Are oats an addictive food?

by (47) Updated April 16, 2014 at 12:39 AM Created August 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM

I'm starting to eat paleo foods and so far I have eliminated all legumes and grains...except oats. I have been trying to eliminate oats, but I'm addicted, so many years of killing hunger with oats made them my favorite food, their flavor tastes too good and I don't even cook it just add milk to rolled oats and eat. I eat about 6 cups of oats daily, what health problems can I develop by doing this? I'm trying to bulk up so carbs don't seem to be a problem to me, but 12 grams of polyunsaturated fat seems unhealthy. I don't eat any junk foods or non paleo foods just oats and milk are my exceptions. Sorry for my bad english not my main language.

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12607 · August 27, 2012 at 2:37 AM

Oats are not paleo! Braah!

Sorry, I had to say that or I might get fired from paleo. Okay, so oats are an evil grain and not optimal and stuff. But they're far from the worst food you could be eating.

Here are some studies with favorable outcomes for oats:

  1. In one study, older men ate about 1 1/2 cups of oats for 12 weeks (2). By the end of this period the men eating the oats had lower small (bad) LDL, higher large (arguably good) LDL, lower triglycerides, lower VLDL, a better total: hdl cholesterol ratio, and lower fasting insulin. This study did the same thing with wheat. Wheat made most of these values worse.

  2. In another study (3), adding oats to the diet of hypertensive and hyperinsulinemic people led to lower blood pressure, lower LDL, lower triglycerides, and a trend towards improved insulin sensitivity.

  3. Compared to a control diet, oats were better for blood pressure and insulin sensitivity (4). The control diet basically had wheat instead of oats.

Do these studies mean oats are good? Not exactly. Compared to crap food like wheat, almost certainly. But how are they compared to typical paleo fare? I haven't been able to find studies comparing oats to things like eggs, fruit, or tubers so I can't say for sure. Oats seem like alright food, but I suspect these foods would generally outperform oats.

Phytic acid is the main problem I have with oats. On it's surface, oats are a good source of nutrients. But they have tons of phytic acid (and some other anti-nutrients), so many of the minerals in oats will have reduced absorption. This includes zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and copper (5,6,7). So if you're eating a lot of oats I'd be really careful to make sure I was getting enough of these minerals, either from food or supplement if necessary.

I also wouldn't recommend oats to people who have problems with gluten or their intestinal health. A controlled trial (1) on recovering celiac patients found that those eating gluten free oats increased intestinal problems like diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. My own experience as a gluten intolerant is that oats are bad for my belly. I also know a number of people with digestion issues not doing well on oats. How is your gut health?

Finally, as someone else already suggested, if you think you're addicted to oats, cut them out of your diet for 30 days or so. See how you feel. You can see if you feel better without them and hopefully figure out if you have a legitimate addiction.

So, to wrap up this already too long of an answer, this is my advice if you choose to continue your oat eating habit:

  1. Try cutting outs out for a month first and see how you feel.
  2. Definitely cut them down. A pound of oats in a day is just too much in my opinion (unless you're secretly a goat).
  3. Make sure you're not ending up short of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper.

10439 · August 26, 2012 at 9:43 PM

Oats are definitely not good for you. The carbs probably aren't even the biggest issue to an active, nondiabetic person, though that is the "addictive" part about oats. The anti-nutrients in them, along with most other grains (phytates and lectins, mostly) prevent absorption of nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and calcium, to name a few. By eating large quantities of these things, it makes it harder for your body to absorb the nutrients from the awesome things you eat.

If you MUST eat oats, first of all, 6 cups is quite a lot of any one food on a daily basis. Cut your quantity way down. Secondly, I'd suggest soaking them first (drastically reduces the anti-nutrients) and thirdly, not eating them with other foods.

What I really think you should do for maximum benefit: 30 days without them. If you can go 30 days without any oats, it will show you that you most certainly can do without them and you'll feel the benefits, both physically and mentally, and you may not even want the oats at all, or if you do, you may see that you have a much better handle on your craving for them.

680 · August 26, 2012 at 9:40 PM

I can assure you they most certainly are. Don't laugh: I just recently finished a six-month stint in rehab for my oatmeal habit. It started innocently enough; I assumed I could have oatmeal (low-sugar, no less) on a purely recreational basis, but in just a matter of weeks I had progressed to getting Costco/Sam's Club memberships just so I could buy practically whole pallets of the stuff. So yes, STAY AWAY. Don't be fooled. Oatmeal is not like, say, cream of wheat (which I think can be handled on an occasional/recreational basis). JUST SAY NO.

1495 · August 26, 2012 at 10:01 PM

Oats were the LAST grain I gave up! I really had a hard time letting go also. I had to come up with something equally as awesome to replace the muesli I used to make and eat daily. That did the trick for me. Seriously, my body doesn't miss them at all. I'm full longer than I used to be when I ate an oat-based breakfast, and I find that my body doesn't miss the carbs. If you are trying to gain weight, maybe just try extra fat for the extra calories instead.

297 · June 25, 2013 at 2:54 AM

well at least buy them heirloom, organic and boil soak them in lime then dry em and soak them again with kefir.

0 · June 20, 2013 at 11:06 PM

I eat oatmeal dry.. old fashion out of the container.. no additives but I love it.. I eat it all the time.. and complain to my mom constantly until we buy more.. seriously I eat.all of it by myself

0 · March 12, 2013 at 3:59 PM

I don't see how oats can be addictive the are dry and flavorless! It is probably the sweeteners people put on them that make them addictive.

1527 · January 04, 2013 at 3:11 PM

They're certainly not the worst thing you could be eating, although they're far from optimal compared to foods like eggs and sweet potatoes. If you ARE going eat them, I would recommend soaking them. I experimented with oats for a while before I discovered that I don't tolerate them very well.

Put oats in a small jar or mug and cover with water. Add 1 tsp buckwheat powder/flour and 1 T whey (from yogurt or homemade kefir). Cover loosely and cook in the morning with more water or milk.

10 · January 04, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Yes, I admit it too! Bobs organic red mill oats I adore but only 1/4 cup in the morning i EAT. I have recently addapted the paleo lifestyle while trying to lose weight and Sadly, I cant seem to give up my Ezekiel low sodium bread nor oats.

What's the worst that can happen to me if I continue to eat these? Can these be affecting my weight? I use the gym an hour and a half a day

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