Oatmeal & Diabetes

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A popular breakfast food made from oats is Oatmeal (porridge). You can purchase different types including rolled oats, instant, steel-cut and even microwave oatmeal. No matter which kind you choose, it is best to buy the organic kind. And, by now I’m sure you have heard that by using the microwave, it destroys the much needed nutrients in your food. They all start with the same whole raw oats that are harvested and cleaned. After the outer shell is removed it leaves the edible grain (groat) behind. Steel-cut oats are made when the groats are chopped with a metal blade, and this type cooks more quickly. The old-fashioned oatmeal, or rolled oats, is made by steaming and rolling the groats into flakes, which cuts the cooking time down to 3-5 minutes. Quick oats are made by further steaming and rolling the oats, making the cooking time as little as 30-60 seconds.

The texture of these three types of oatmeal varies widely and no one is better than the other. It’s just a matter of preference by the consumer. Each cut of oats has the same nutritional profile, however, many instant oats have added sugar and flavorings and are often high in sodium. The higher the level of processing, the quicker the speed of digestion and the higher the glycemic index, is a measure of how quickly blood sugar rises when eating.

Oatmeal is a source of carbohydrates that are converted to sugar when digested and will increase the sugar levels in the bloodstream.

These carbohydrates that have fiber cause a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream, lowering the potential spike in blood sugar after a meal. Diets high in processed carbs increase the risk of blood sugar spikes after a meal because they are digested quickly. These foods cause quick blood sugar spikes and make it difficult to manage blood sugar levels, especially when eaten alone.

Veggies, fruits and whole grains contain complex carbs that are full of fiber and nutrients that fuel the body and give sustained energy. We should form our meals and snacks around these healthy carbs. When adding in some protein and healthy fat it gives a nutritionally complete meal. You will find that some foods contain all three of these components in one and others might need to be paired up. When you mix proteins and fats with carbohydrates it can further slow down digestion, which can help minimize the blood sugar spikes.

Oatmeal contains complex carbs with little protein or fat. By combining a complex carb, lean protein and healthy fat, you can reduce hunger and cravings while providing all three of the body’s required macronutrients. Avoid pre-sweetened or flavored oats, add a source of healthy fats like walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds or pecans to add a little bit of protein. Cow’s milk or soy milk are the best milks for an extra protein boost. Almond milk and coconut milk are not good sources of protein but also provide more carbs. Fruit will also add flavor but also more carbs. To jazz it up, add a few drops of almond or vanilla extract, plain Greek yogurt or sprinkle with cinnamon.

The National Nutrition Database reports that ½ cup of non-fortified, dry, instant oats contain: 153 calories, 3 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrate, 0.4 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. One packet of instant raisin and spice oatmeal has 15 grams of sugar and 210 milligrams of sodium per serving compared to the 0.4 grams of sugar and 0 grams of sodium in plain oats.

The bottom line is that people with diabetes should avoid instant oatmeal high in sugar. There are healthy oatmeal recipes out there on the Internet for those who have diabetes and need to watch their sugar intake. If you need to make your oatmeal sweeter, try using Stevia. the natural sweetener without any chemicals.
-Dr Fredda Branyon

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