The chances are that you know someone who has diabetes. You may even have it yourself. What’s really going on when someone has diabetes?
It’s a metabolic condition affecting how the body produces and uses insulin. For patients with diabetes, it’s hard to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
It’s important for someone trying to manage their blood sugar to monitor their carbohydrate intake. This is because carb levels affect blood sugar levels directly. But it’s not all about the quantity of carbs. It’s also about quality. There are processed carbs with lots of added sugars out there. But there are also nutrient-rich carbs that are high in fiber. This is what we want to aim for.
Target carb intakes vary based on the individual. You’ll want to ask your health care provider how many carbs you should be eating. Eating nutrient-dense fibrous foods can help not only blood sugar but also overall health. This is why oatmeal is a great choice.
Oatmeal is often a go-to food for people with diabetes. As long as you control the portions, this could be a great choice for you too. One cup of cooked oatmeal has 30 grams of carbs. This single portion can make up part of a healthy diet for someone who is diabetic.
Diet and lifestyle are the gold standards of treatment for diabetes. Oatmeal has been a staple breakfast food for a long time. And it’s a better option than some other carb-heavy breakfast foods like sugary breakfast cereal, pancakes with syrup, or muffins with jam on top. If any of these examples are your regular breakfast, you may want to monitor your blood sugar after breakfast. See how your body is reacting to these different foods. It’s possible you have blood glucose spikes.
Oatmeal is also good for heart health. This is important because people with diabetes are also prone to heart disease.
By the second half of the last century, dietary oatmeal interventions were frequent in patients with diabetes. After insulin became more common, the practice of oatmeal interventions fell out of style. Dietary oatmeal interventions were invented by German diabetologist Carl von Noorden over a century ago. It is actually still used in German hospitals but in a modified form.
So, can adding oatmeal to your diet have therapeutic effects for you? Let’s find out.
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Benefits of oatmeal for diabetes
Oatmeal is a nutritious breakfast choice. This is thanks to its composition of bioactive compounds, fats, and beta-glucans. Oatmeal is low in calories and fat. It is also a plant-based option. For people with diabetes who are vegetarian or vegan, oatmeal can provide lots of nutrition and is not sourced from animals in any way. Another bonus of oatmeal is that it is an economical choice. It costs very little to eat oats!
Oatmeal is also gluten-free. This makes it a great option for patients with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Oats do not contain any gluten. However, if you have Celiac disease, it is best to go for certified oats to be gluten-free. This is because even though oats themselves do not contain gluten, they may have been processed in a facility that has other gluten-containing grains.
Therefore it is possible that there was some cross-contamination of gluten to the oats. If oats are certified to be gluten-free, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
The nutrient content of oats is vast. In fact, half a cup of dry rolled oats contains the following nutrients:
- 154 calories
- 6 grams of protein
- 3 grams of fat
- 28 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of dietary fiber
- 13 percent of your recommended daily intake of thiamine (which is vitamin B1)
- 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron
- 14 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium
- 17 percent of your recommended daily intake of phosphorus
- 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of zinc
- 8 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper
- 74 percent of your recommended daily intake of manganese
- 17 percent of your recommended daily intake of selenium
Oatmeal has great benefits on digestive health. This is because of its fiber intake and its ability to alter your microbiome. Oatmeal also helps to protect the skin. It does this by regulating the pH of the skin. This helps in reducing inflammation and itching. Oatmeal also helps to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
Oatmeal can help to control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. It helps to regulate blood sugar because of the high fiber content, low glycemic load, and low glycemic index. In fact, oatmeal can even reduce the need for insulin injections if you eat it instead of other sugar-laden breakfast foods.
Oatmeal has been associated with a significant reduction in average blood sugar concentrations. It is also linked with improved insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. One great benefit of oatmeal is that you can cook it in advance. This way, you have a quick and healthy option in the morning. You can even make overnight oats with oats and chia seeds that have soaked up the liquid and flavor come morning at breakfast time. Oatmeal is a source of long-term energy.
One research study looked at dietary oatmeal interventions in poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. They found that oatmeal interventions may lead to a significant decrease in blood sugar levels. They were also able to reduce the insulin dosage. Researchers concluded that short-term dietary oatmeal interventions are an effective and budget-friendly tool in type 2 diabetes.
Another study looked at the associations between whole-grain intake and type 2 diabetes risk. They evaluated 158,259 women and 36,525 men. None of them had type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. In a follow-up, 18,629 participants had developed type 2 diabetes. The participants who ate the most whole grains had a 29 percent lower rate of type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate the least whole grains.
Eating more whole grains such as oatmeal was significantly associated with a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that eating more whole grains can be part of a healthy diet for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
A study looked at the efficacy of two days of eating oatmeal on insulin resistance. They found that participants needed less insulin for the days they were eating oatmeal and afterward as well. On day two of the study, the average insulin dose was 112 international units. On days three and four, patients required insulin doses of just 82.0 and 69.9 international units after eating the oatmeal.
Hemoglobin a1c is a measure of glucose levels over an extended period of time. This study found that hemoglobin a1c was lower four weeks after the oatmeal intervention. Diabetes-adapted diets did not have as much of an effect on metabolic control and insulin sensitivity. Oatmeal led to long-lasting effects of one month.
Drawbacks of oatmeal for diabetes
Be aware of what kind of oatmeal you are eating if you have instant oatmeal that’s full of added sugars. This can cause a blood sugar spike. Or, if you eat too much oatmeal at once, this can negatively affect your blood sugar too.
Oatmeal can also have negative consequences for someone who has gastroparesis. This is the medical term for delayed gastric emptying. For people with both diabetes and gastroparesis, oatmeal’s fiber content can slow stomach emptying even further.
