Oatmeal - why not?

by 352 · September 06, 2013 at 04:31 PM

So I will admit I am a bit biased as I lost an absolute ton of weight before I found Paleo by simply eating a small quantity of quick oats ($1.79 for a generic cardboard tube) with a little bit of real maple syrup or real peanut butter for breakfast, the same for lunch, and then a simple dinner of probably Paleo-friendly stew or fish with some veggies.

To be honest at about a 1/3 cup dry for breakfast and another for lunch I was probably entering ketosis from low calories even though I was eating 'carbs'. Oatmeal is fairly low on the Glylcemic index, but with such a small quantity I probably was 'almost fasting' for 24 hours at a time. I understand the logic behind (and currently do) the fasting with Paleo, but felt like I was keeping the fire burning while burning off excess fat around the clock.

PaNu's approach to weight loss is here: LINK There are some similarities, but also significant differences.

So, why not oatmeal? I am interested in Paleo from the 'this is what our bodies do and how they respond to foods' aspect, not the particulars of what humans ate in that particular epoch. It doesn't matter to me that humans in Paleo times didn't cook with this method or that... I am only interested in the why and how of real health and digestion.

PaNu seems to be anti grains in general, and I understand that gluten grains can cause leaky gut, and that we all are probably somewhat intolerant to wheat; but what is the science behind avoiding oatmeal?

Since starting a Lacto-Paleo style approach I cut out oatmeal and started eating more fats and fasting. This seems to work too, but I am curious why the former approach I stumbled upon might be considered 'wrong' from a Paleo standpoint.

In short, why is oatmeal 'bad' for me?

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24 Replies

330 · February 28, 2010 at 07:27 PM

Oats are often contaminated with other gluten grains during processing. (Thompson T (2005) Contaminated oats and other gluten-free foods in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 105:348.)

Also the avenin protein appears to have similar effects to gluten. (Lundin, K et al (2003) Oats induced villous atrophy in coeliac disease. Gut. 52: 1649-1652. and Haboubi NY et al (2006) Coeliac disease and oats: a systematic review. Postgraduate Med J. 82: 672-678.)

Considering you don't need starch or beta-glucan or fibre, I'd rather ask, "Oats - why?"! ;)

18236 · February 15, 2011 at 05:03 PM


I am very impressed with the manner in which you posed your question. Quite thorough I must say.

Pre-Paleo, my wife and I ate oatmeal all the time. We were all engulfed in the whole 'low saturated fat, high fiber, cholesterol lowering foods' deal. Oh how off base we were.

The case against oatmeal:

  • high in: carbs, fiber, phytic acid

  • many people, especially those with sensitive insulin response, have a significant surge in blood glucose after eating oatmeal.

The case for oatmeal (and why I still choose to eat it):

  • like potatoes, oatmeal is delicious when you use it as a vehicle for other additives

  • has enough nutrients / minerals to be worth eating if properly prepared

  • extremely inexpensive if you're on a budget (sometimes finding inexpensive meals that 'qualify' allows more room in your food budget to purchase the premium quality foods to satisfy your main staples)

Best way to prepare oatmeal: soak/ferment to predigest the oats and reduce phytic acid

  • pour 3 cups of raw oats into glass bowl and fill with purified water until oats are covered

  • add 8 tablespoons of raw whey (or any acidic medium like kefir/yogurt)

  • add 2 tablespoons organic buckwheat flour (this adds phytase to break down the phytates)

  • stir thoroughly. cover with paper towel and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours

  • drain and rinse thoroughly (most of the buckwheat flour will rinse out)

Now you can cook them as normal and prepare as desired. Personally, I add 4 organic eggs, half stick of melted pasture butter, 2 tsp vanilla, dash of cinnamon, a handful of fresh blueberries, 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, 1 tbsp baking powder, mix it all up, pour the oats into a casserole dish, and bake at 350 for 45 min.

the result? 'baked blueberry oatmeal' that will make your entire house smell like the holidays. the oats are very light and fluffy, and do not cause gas or stomach upset. obviously, you wouldn't want to eat this in large quantity, especially if you have blood glucose imbalances. but i tell you what, fill a small bowl with this and add some pasture butter and heavy cream, you got yourself a delicious 'bready' style treat without the grain issues.


jack kronk

9983 · February 28, 2010 at 08:26 PM

I would refer you to http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/you-just-think-youre-low-carb.html entitled "You just think you're low carb" Dr Davis talks about what happens to one's blood glucose levels after ingesting oatmeal and other sugar spiking foods.

On Edit: There is evidence that eating oatmeal retards the healing of cavities while eating paleo at http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/03/reversing-tooth-decay.html

Edit: Dr Davis has a new posting on Mar 10 regarding Oatmeal exclusively. http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/oatmeal-good-or-bad.html regarding the insulin spike brought on by eating oatmeal in most people.

