I Had Oatmeal Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
Oatmeal is one of the healthiest foods to incorporate into your diet—especially, as one writer found out, after a holiday of heavy meals.
The Mayo Clinic, among other health authorities, recommends starting your day with a wholesome serving of oatmeal. Oatmeal is well-known for being a good source of fiber, for lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and for reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Those reasons alone would be enough, but eating oatmeal also promotes healthy gut bacteria and intestinal health. Although major health changes can’t be measured in a few days or even weeks, I decided to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day for a week to see what health effects I might notice.
My oatmeal experiment started the day after Thanksgiving, which was perfect timing. After a decadent week of eating fatty foods—and not necessarily the good fats—I was ready to step away from the cheese boards toward simpler foods that are nourishing, warming, and cleansing of the system.
Eating oatmeal every day
Oatmeal is an undeniably healthy breakfast, but I tend to be an egg, toast and fruit kind of gal. I have that routine down—and because I knew I’d be eating oatmeal every morning, I wanted to make it easy and set myself up for success. I decided to start my new routine with a baked oatmeal dish made with eggs, orange juice, berries and some fall-friendly spices. This was developed by Jill Weisenberger, a blogger, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDE), and certified health and wellness coach.
I figured that having eight to 10 servings at the ready would be wise, especially since my mother was staying with me. Despite her telling me, “I don’t really like oatmeal!” she’d be in on this experiment, eating it with me for the first few mornings.
I modified Weisenberger’s recipe, sweetening it with maple syrup instead of brown sugar and replacing the blueberries with raspberries because they were on sale at my local store. I made the dish at night so it would be ready in the morning to heat up quickly. It smelled so good (like a cobbler!) that I couldn’t wait. I had a little bit for dessert. We had whipped cream left over from Thanksgiving, so I gave it a generous dollop.
The baked oatmeal was equally delicious the next morning–even sans topping–but the best was what happened next: neither of us was hungry or craving anything additional for at least six hours, which is unusual for me, who usually looks for a mid-morning snack. Weisenberger explained beta-glucan to me: “Only oats and barley have appreciable amounts of this unique soluble fiber that helps both to sweep away cholesterol from the digestive tract before it reaches your bloodstream and to lower insulin resistance, which helps us to process carbohydrates better,” Weisenberger says, “I always recommend oats to people with high blood sugar or high cholesterol because of the beta-glucan.”
Beta-glucan, and thus oatmeal, have a positive effect on satiety, which means it keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time. This makes oatmeal a good choice for those trying intermittent fasting. According to Harvard Health, Mayo Clinic, National Institute on Aging (and many others), for individuals for whom it’s appropriate, the benefits of intermittent fasting can extend well beyond weight loss to reduce inflammation and improve conditions caused by inflammation, such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Elevating oatmeal breakfast
After we finished the baked oatmeal dish, I decided to try something different. Because I’m more of a savory than sweet breakfast-eater, I asked Weisenberger for a suggestion. She suggested I try a savory oats and lentils recipe. I’d never considered adding lentils to oats, but I was willing to give it a shot (though I put my own touches on Weisenberger’s recipe, which is made with three-quarter cups each of steel-cut oats and red lentils, four cups of vegetable broth, garlic and sage, and a generous helping of veggies).
I knew I needed to stay true to the oats, lentils and liquid ratios, but I decided to double the recipe. Because garlic is such a great immune booster, I chopped almost an entire head that I sautéed in olive oil. The recipe called for 12 ounces of mushrooms, but I more than doubled that with 32 ounces of criminis and portabellas. I added Maldon sea salt, pepper and my favorite spice mix that includes dried green onion, parsley, and lemon. I cooked the mushrooms down before adding the oats, lentils, and vegetable stock.
It cooked for about 40 minutes until the oats and lentils had absorbed most of the liquid. What happened next when I taste-tested felt like nothing short of a miracle: it was exactly like risotto, minus the effort (and the dairy), plus a whole bunch of nutrition. At the end, I added a ten-ounce bag of spinach.
I ate a few portions of my savory oatmeal as-is, but I also got creative and put it on a bed of fresh greens and topped it with blue cheese or feta. For a more breakfasty dish, I added a fried egg.
How to incorporate more oatmeal in your diet
We often think of oatmeal first, but there are a lot of other ways to add this nutritious food to your diet. You can add them to veggie burgers—or, instead of breadcrumbs, use oats in meatloaf and meatballs. You can add them to any packaged cereal, or “sneak” them into baked goods. Because oats take on the flavor of whatever they’re added to, the options are nearly endless. Weisenberger sprinkles raw oats over yogurt or cottage cheese, and she recommends raw oats to people with prediabetes or diabetes as well as those with other health concerns. (If you’re preparing oats for a crowd that might include someone with a gluten sensitivity, be sure to use gluten-free oats.)
Weisenberger explained that raw oats have another health benefit. “Uncooked oats have resistant starch—which, as its name implies—is starch that’s resistant to our digestive enzymes.” She continued: “Instead of being digested and absorbed in the small intestine, resistant starch makes its way to the colon where our good, healthy bacteria make a meal of it. In the process of fermentation, the bacteria produce compounds that are beneficial to us.”
At the end of the week, I’m keeping oats in my life. I loved the satiety component…and even though I didn’t have bloodwork done to quantify any changes to my health, it just feels good to eat right and take good care of myself. I may not eat oatmeal every day, but I’ll be sure to eat some of this nutritional powerhouse more often.
- The Ultimate 2022 Guide to a Healthy Holiday Season
- Epidemiologists’ Top 12 Gym Hygiene Rules Since the Pandemic
- This Smart COVID Test Should Be on Your Radar Before the Holidays, a Health Reporter Says
- 44 Healthy Holiday Appetizers
- Mayo Clinic, "Start your day with healthy oatmeal"
- Harvard Medical School, "Time to try intermittent fasting?"
- Mayo Clinic, "What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits?"
- National Institute on Aging, "Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits"
- Jill Weisenberger, Registered Dietician nutritionist certified in diabetes care
- International Life Sciences Institute, "Dietary fiber and satiety: the effects of oats on satiety"