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Dietitian reviews: should you stop eating oats?

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Thanks to the dark side of TikTok, oatmeal or porridge has garnered attention - but in a bad way. Despite its long-standing reputation as a heart-healthy breakfast, rumors have emerged claiming that our humble oats may not be as beneficial as believed. As you may imagine, this has sparked controversy.

In this blog, a dietitian will review the scientific evidence to determine whether oats are a beneficial addition to your diet or not. Exploring one myth at a time.

Should you keep eating your oats or are they ruining your blood sugars and gut health?

Myth 1: Oats are full of anti-nutrients

Anti-nutrients are compounds found in certain foods that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the body. However, the levels of anti-nutrients in oats are not a concern for most people.

In fact, the anti-nutrient content in oats, such as phytates and tannins, is relatively low and can be reduced further through:

  • soaking

  • fermenting

  • cooking

Seeing as most people are likely to do one of the above to their oats, anti-nutrients are truly a non-issue. Moreover, oats are a rich source of essential nutrients, including fibre, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Their beneficial nutrients far outweigh these "anti-nutrients".

Myth 2: Oats contain glyphosate

Glyphosate is a herbicide commonly used in agriculture. The presence of glyphosate in oats is primarily a result of its widespread use as a weedkiller in conventional farming.

While it's true that glyphosate residues have been detected in some oat-based products, it's important to understand the context and safety levels associated with these residues. Regulatory agencies like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have established safety limits for glyphosate residues in food products, including oats. These limits are set well below levels that could pose a health risk to consumers.

In order to be at unsafe exposure we would have to consume a huge amount of porridge or oatmeal. It is very unlikely at all that anyone would eat this amount, even if they tried too.

But if you are still worried, you can always minimise exposure to glyphosate by choosing organic oat products, which are less likely to have glyphosate residues. Thoroughly rinsing and washing oats before consumption may further reduce potential residue levels.

Full disclaimer: I do not buy organic oats.

Myth 3: Oats are bad for your blood sugars

This myth stems from the misconception that all carbohydrates negatively impact blood sugar levels. In reality, oats are a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index (GI), which means they are digested and absorbed at a slower rate, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels rather than a rapid spike.

Oats are a good source of soluble fibre, particularly beta-glucans, which can help stabilise blood sugar levels. Fibre slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, promoting better blood sugar control. Numerous studies have demonstrated that incorporating oats into a meal can improve glycemic control, making them a suitable option for individuals living with diabetes or those aiming to manage their blood sugar levels.

However, consuming large portions of oat-based products can still lead to elevated blood sugar levels. As with any food, it's about moderation and balance in your overall diet that contributes to better health outcomes. But there is certainly no need to restrict oats in your diet beyond this point.

Dietitian reviews: keep eating your oats!

Despite all the noise online about the health risks of consuming oats, there is no supporting evidence. Much of this nonsense is likely a result of trolls and misinformed individuals who do not have the skills to professionally critique scientific literature (unlike a dietitian, who is trained to do this!).

Moral of the story? Eat your daily porridge with confidence that it is going to be adding to your health - not taking away.

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