Is Oat Porridge (Oatmeal) a Healthy Breakfast Choice?

Oat porridge, also known as oatmeal, is a popular dish made with oats, a type of cereal grain.

This article examines the nutritional properties of oat porridge while exploring its potential health effects.

Is it a nutritious breakfast choice?

A bowl of porridge featuring berries and nuts.

The Nutritional Profile of Oat Porridge

Before delving into the available research on oats, let’s first examine the nutritional values of oat porridge.

The following tables display the complete nutritional properties of porridge made with:

  • 1 cup (81 grams) of rolled oats
  • Water

The source of the nutritional data is the USDA’s FoodData Central Database. Daily values have been computed using this USDA data alongside the FDA’s recommended daily values (1, 2).

NutrientAmount% Daily Value
Calories307 kcal
Carbohydrates54.8 g19.9%
Fiber8.18 g29.2%
Sugars0.80 g
Fat5.28 g6.77%
Saturated0.90 g4.5%
Monounsaturated1.6 g
Polyunsaturated1.86 g
Omega-30.08 g
Omega-61.78 g
Protein10.7 g21.4%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Table 1: Nutritional facts for porridge made with a cup (81-gram) of rolled oats

As depicted in the table, porridge has a high carbohydrate content, provides a rich source of fiber, a moderate amount of protein, and low fat content.

Note: Some people prefer to prepare porridge with milk, which would alter these nutritional values significantly, dependent on the type of milk used.

Vitamins

VitaminAmount% Daily Value
Choline32.7 mg5.9%
Folate, DFE25.9 mcg6.5%
Vitamin A, RAE0 mcg0%
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)0.373 mg31.1%
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)0.126 mg9.7%
Vitamin B3 (niacin)0.907 mg5.7%
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)0.907 mg18.1%
Vitamin B60.081 mg4.8%
Vitamin B120 mcg0%
Vitamin C0 mg0%
Vitamin D0 mcg0%
Vitamin E0.34 mg2.3%
Vitamin K1.62 mcg1.4%
Table 2: Vitamin composition of porridge made with a cup (81-gram) of rolled oats

Oats are a good source of B vitamins, particularly thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.

Minerals

MineralAmount% Daily Value
Calcium42.1 mg3.2%
Copper0.317 mg35.2%
Iron3.44 mg19.1%
Magnesium112 mg26.7%
Manganese2.94 mg127.8%
Phosphorus332 mg26.6%
Potassium293 mg6.2%
Selenium23.4 mcg42.5%
Sodium4.86 mg0.1%
Zinc2.95 mg26.8%
Table 3: Mineral composition of porridge made with a cup (81-gram) of rolled oats

Oat porridge provides substantial quantities of the minerals copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.

Key Point: A bowl of porridge made with oats provides an ample amount of fiber and a moderate provision of protein. Additionally, it offers numerous vitamins and minerals in high quantities.

Oat Porridge May Improve Heart Health By Reducing LDL Cholesterol

A beneficial aspect of oat porridge relates to its potential impact on heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol (LDL-C).

On this note, LDL-C is a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease, with elevated levels correlating to an increased risk of developing the disease (3, 4).

Notably, our dietary choices can either lower or elevate our LDL-C levels.

In this context, certain foods consistently demonstrate efficacy in lowering LDL-C in studies, thus contributing to a reduced cardiovascular risk.

Oats fall into this category.

Research on Oats and Their Effect on LDL-C Levels

  • A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, published in 2021, examined the influence of various foods on LDL-C levels. This review highlighted a robust body of evidence supporting the ability of oats to moderately reduce LDL-C (5).
  • Oats contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Another systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that a median dose of 3.5 grams of beta-glucan daily decreased LDL-C by 0.19 mmol/l (7.3 mg/dL) over six weeks (6). Approximately 100 grams of oats contain around 4.5 grams of beta-glucan (7).
  • A 2014 systematic review of the literature investigated the link between oats and cardiovascular risk markers. The review revealed that long-term oat intake led to a reduction in LDL-C ranging from 4-23% (8).
  • Numerous subsequent systematic reviews and meta-analyses, published between 2022 and 2024, reiterated the consistent and significant impact of oat intake on lowering LDL-C (9, 10, 11).
Key Point: Incorporating porridge made with oats into the diet may lower LDL-C levels, a recognized marker of cardiovascular risk.

