A warm bowl of oatmeal is a wholesome and nutritious way to start the day, and it may help you shed pounds. Oats are rich in dietary fiber, which promotes satiety and can help you reduce your calorie intake. But oats aren't just for breakfast — they can be added to smoothies, soups and baked goods, too.
The dietary fiber in oatmeal can help promote satiety and suppress appetite, which can help you control your calorie intake for weight loss.
Fiber for Weight Loss
Fiber is found in all plant foods. It's the material that makes up plant cell walls, providing structure and support. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can't digest. It moves through your digestive system without breaking down and is excreted as waste.
This may make it sound like fiber is pointless, but in fact it has many benefits for human health:
- Promotes regularity by making stool bulkier, softer and easier to pass
- Improves bowel health, lowering the risk of hemorrhoids, diverticular disease and possibly colon cancer
- Lowers cholesterol by reducing absorption into the bloodstream
- Helps control blood sugar by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream
Fiber also has big benefits for weight loss. High-fiber foods tend to fill you up more than foods low in fiber. This keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time, which can keep you from getting hungry again soon after eating. The longer you can stay satisfied from a meal, the easier it is to control your calorie intake.
Fiber also slows stomach emptying, which affects hormones that control appetite. Consumption of food causes stomach distension, which delays the release of a hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin. According to a review article published in the Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism in January 2019, the longer the stomach remains full, the longer ghrelin is suppressed.
Fiber in Oats
Per one-third cup serving of dry oats, there are 5.5 grams of fiber, according to USDA data. That amount makes up 22 percent of the fiber women need each day and 14 percent of the fiber men need each day, according to the recommended daily intakes set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Medicine.
Additionally, oats are rich in a particular type of fiber called beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that dissolves in fluids forming a viscous material. Viscosity affects how long food remains in the digestive tract, explain the authors of the Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism article. More viscous foods remain in the stomach longer and slow stomach emptying.
This may promote longer-lasting satiety and delay the release of ghrelin better than insoluble fiber; however, research is still inconclusive.
If you're watching your carb intake, fiber is typically subtracted from total carbs. This leaves net carbs, which is the amount counted on most low-carb diets.
Eat More Oats
Start your morning with a serving of oatmeal topped with berries and slivered almonds — a simple, one-bowl breakfast that you can even pack and take with you to work or school. Fruit and nuts are also rich sources of fiber that can add to the satiety value of your meal.
If you prefer a smoothie — either for breakfast or lunch, or pre- or post-workout — throw a serving of oats or oat bran into the blender with some fruit and spinach or kale. For only 200 calories, you'll get 8.7 grams of plant-based protein in addition to the fiber, as well as 3.5 grams of healthy fats.
If you like to bake, you can replace up to 25 percent of the wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour. This works especially well in bran muffins, carrot cake and zucchini bread. It also works well in gluten-free baked goods.
You can even coat chicken with ground oats and bake it in the oven for dinner. It develops a crispy texture that is similar to fried chicken, but much healthier and lower in calories.
Choose whole, unflavored oats whenever possible. Many kinds of instant oats and flavored oats have sugar added, which will not aid your weight loss efforts.
- Food & Wine: "4 Tips for Baking with Oat Flour"
- University of Georgia: "Plant Cell Walls"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism: "The Role of Fiber in Energy Balance"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 20038, Oats (Includes Foods for Usda's Food Distribution Program)"
- National Academies of Medicine: "Summary Tables, Dietary Reference Intakes"
- Diabetes Forecast: "What Are Net Carbs?"
- The Kitchn: What's the Difference Between Steel-Cut, Rolled, and Instant Oats?
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- Go Ask Alice: Ideal Caloric Intake