Is Oatmeal Good for Dinner?

Oatmeal for dinner, or even for a late-night snack, is a very healthy option. Oats are rich in fiber that will help avoid hunger pangs at night. In addition, the nutrients in oatmeal contribute to your overall well-being and can help reduce conditions that cause chronic disease. Oatmeal for dinner is also instrumental in making sure you get a restful night's sleep.

Eating oatmeal at dinner may prevent late-night snacking and help chase away insomnia. (Image: samael334/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

What's the best time to eat oats? Eat oatmeal anytime — for breakfast, lunch or dinner — and get the benefits of vitamins B, D and K and a healthy dose of minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and selenium.

What Kind of Oatmeal for Dinner?

Oatmeal comes in a number of forms: traditional, steel-cut, quick cook and instant. When it comes to choosing, you might wonder which one is healthier. Or more satisfying. Or tastier.

All forms of oatmeal are made with 100 percent whole grain oats. The difference lies in the processing.

Old Fashioned: These are rolled oats created when oat groats are steamed and then rolled into flat flakes. This process stabilizes the oils in the oats to retain their freshness and to help the oats cook faster. They absorb more water and cook more quickly than steel-cut oats, usually in about five minutes.

Steel Cut: These oats are finely chopped and have a tough texture before they are cooked. Steel-cut oatmeal is chewier than rolled or instant and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare.

Quick Cook: This type of oats is stove-top cooked and takes about one minute to prepare. Quick cook oats are rolled thinner and steamed to shorten cooking time. They can also be microwaved.

Instant: Individually packaged instant oats are thinner and precooked, then rehardened so they microwave in a minute. They have a mushier texture than other rolled oats and flavors or sweeteners are often added to this type.

So which type you choose is just a matter of personal preference for taste, texture and cooking time. As long as there are no sweeteners added, all forms of oatmeal have the same nutritional value, according to the Whole Grains Council.

Macronutrients Any Time of Day

Whenever you choose to eat your oatmeal, you will benefit from the multitude of nutrients and energy it provides. A half-cup of dry Quaker oatmeal contains 148 calories. Your body needs calories in order to function properly. If you are concerned about managing your weight, oatmeal is a good food choice and naturally low in sugar.

The Dietary Guidelines recommends that calorie intake should be 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men, depending on activity and age.

Oatmeal is a source of quality protein with a good amino acid balance. You will get 11 percent of your daily value (DV) for protein with 5.5 grams per half-cup of quick oatmeal. You need protein to maintain your muscles, bones and cartilage.

Oatmeal is low in total fat with 2.8 grams in a half-cup serving. Of that amount, 2 percent of your DV is composed of saturated fat. The USDA recommends that you limit your daily consumption of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total caloric intake.

Oatmeal Keeps You Regular

Oatmeal is well known as being an excellent source of fiber and supplies 15 percent of your DV per half cup. Fiber is vital for the health of your digestive system. Oatmeal contains two types of fiber: soluble, which dissolves in water and can help lower glucose and blood cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber, which your body cannot break down.

Insoluble fiber remains intact, adding bulk to help digested food move through your stomach, intestines and colon, then out of your body. Fiber can help you avoid constipation by softening your stool and adding to its size. It can also help diarrhea by absorbing water and adding bulk to your stool.

The fiber from oats is considered more effective than fiber from fruits and vegetables and may reduce the risk of diverticular disease and diabetes, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Good Food for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, oatmeal, which is naturally low in sodium and sugar, could be a healthy addition to your diet to help regulate your blood sugar levels, in part due to magnesium. Oatmeal contains 27 percent DV per serving for magnesium.

According to National Institutes of Health, a diet containing higher amounts of magnesium lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Magnesium aids in the breakdown of sugars in your body to help reduce insulin resistance, which is a condition that leads to diabetes.

Oatmeal also has a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a way to estimate how much and how fast a carbohydrate raises blood glucose. Foods with a low GI score release glucose slowly and steadily, which is beneficial if you have diabetes. Oatmeal's GI score of 55 is ideal when you need to manage your blood sugar levels.

The high fiber content of oatmeal is another reason that it is a perfect food for dinner or a late night snack if you have diabetes. A 2018 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, studied the effectiveness of dietary fiber on Type 2 diabetes.

The review concluded that fiber, especially from cereals made from oats and barley, may not only decrease the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes but may help individuals with diabetes reduce blood glucose concentrations.

Wards Off Hunger

Oatmeal contains 27 grams of complex carbohydrates, which are slower to digest and take longer to break down in your body than simple carbs. Whether you have oatmeal for dinner or oatmeal at night for a snack, the complex carb content will make you feel full longer, so is especially important for reducing appetite and controlling hunger.

A study published in Nutrition Journal in 2014 found oatmeal, in both instant and old-fashioned form, to be more effective for satiety than other ready-to-eat cereals. So if you find it hard to sleep on an empty stomach or with low blood sugar, oatmeal may help deter midnight munchies.

For a Good Night's Sleep

When you finish your bowl of oatmeal at dinner, you may just want to wind down, relax and de-stress before going to bed. Turns out oatmeal will help. Oats contain an amino acid called tryptophan, a natural sedative that causes a mellow, sleepy feeling.

Psychology Today explains that the carbohydrates in oatmeal promote the release of insulin, which helps tryptophan enter your brain. Your brain converts tryptophan into serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter essential for regulating sleep, appetite, pain and mood, as well as melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles.

A study published in Nutrients in 2016 examined the effect of various levels of tryptophan on emotion and brain function. Researchers found that low levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with anxiety, poor mood, depression and impaired memory.

Helps Lower Cholesterol

Eating a bowl of oatmeal for dinner may also help manage your cholesterol levels. Mayo Clinic advises that the soluble fiber in oatmeal can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Mayo Clinic suggests that 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day may lower your LDL (the bad) cholesterol.

A half-cup serving (40 grams) of oatmeal provides almost 4 grams of fiber and about 2 grams of soluble fiber. By adding fruit, such as berries or a banana, you'll get even more fiber.

A controlled study published in Lipids in Health and Disease in 2017 evaluated the association of consuming oatmeal with lipid levels in Asian Indians who had mildly high blood cholesterol. Subjects that were given a daily serving of porridge made from oats had an 8.1 percent reduction in total cholesterol levels.

The conclusion was that a daily consumption of 3 grams of soluble fiber from oats is beneficial on lowering both total and LDL cholesterol.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits Against Disease

Oats are known to contain powerful antioxidant properties in their content of vitamin E and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium. Additionally, a phenolic compound found only in fats called avenanthramide (Avns) plays a role for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on maintaining your health and protecting you from a number of chronic conditions.

Evidence presented in a study published in Pharmacognosy Review in 2018 indicates that Avns is a potential therapeutic candidate for the treatment of several inflammatory diseases associated with cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The conclusion was that regular consumption of Avns-rich oats could have benefits in preventing and curing many chronic and age-related diseases.

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