Is oatmeal a carb? Many people start the day with a hearty breakfast food like cereal, toast, pancakes, or a muffin; these are all high sources of carbohydrates.
Now, does oatmeal have carbs? The short answer is yes.
Both oats and oatmeal are also high in carbs. Although low carb oatmeal doesn’t exist, the term low-carb diet is very subjective. Some people will follow a low-carb diet of less than 20g of carbs daily, while others may allow up to 100g each day. Either way, that is still significantly lower than the 225 to 325g of carbs often found in a 2,000-calorie standard American diet.
With that logic, oatmeal may be a low-carb food. Let me explain why…
Is Oatmeal a Carb?
How many carbs are in oatmeal? That really depends on a few factors. For instance, a package of plain oatmeal contains about 19g of carbs, but it also has 2.8g of fiber: therefore, the net carbs will be 16.2g. Other sweetened and flavored oatmeal packages will contain between 23 and 28 grams of carbs. In general, you should stay away from prepackaged or instant oatmeal because they may have artificial flavorings and added sugar.
Steel-cut oats are considered a healthy form of oatmeal and contain 23g of net carbs per quarter cup of dry oats. Although oatmeal is a carb, it can be a very good one, especially if you are diabetic. Oatmeal has a lower glycemic index score than instant oatmeal. Studies have also found that type 2 diabetes patients given oatmeal or oat bran-rich foods have much lower blood sugar levels than those given bread or white rice. Oats are definitely a better carb source than corn flakes, puffed rice, and other high glycemic index breakfast cereals.
Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan. Studies have found that beta-glucan has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Oats are also a good alternative for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Oats are considered gluten-free; however, many commercial oats are contaminated with wheat. Look for the certified gluten-free certification on oats label.
Oatmeal Nutrition Facts
What are the real oatmeal nutrition facts? Let’s take a look at what really makes oatmeal so nutritious.
One cup of whole grain oats contains 607 calories, including 91 from protein, 90 from fat, and 425 from carbohydrates. In total, oats contain 10.8g of fat and 173mg of omega-3 fatty acids; 26.4g of protein; and 16.5g of fiber. A cup of oats also contains 1.2mg of vitamin B1, 0.2mg of vitamin B2, 1.5mg of vitamin B3, 0.2mg of vitamin B6, 87.4mcg of folate, 2.1mg of vitamin B5, 84.3mg of calcium, 7.4mg of iron, 276mg of magnesium, 669mg of potassium, 6.2mg of zinc, 1mg of copper, and 7.7mg of manganese.
Now you can see that oatmeal is easily a good carb source. With that said, there are other good sources of carbs beside a grain like oats.
Good Sources of Carbs
Besides oats, there are many other good sources of carbs. Some people view good carbs as being complex carbs, and bad carbs as simple carbs. Good carbs are considered to be carbs that are easily bio-available and contain digestive nutrients that make the body able to metabolize at a cellular level. Sometimes, complex carbs fall into this category. The high amount of fiber in these foods also helps with regular elimination of wastes and toxins from the body.
Although sweet potatoes are a complex carb, they may be a poor choice for diabetics. Instead, yams contain more fiber and less sugar, and will raise insulin levels at a slower rate. Other slow-digesting complex carbs include taro, chickpeas, blueberries, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, lentils, quinoa, adzuki beans, and nuts and seeds.
Begin Your Day with Oats
Not only are oatmeal and oats considered a carb, they can be a good one, especially when you choose steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and other clean and gluten-free forms of oats. Oatmeal can really be an energizing meal to start your day. Try adding other healthy ingredients like walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, honey, and almond milk or filtered water.
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 664-667.
Smith, B., “Healthy food: The 10 best sources of carbs,” Men’s Fitness website; http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/healthy-food-10-best-sources-carbs, last accessed Jan. 13, 2017
“Oats Nutrition Facts & Calories,” SELFNutritionData website; http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5708/2, last accessed Jan. 13, 2017
Gotter, A., “Oatmeal and Diabetes: The Do’s and Don’ts,” Healthline website, March 2, 2016; http://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/oatmeal#Overview1.