The words “weight-loss foods” might conjure up thoughts of salads and celery sticks more than steaming bowls of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal. But when it comes to energy density, which plays a huge role in weight control, oatmeal is a top player. While it won’t instantly make you slimmer, its combination of fiber, complex carbs and low calorie count make it an excellent choice for healthy weight maintenance.
There’s no defined set of traits that makes a food “fattening.” Foods that typically contribute to weight gain, however, tend to be highly processed, with few vitamins and minerals and high counts of calories, sugar and fat. Oatmeal has none of those qualities. As a whole grain, it’s almost always steamed and flattened before being packaged, but its bran, germ and endosperm are all still present in the final product. A 1/2-cup serving of dry oatmeal, which expands to 1 cup of cooked cereal, has just 150 calories and 5 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 0.4 gram of natural sugar.
That Filling Feeling
Another typical quality of “fattening” foods is that they make you want to eat more or make you feel hungry again shortly after finishing them. Oatmeal, however, may have the opposite effect. According to a study published in 2013 in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition,” participants who ate hot cooked oatmeal for breakfast felt fuller for longer and desired less food throughout the day than subjects who ate a cold cereal that had the same number of calories as the oatmeal.
Oatmeal has never been scientifically associated with weight gain, but several studies have linked it to weight loss. In one study published in “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition” in 2013, Taiwanese researchers discovered that subjects who ate oats daily for 12 weeks lost more body fat and slimmed down more in the waist and hip areas than subjects who received a placebo. In a similar study published in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” in 2010, subjects’ waist circumferences decreased more when they ate oat-based cereal every day than when they ate a lower-fiber cereal.
Although a serving of plain oatmeal is nutritious and low in calories, it’s possible to reduce those benefits by serving it in a decadent way. For example, if you cook twice the recommended serving size of oatmeal with 2 cups of whole milk rather than water and then serve it with 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, your breakfast suddenly contains 950 calories and 54 grams of fat. If weight control is a priority for you, stick to the recommended serving size of oatmeal, cook it with water, minimize add-ons and eat it as a regular meal rather than an addition to your usual diet.
- USDA: National Nutrient Database
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Acute Effect of Oatmeal on Subjective Measures of Appetite and Satiety Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Breakfast Cereal
- Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: Oat Prevents Obesity and Abdominal Fat Distribution, and Improves Liver Function in Humans
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Whole-Grain Ready-to-Eat Oat Cereal, as Part of a Dietary Program for Weight Loss, Reduces Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Adults With Overweight and Obesity More Than a Dietary Program Including Low-Fiber Control Foods