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Beta-glucan may increase the release of cholesterol-rich bile, which reduces the circulating levels of cholesterol in your blood.

Oats may also protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation.

Oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol occurs when it reacts with free radicals. This is another crucial step in the progression of heart disease.

LDL cholesterol produces inflammation in arteries, damages tissues, and can raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

5. Oats can improve blood sugar

Type 2 diabetes is a common health condition, characterized by significantly elevated blood sugar levels. It usually results from decreased sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

Oats may help lower blood sugar levels, especially in people with obesity or who have type 2 diabetes.

These effects are mainly attributed to beta-glucan’s ability to form a thick gel that delays the emptying of the stomach and absorption of glucose into the blood.

The beta-glucan in both oats and barley may also improve insulin sensitivity.

A 2021 systematic review of randomized clinical trails concluded that adding oat beta-glucan to meals with carbs reduces insulin in the blood, but the findings are based on the amount of oats.

6. Oatmeal is very filling and may help you lose weight

Not only is oatmeal (porridge) a delicious breakfast food, but it’s also very filling. Eating filling foods may help you eat fewer calories and lose weight.

By delaying the time it takes your stomach to empty of food, the beta-glucan in oatmeal may increase your feeling of fullness.

Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY (PYY), a hormone produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone has been shown to lead to reduced calorie intake and may decrease your risk of obesity.

7. Finely ground oats may help with skin care

It’s no coincidence that oats can be found in numerous skin care products. Makers of these products often label finely ground oats as “colloidal oatmeal.”

The FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin-protective substance back in 2003. But oats have a long history of use in the treatment of itch and irritation in various skin conditions.

For example, oat-based skin products may improve uncomfortable symptoms of eczema.

Note that skin care benefits pertain only to oats applied to the skin, not those that are eaten.

8. Oats may decrease the risk of childhood asthma

Asthma is the most common chronic lung condition in kids.

It’s an inflammatory disorder of the airways — the tubes that carry air to and from a person’s lungs.

Although not all children have the same symptoms, many experience recurrent coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Research indicates that early introduction of oats, for example, may actually protect children from developing asthma.

But whether oats can help prevent asthma development in children is still debated.

9. Oats may help relieve constipation

People of all ages and populations experience constipation. This refers to infrequent, irregular bowel movements that are difficult to pass.

Constipation affects nearly 16 out of 100 adults and about 33 out of 100 adults who are ages 60 and over.

Studies indicate that oat bran, the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain, may help relieve constipation.

Oat bran was also shown to decrease gastrointestinal symptoms and aid digestion in people living with ulcerative colitis (UC).

However, while the soluble fiber in oats is generally effective against constipation, it has been found to be less effective against opioid-induced constipation. This is because it doesn’t affect the movement of the colon that the drugs may suppress.

How to incorporate oats into your diet

You can enjoy oats in several ways. The most popular way is to simply eat oatmeal (porridge) for breakfast.

Here is what you need to make oatmeal:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water or milk
  • A pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the oats, stirring occasionally, until soft.

To make oatmeal tastier and even more nutritious, you can add cinnamon, fruits, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, or Greek yogurt.

Oats are often also included in baked goods, muesli, granola, and bread.

Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they are sometimes contaminated with gluten. That’s because they may be harvested and processed using the same equipment as other grains that contain gluten.

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, choose oat products that are certified as gluten-free.

Is it healthy to eat oats every day?

In one study from 2020, the health of participants with inactive (quiescent) ulcerative colitis who ate oat bran daily for 24 weeks was maintained, and they did not experience their symptoms getting worse. This suggests oats can be consumed every day.

However, since oats are high in fiber, you may notice changes in your stool’s appearance and the frequency at which you poop.

What’s the difference between wheat and oats?

The nutrient composition of oats and wheat is different, but both contain carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Minerals you can find in both wheat and oats at similar levels include magnesium, zinc, and iron.

Oats are also naturally gluten-free, while wheat is not. That said, due to the possibility of cross-contamination if you’re looking to make sure the oats are gluten-free, look for a label marking the oats as certified gluten-free.

Are oats carbs or protein?

Oats are a type of grain, which is a kind of carbohydrate. That said, 1/2 cup of dry oats also contains 5.3 g of protein.

Is oatmeal and oats the same thing?

Oats refers to the grains or seeds of the oat plant. You use oats to make oatmeal, which is a type of porridge.

Are oats really a superfood?

Oats are, in fact, among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. This means they are often considered a superfood. That said, there is no formal definition of the term superfood.

Oats are a nutritious food packed with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, they’re higher in soluble fiber and protein compared to other grains.

Oats have unique components like the soluble fiber beta-glucan and antioxidants called avenanthramides.

Benefits include lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, protection against skin irritation, and reduced constipation.

In addition, they are very filling, can be enjoyed several ways, and have many properties that should make them a food helpful for weight loss.

At the end of the day, oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.