How Does Oatmeal Help Burn Fat?

bowl of oats
A large bowl of dried oats. (Image: Monika Adamczyk/Hemera/Getty Images)

It would be convenient if a single food could trim your trouble spots and prevent you from having to spend hours at the gym. Unfortunately, food doesn't have that power, and a reduced-calorie diet combined with regular exercise is the only surefire way to shed pounds. Still, oatmeal has some properties that make it a worthwhile inclusion in your fat-loss diet.

Fat-Burning Basics

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit so your body stops storing fat and dips into your fat reserves for energy. Only then will you burn fat. To do this,you need to consume fewer calories or exercise more -- or, preferably, a combination of both. Some foods and beverages, such as meat and green tea, have mild thermogenic properties, meaning they can temporarily give a slight boost to your metabolism, but oatmeal isn't one of those foods.

Low-Calorie, Whole-Grain Food

Because you need to reduce your calorie intake to lose fat, oatmeal aids weight loss when you eat it in place of other higher-calorie foods. One-half cup of dry oatmeal has 133 calories. If you eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of a medium doughnut, which has 192 calories, you'll save almost 60 calories. In addition, a serving of oatmeal has nearly 5 grams of dietary fiber, compared to less than 1 gram in a doughnut. Dietary fiber helps fill you up and keeps you feeling full for longer so you're less likely to snack later in the morning.

Problematic Types of Oatmeal

The shelves of your grocery store are likely lined with myriad varieties of oatmeal, many of them flavored and sweetened. These types of oatmeal are often much higher in calories, sugar, fat and other additives that can derail your diet than plain oatmeal is. For example, one packet of instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal has 161 calories. That's less than the doughnut, but more than the plain oats. It also has 12 grams of added sugars, while the plain oats have less than 0.5 gram.

Oatmeal as Part of a Weight-Loss Diet

To keep your oatmeal as low-calorie and healthy as possible, make it with water or skim milk. Avoid using sweeteners, and add flavor and sweetness with fresh berries instead. One-half cup of fresh blueberries has only 40 calories and almost 2 grams of filling fiber. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top, stir and enjoy for a morning meal that will tide you over until lunchtime.

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