A Bowl of Oatmeal Is One of the Healthiest Ways to Start Your Day—Here's Why RDs Love It

Dietitians break down the best health benefits that oatmeal can offer.

Oatmeal is one of the most versatile breakfast options out there, whether you want something healthy and filling to tide you over before a busy work morning, or good-for-you carbs to fuel a hard workout. However, it's important to focus on maintaining its nutritional profile by avoiding added sugars. "The key thing to look out for [if you want to prioritize nutritional value] is the flavored versions because they can be high in sugar," says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, a New York City-based registered dietitian and founder of BZ Nutrition. If prepared accordingly, oatmeal can provide several health benefits.

Key Health Benefits of Oatmeal

1. Oatmeal is full of fiber.

Oatmeal is packed with fiber, a major benefit because it can help to ease gut problems if you're dealing with constipation and other gastro-intestinal issues, and experiencing troubling trips to the bathroom, says Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, nutrition consultant for Freshbit, an AI-driven visual diet diary app. You can get about 4 grams of this essential fiber from a serving of oatmeal, she says.

"Because oats offer both soluble and insoluble fiber, eating them will help bulk up the weight and size of your stool, making it easier to pass," says Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut.

2. Oatmeal is rich in nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium.

Oatmeal is a great whole grain to incorporate into your daily routine, either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, as it's rich in energy-boosting B vitamins, says Zeitlin, which are key for maintaining healthy cell functioning, creating energy from food, and more. Oatmeal is also rich in magnesium, which helps to calm stress and is a great source of fiber.

"Oats are also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6, while providing some potassium and protein," Minchen says. "Calcium, magnesium, and potassium support nerve and muscle function, as well as proper water balance in our bodies, while vitamin B6 supports our cardiovascular system, brain health, mood, and energy levels, while protein supports our skin, nails, hair, and immunity."

3. Oatmeal supports hydration.

Additionally, oatmeal is great for hydration, as it has a high water content when cooked, Gorin says.

How to Prepare and Enjoy Oatmeal

If prepared with wholesome ingredients and kept to the daily serving size recommendations, oatmeal is a great-for-you breakfast option providing numerous health benefits. To preserve oatmeal's nutritional value and avoid added sugar, Zeitlin recommends buying the plain, unsweetened version (instant or regular rolled or steel-cut oats). Aim for 1/2 cup of dried oats and combine it with your water or your favorite milk source, and add your own flavors and toppings, such as fruits, nuts, seeds, or go savory with items such as pesto, cheese, or sun-dried tomatoes. "You can also make overnight oats for a cold-cereal version or the traditional hot style," Zeitlin says.

Minchen also recommends throwing oats or oatmeal into a smoothie to boost its protein and fiber profile while also giving it a thicker texture, if that's how you prefer your smoothies. "Adding oats to baked goods also increases fiber and protein of traditionally sweet treats, which may help in managing portions and cravings," she says.

Eat Oatmeal in Moderation

As with most things in life, you can eat too much of a good thing, Minchen says. "While oats provide essential calories and nutrition, as with anything, too much can displace other foods and nutrients, ultimately leading to nutrient deficiencies," she explains. As such, she recommends limiting your oat intake to 1 cup per day.

For oatmeal inspiration, check out these delicious and comforting Real Simple recipes below.

A savory oatmeal with egg and spinach is the breakfast you didn’t know you needed in your life. Get the recipe for Savory Oatmeal With Spinach and Poached Eggs.
Greg DuPree

Savory Oatmeal With Spinach and Poached Eggs

A simple savory oatmeal with egg and spinach is the breakfast you didn't know you needed in your life. Cooking the oats in the skillet with the onions gives them a risotto-like texture, and stirring in a generous pile of Parmesan makes the oats taste really cheesy and rich. Get the recipe.

Overnight Oats With Strawberries and Toasted Almonds
Jen Causey

Overnight Oats With Strawberries and Toasted Almonds

If you're short on time in the morning, you can prep this bowl of overnight oats in the evening and wake up to a hearty, healthy breakfast treat. Get the recipe.

Baked Oatmeal With Cranberries and Almonds
Con Poulos

Baked Oatmeal With Cranberries and Almonds

Like a casserole-cookie hybrid (and healthier than leftover pie), this make-ahead whole-grain dish will feed a crowd. Get the recipe.

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