One study looked specifically at nutritional formulas for patients with type 2 diabetes. Researchers compared them against oatmeal. They looked at their effects on hunger and satiety hormones.
Glucagon and peptide YY were significantly higher after having the formula compared to oatmeal. Researchers concluded that oatmeal does not significantly increase the secretion of PYY and glucagon. These are two important satiety hormones that help with weight loss in diabetes.
Which oats are the best?
There are several different types of oats. This can be confusing. Let us clear it up for you. Different types of oats differ in their nutrient profile and their processing methods. In addition to the oat types listed below, there is also oat flour and oat bran.
Groats are oat kernels that have had their hulls removed. The hull of the oat is the tough outer shell. It helps to protect oat seeds. Steel-cut oats rolled oats, and quick oats all actually start out as oat groats. Oat groats are exposed to heat and moisturize to make them more suitable for human consumption. They are then processed in one of the ways described below.
Steel-cut oats are also known as chopped oats or Irish oatmeal. These are the least processed type of oats beside the groat. Steel-cut oats are made by chopping groats into pieces with large steel blades.
Hence the name steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats have a coarse, chewy texture. They also have a nuttier flavor than rolled oats or quick oats. Steel-cut oats do take longer to prepare. Their average cooking time is between 15 and 30 minutes. In order to have a shorter cooking time, you can soak oats first.
Since steel cut oats are the least processed of the oat types, they have the most fiber. This is beneficial for digestive health. Fiber helps to feed the good bacteria in your intestines. It also helps to promote regular bowel movement. Do be aware of the fact that fiber from any oat source is good quality, though.
Rolled oats are also sometimes called old-fashioned oats. Rolled oats are groats that have been steamed and flattened. They have a milder flavor than steel-cut oats. They also have a softer texture. They are much quicker to make compared to steel-cut oats. This is because they have already been cooked to a certain degree. One bowl of rolled oats only takes about two to five minutes to prepare. Rolled oats are often the type that are in cookies, cakes, muffins, bread, and other baked goods.
Quick oats are also sometimes called quick-cooking oats. They go through more processing than rolled oats. This decreases their cooking time. Similar to rolled oats, they are partially cooked through steaming.
However, they are rolled even more thinly than rolled oats. They cook in just a couple of minutes. They have a mild flavor. They have a soft texture that can be described as “mushy.” It’s important to note that quick oats are different from instant oats, which are prepackaged and often contain additional ingredients like skim milk powder, sugar, and flavoring.
Instant oats are the most processed type of oats. This means that they are digested more quickly in the body. This means that they increase your blood sugar levels rapidly. The same thing happens with oat flour. Oats can be ground into a fine flour to use in baking. This is another form of highly processed oats and can have detrimental effects on your blood sugar.
Healthy tips for enjoying oatmeal
Oats are usually best when cooked with liquid and served warm. You can add all sorts of toppings to your oatmeal, making it versatile and interesting. You can make your oatmeal ahead of time. Then you can reheat it in the morning for a nutritious and simple breakfast.
It’s a good idea to combine your oatmeal with protein or healthy saturated fat. Have some eggs on the side. Or add nut butter, peanut butter, or Greek yogurt right into your oatmeal. You can also throw in one to two tablespoons of chopped nuts. This adds more protein and healthy fat to your bowl. The addition of protein and fat helps to better stabilize your blood sugar.
You may want to choose old-fashioned or steel-cut oats. These types of oats have more soluble fiber. This further helps with the regulation of blood sugar. They are also less processed. They can therefore help to slow down your digestion.
Cinnamon makes a great add-on to oatmeal. This is because cinnamon is full of antioxidants. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can help to manage blood pressure. Research shows that cinnamon may improve sensitivity to insulin. It may also help to lower your blood sugar levels.
You can also add berries to your oats. Berries contain high amounts of antioxidants and other good nutrients. They also act as a natural sweetener, making your oatmeal taste good without the addition of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
You can use low-fat milk, unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, or water to make your oatmeal. Low-fat milk and nut milk can help to increase the nutrition of the meal without adding an overload of fat. Water is the best choice if you are watching your calorie intake. It’s especially better than cream or high-fat milk. Don’t forget that milk contains lactose, which is sugar. This means that you need to account for the carbohydrate intake you are getting when you add milk to your oatmeal. Eight ounces of regular milk has about 12 grams of carbs.
Don’t use prepackaged instant oatmeal with sweeteners added to it. These packaged oats have ample sugar and salt added to them. They don’t have as much soluble fiber, either. If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast option, stay away from prepackaged instant oats as much as possible.
A popular addition to oatmeal is dried fruit. This may not necessarily be the best choice. One single tablespoon of dried fruit can be very high in carbs. Keep an eye on how much-dried fruit you’re adding to your oatmeal.
Don’t add too many sweeteners, either. People often add things like brown sugar, honey, syrup, or plain old table sugar to their oatmeal. These are high in calories and can also raise your blood glucose levels significantly.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition that can have long-term sequelae if left untreated. This is why it’s important to get on top of your diabetes diagnosis and take action today. Eating oats can be helpful. As you can see from this article above, oatmeal is highly nutritious.
Do keep in mind that oatmeal may not necessarily be the best option for everyone. If you have gastroparesis, it might not be best. If you eat oatmeal in large amounts or with lots of sugar-laden additives, then it might actually make your insulin resistance worse. The healthiest oatmeal option is steel-cut oats. Avoid instant oats with sugar additives. Instead, add your own healthy toppings like cinnamon, nuts, and fresh fruit.
As always, it’s best to speak to your health care provider before you make any drastic changes to your diet. See if oatmeal might be a good addition to your diet by talking to your nutritionist or doctor today.