Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Oatmeal Bad For You?

Also Known As: white oats, oatmeal cereal, stirabout



Short answer

Some types of oatmeal are good for you, whereas, other types are bad for you. Reading labels is important and opting for healthier homemade versions is an excellent alternative to instant varieties.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Oatmeal is made of oats, a low-glycemic whole grain. Oatmeal is considered a breakfast food, which means it is often topped with other items to boost its flavor. These toppings usually include brown sugar, maple syrup, nuts, cinnamon, milk, fruit, and other complementary foods. You will find oatmeal in the following forms at the grocery store:

  • Steel-cut oats
  • Old-fashioned rolled oats
  • Instant old-fashioned oats
  • Instant oatmeal

Oatmeal is made of oats that have been extracted from oat groats, which are grain kernels with the hulls removed. Oats are processed in different ways prior to making it to your local grocery store. For example, steel-cut oats are whole groats that have been chopped up. They take longer to cook but retain the original nutrients of the oat grain They are known for having a ‘nuttier’ taste in comparison to other oatmeal varieties. Old-fashioned rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed, flattened, and then toasted to take a shorter amount of time to cook. Instant old-fashioned oats undergo the same process as regular old-fashioned oats, although they are also precooked and chopped up more so they can cook in a minute or less. Instant oatmeal usually comes in packets mixed with sugar and flavorings so that you can pour them into a bowl, mix them with hot water, and eat in less than two minutes of preparation. 

Naked oatmeal (oatmeal without toppings), is a reasonably healthy food. It is high in fiber (which regulates blood sugar) and contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The whole grain nature of oatmeal makes it a good solution for diabetics who need low-glycemic carbs that take a long time to digest and reduce blood sugar spikes.

However, instant oatmeal is another matter entirely. Instant oats, even without toppings, are worse than steel-cut or old-fashioned oats. Since these oats are chopped up in processing, they are quickly digested, causing a spike in blood sugar. Flavored oats, such as  “apple cinnamon” or “maple,” are instant oats that have been mixed with a high amount of sugar. In addition to rising blood sugar, sugary foods and beverages create inflammation in the body and elevate risks for various ailments including Diabetes II. As always, avoid sugar-free or reduced sugar items that include toxic artificial sweeteners.

Most commercial oatmeal varieties contain GMOs unless otherwise specified. GMOs are loaded with toxic chemicals that negatively affect numerous body systems.

In order to keep oatmeal in a healthy zone, eat only organic, non-GMO steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats without any added sugars. It is also wise to eat lean protein alongside any type of oatmeal to decrease negative effects on blood sugar.

Possible short-term side effects

  • blood sugar increase
  • sugar high/low
  • inflammation

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • diabetes
  • side effects from potential additives

Ingredients to be aware of


  • healthy grain source (steel-cut oatmeal)
  • regulates blood sugar (steel-cut oatmeal)
  • low glycemic index
  • promotes digestion
  • source of various vitamins and minerals

Healthier alternatives

  • organic steel cut oats
  • eating protein for breakfast
  • congee—an eastern influenced 'ricemeal’

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Bob's Red Mill Rolled Oats

  • Gluten-free
  • Whole grain oats
  • Non-GMO
  • 32-ounce packs
  • 4-pack bundle
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 07-13-2016
Last updated: 12-01-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 07-13-2016
Last updated: 12-01-2023

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