What is the Glycemic Index of Oat Porridge?

The glycemic index provides carbohydrate-based foods with a score based on how quickly they raise blood glucose levels.

A glycemic index of 100, which is given to glucose, denotes the highest possible glucose response, while a score of 1 indicates virtually no impact.

The glycemic index holds importance for individuals monitoring their blood glucose levels, such as people with diabetes.

In regard to oats, they have a varying glycemic index contingent on how they have been processed.

According to the International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load, these glycemic index values are as follows (12):

  • Rolled oats: 55
  • Instant oat porridge: 79

The reason for this difference is the higher degree of processing involved with instant oats, with them being very finely cut, thinly pressed, and precooked. All of these processes make them easier to digest.

A systematic review and meta-analysis analyzed randomized controlled trials on how the degree of oat processing influences blood glucose responses.

This review found that compared to a control food of refined grains, thick oat flakes and intact oat kernels led to significant reductions in post-consumption blood glucose. However, instant oat flakes didn’t exhibit any beneficial effect (13).

Therefore, oat porridge made with rolled oats or steel-cut oats should lower blood glucose compared to refined grain options.

Other Ingredients In Porridge Will Affect the Glycemic Impact

It is important to note that the listed glycemic index values relate solely to oats (with water) and their impact on blood glucose.

However, dietary protein and fat can decrease the glycemic response to a meal (14).

Therefore, porridge prepared with milk alongside additional ingredients like nuts and berries would yield a lower glycemic impact.

An interesting study in this regard demonstrated that adding nuts to 50 grams of carbohydrate (bread) led to a dose-response reduction in the glycemic response. In other words, the more grams of nuts consumed alongside carbohydrates, the more pronounced the reduction in glycemic response (15).

Key Point: The glycemic index of oat porridge varies depending on the type of oats used. Additionally, incorporating additional ingredients like nuts, milk, and berries can further influence the porridge’s glycemic impact.

Oat Porridge May Promote Satiety

There is good evidence that oat porridge can enhance satiety, the sensation of being satisfied after eating without a further desire to eat.

Enhanced satiety can mitigate food cravings the overeating, which can help with weight management.

Oats contain moderate amounts of both protein and fiber, both known to enhance satiety in various studies. Porridge also has a substantial volume relative to its calorie content, due to the water or milk absorbed by the oats, which can contribute to the feeling of fullness (16, 17, 18, 19).

A renowned study entitled ‘A satiety index of common foods‘ assessed satiety response ratings to different common foods, assigning each one a satiety index score.

Oat porridge scored highly on this study, with only two foods ranking higher (20, 21).

Studies Investigating the Impact of Oat Porridge On Satiety

Here are some noteworthy findings from studies specifically examining the impact of oat porridge on satiety responses:

  • In randomized controlled trials, instant oatmeal reduced appetite and increased satiety compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereals (22, 23).
  • Oatmeal induced significantly greater satiety and reduced energy intake compared to corn flakes in a study involving 36 participants (24).

These data suggest that an oat porridge breakfast is a superior choice to ready-to-eat cereals for satiety.

Conversely, a four-week study found that participants allocated to a breakfast of two eggs reported greater satiety responses compared to those allocated to consume a packet of oatmeal daily (25).

However, the oatmeal packet contained 100-160 calories (depending on flavor) and 3-4 grams of protein, whereas the eggs provided 140 calories and 12 grams of protein.

This higher energy and protein content could be a key difference, as could the ‘flavor’ (and potentially sugar) content of the oatmeal packet, all of which could influence the satiety response.

Furthermore, participants were advised they could “add vegetables, meat, cheese, syrup, yogurt etc to their breakfast intervention food.

The difference in the nutritional properties of these added foods would also impact satiety responses, which could be a factor if people added different foods to eggs than they did to oatmeal.

Key Point: Oatmeal leads to better satiety than ready-to-eat cereals but may not match the satiety benefits of a protein-rich cooked meal.

May Have Benefits For Blood Pressure Compared To Refined Grains

According to research, oat porridge may help to lower blood pressure relative to refined grain intake.

A systematic review and meta-analysis delved into data from twenty-one randomized controlled trials investigating oat consumption’s effects on blood pressure (26).

The collective findings highlighted a notable decrease in systolic blood pressure from oat consumption relative to refined grains.

