SharkBytes Archives


Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314-7796

(954) 262-5353
(800) 541-6682 x25353
Fax: (954) 262-3954

#NSUFindYourStrong: Eating Well – Oatmeal Trials and Tribulations


Few foods have made the turn from meal time staple, to trendy alternative treatment, the way oatmeal has. While it seems ridiculous that mothers who insist that bowls of plain, beige-colored stuff is good for you could have something in common with self-proclaimed fitness gurus who advocate bathing in the semi-liquid substance—the fact is they both have a point.

Unfortunately, that point is not “Oatmeal is the miracle food we’ve all awaited which shall deliver us from bodily ailment.” That would be too good to be true.

Eating oatmeal with even some regularity has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (that’s the one that’s bad for your heart), stabilize blood sugar, lower your risk for certain diseases and cancers—such as fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer—aid in weight loss, and generally help in staying alert throughout the day and sleeping well at night.

Most of these benefits are due to oatmeal being a whole grain soluble fiber, specifically beta glucan. This soluble fiber slows down the release of sugars into your blood, which both helps you feel full, longer, and helps the body run more smoothly. Oatmeal also contains antioxidants, which protect cells from decay.

While the above benefits result from eating oatmeal, there is something to be said for slathering oatmeal onto your skin. Many lotions contain oatmeal, since the starch in oats creates a barrier on your skin that helps water retention; thus, it prevents dry skin. The rougher, fibrous parts of oats are also exfoliating. Jumping into a tub of freshly boiled oatmeal, however, is not advised.

Before you run out and buy a box of oatmeal bearing the face of a smiling Quaker, it’s important to consider what kind of oats you want. The varieties differ in how they are processed, which affects how long they take to cook, and that matters when it’s the difference between a few minutes and an hour. These different processing methods also affect how many of their nutrients the oats retain.

Instant oats, which are steamed and then flaked for quick preparation, often contain more sugar and sodium to improve their taste and prolong their shelf life. These added ingredients undermine some of the benefits of oatmeal, though instant oatmeal cannot be discounted as a healthier alternative to other instant foods.

Rolled oats, which are sometimes called old-fashioned oats, are steamed and then rolled into thicker flakes than the instant oats. These, of course, take longer to cook.

Steel-cut oats, or Irish oats, are whole oat kernels that are cut up before packaging. These require even more time to prepare than rolled oats. Similarly, there are Scottish oats, which are ground oat kernels.

Finally, there are oat groats. These are whole oat kernels, the source of all other oats. These are the most time-consuming to prepare, but they offer little more nutrition that Steel-cut or even rolled oats.

GLUTEN ALERT! For those who cannot or do not consume gluten, it’s important to note that the oats themselves do not contain gluten. Unfortunately, they may meet gluten and be contaminated when they’re processed. If you’re avoiding gluten, look for oatmeal that is specifically marked ‘gluten-free’.

If after reading all of this, you’re still hesitant to switch out cereal with oatmeal because “oatmeal is all mushy and gross-looking,” don’t feel bad. Plain oatmeal can seem unappetizing, which is why toppings are important. Different spices, such as cinnamon or ginger, can sweeten it, while nuts and dehydrated fruit can add some crunch. Walnuts are good if you’re keeping with the ‘good for my heart’ theme. Berries are also excellent additions to oatmeal, whether they’re fresh, frozen, or dried.

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition, contact and speak with our Registered Dietician and Nutritionist, or attend one of our Lunch N’ Learn events offered every month during the academic year. Don’t forget to follow us on social media @NSURecWell today!