Additionally, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were “significantly reduced” when oats were consumed in doses providing over 5 grams of beta-glucan per day.

Considering oats contain approximately 4.5% beta-glucan, this equates to slightly more than 110 grams of oats daily (7).

Key Point: Findings from a systematic review of randomized controlled trials suggest that replacing refined grains with oats may contribute to lowering blood pressure.

Answers To Some Common Questions About Oat Porridge

In this section, you’ll find answers to common queries regarding oat porridge.

Is Oat Porridge Suitable For a Gluten-Free Diet?

Oats are naturally gluten-free but can sometimes contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination during production and packaging with gluten-containing grains (27, 28, 29).

For this reason, individuals adhering to a gluten-free diet should opt for oats specifically labeled as ‘gluten-free’ to mitigate any risk of gluten contamination.

More information on this topic is available in the following article:

Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free?

What Type of Oats Are Best For Making Oat Porridge?

The ‘best’ type of oats for making oat porridge is a subjective choice.

Rolled oats and steel-cut oats, closer to the whole grain form, have a less pronounced impact on blood sugars.

On the other hand, instant oats, though more processed, can have their glycemic impact attenuated by incorporating additional ingredients containing protein and fat.

Additionally, some people prefer the flavor (and quicker cooking time) of more processed instant oats.

While rolled and steel-cut oats are arguably the healthier choice, the “best” type of oats ultimately depends on individual preferences.

Is Oat Porridge a Good Source of Protein?

While an 81-gram cup of rolled oats contains 10 grams of protein, this may be relatively low in the context of a meal (1).

Additionally, a cup of oats is quite a large portion, and many people use smaller amounts.

However, adding additional ingredients, as many people do, could significantly increase the protein content of oat porridge.

For example, oat porridge made with the following ingredients would offer 27 grams of protein:

  • 1 cup (81g) of oats: 10.7 grams of protein (1).
  • 1 cup (245ml) of 2% fat milk: 8.23 grams of protein (30).
  • 1 oz (28.35g) of peanuts: 6.92 grams of protein (31).
  • 1 cup (150g) of mixed berries: 1 gram of protein (32).

Additionally, some people like to make ‘protein porridge’ using protein powder as an ingredient.

In short, oat porridge can be ‘high in protein’ if the right additional ingredients are used.

What is the Difference Between Porridge and Oatmeal?

‘Oatmeal’ is the prevalent term used in the United States, while ‘porridge’ is more typical in countries like Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

There is no difference between ‘oat porridge’ and oatmeal; both these terms are interchangeable and refer to the same food.

However, there are many types of ‘porridge,’ which is defined as a hot dish made by boiling grains in either milk or water (33).

In other words, oat porridge is one type of porridge, but there are many different varieties of porridge made using various grains.

For instance, in many East Asian countries, porridge is a hot rice-based dish that features different combinations of beans, meats and vegetables, depending on the variety.

While oat porridge means oatmeal, ‘porridge’ may not, depending on the country.

Is Oat Porridge a Healthy Breakfast Choice?

To conclude this article, can oat porridge be a healthy breakfast option?

Firstly, oat porridge boasts several beneficial attributes, including its broad range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and more specifically, beta-glucan.

However, oat porridge can lack healthy fats, protein, vitamin C, and potassium.

Enhancing oat porridge with protein-rich milk, fruit, and nuts or seeds not only upgrades the nutritional value but also improves taste while attenuating its impact on blood glucose levels.

References

  1. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173904/nutrients
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
  3. https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/41/24/2313/5735221
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9726298/
  5. https://www.nmcd-journal.com/article/S0939-4753(21)00002-8/fulltext
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27724985/
  7. https://www.cerealsgrains.org/publications/cc/backissues/1993/Documents/70_539.pdf
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25267241/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36657917/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38441173/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34977959/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2584181/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33296453/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16988118/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21561748/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32768415/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32648023/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352252/
  19. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-018-0295-7
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7498104/
  21. https://www.nutritionadvance.com/what-is-a-satiety-index-of-common-foods/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26273900/
  23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24024772/
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25612907/
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331520/
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36435335/
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34210037/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9582257/
  29. https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/oats/
  30. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746778/nutrients
  31. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2342989/nutrients
  32. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2344766/nutrients
  33. https://www.britannica.com/topic/porridge
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Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.