55322 · February 28, 2010 at 02:04 AM

I agree that they are among the least bad grains and I discuss them in my post about Scottish traditional food. If you are interested in consuming grains, the Weston A. Price foundation is a great resource. Did you know oatmeal was usually eaten fermented back in the old days? My boyfriend refuses to give up oatmeal, so I make fermented oatmeal for him.

Why don't I eat oatmeal? Personally, I think grains muck up our bodies. In my case, even nice oatmeal messes with my digestion. My father who is paleo was slow to give up oatmeal but once he gave it up he lost even more weight. Oatmeal has fiber, but in the end it's glucose, which is a sugar, and they have very little nutrition compared to true paleo foods.

55 · January 16, 2013 at 06:02 AM

so in that case, most of the french population should be diabetic because of the french white bread they consume daily, and white rice and wheat noodles or buckwheat noodles are all over china and japan, have been for centuries, yet no-one talks about the fact they are just as high carb sugar rushes as white bread- lets talk genuine sourdough, rye? has anyone noticed that old generation sardinians are amongst the longest lived people with low rates/almost non-existent diabetes and so on, and they eat pane carasou and other white-bread wheat-based albeit homemade goods? Okay so white rice contains no phytic acid and oats do- but doesn't cauliflower and almonds, pecans contain phytic acid in abundance? i bet only a small handful of us sprout these nuts to decrease the phytic acid because we know deep down our bodies can handle a bit of phytic acid enough to eat them in an un-sprouted form because we are living in a society where we can go out and buy grass fed beef, raw butter, raw cheese, bone marrows and other nutritious foods stuffs- therefore we are not malnourished or in danger of being wholly reliant on phytic acid rich foods- our bodies are amazing machines that if we are genuinely healthy with no gluten or immune issues we will be fine to consume oatmeal. Infact many people live to a ripe old age eating oatmeal, just google centenarians and their dietary tips- they include fat of course, but a morning oatmeal is thrown in there too. I genuinely believe that some people do better on a breakfast thats high carb mixed with fats then even it out during the course of the day. Let's not forget that you can disregard your cravings and what you want so much, convincing yourself your body is tricking you into wanting something, when really you could just eat it and eat it with a positive state of mind (considering you aren't gluten intolerant) and be just fine. I see a few people saying about insulin spikes being detrimental to health over time yet no-one seems to remind anyone how the majority of the world do not actually solely rely on tubers for carb fuel but actually there is a great mix of grains that are cultivated and used. Preparation is key. second to that, pairing the phytic acid rich food with a calcium rich food stuff and a fat will likely change the way it affects the gi response.

1560 · February 16, 2011 at 02:21 AM

I used to eat oatmeal or brown rice porridge with egg every morning for breakfast, and I would be starving in 2 hours.There just isn't enough there for my body to run on.

3482 · July 21, 2010 at 07:33 AM

To add to what has already been said, I think oats have got to be the most tasteless and bland food available on this earth. Even more so, when you eat them, you're not eating something immensely more nutritive instead.

20469 · July 21, 2010 at 03:46 AM

Oats contain high levels of lectins and phytic acid which can cause intestinal imbalances and block the absorption of nutrients. They are also high in omega 6s and cause many people to have high insulin. If you really want to eat them, people are right when they suggest fermentation. THe fermentation process helps break down the lectins and phytic acid and make the food more nutritious. However, it will still be an insulin generator.

293 · March 01, 2010 at 05:38 AM

Aloha AllTooHuman!

Oatmeal simply does contain gluten and will raise blood sugar quickly in many. I take all diabetic and gluten intolerant clients off oats (and they are usually quite unhappy until they see how much better they feel). Most folks have the inclination to put maple syrup into the mix(and more than just a little)! Seems like there are so many other choices for breakfast that will hold your blood sugar stable for a much longer period of time.

20 · April 11, 2013 at 07:51 AM

Since going paleo my sleep has suffered greatly due to nighttime hypoglycemia. I tried upping my carb intake during the day with more root vegetables and moderate berries but that didn't work. I tried a protein snack alone before bed but that didn't work. I dislike sweet potatoes so I added organic, guaranteed gluten-free, slow-cooking, steel-cut oats. It's a slow acting carb and for me personally, it works like a charm. Everyone is different. Your constitution and genetic pre-disposition combined with the specifics of your diet & environment (over the course of their lifetime), your gender and your hormonal environment in your body all contribute to unique, individual needs. My motto is simple: Do what works and not what hurts.

40 · March 05, 2010 at 12:53 AM

I stopped eating oatmeal after I found out that it was adversely affecting my blood sugar. I began testing after I read that the best way to avoid heart disease was to avoid raising your blood sugar. Oatmeal boosted it up to the 160's in a flash.

10 · September 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM

I'm 3.5 weeks into Paleo. Lost 9 pounds so far and feel great......That is, until I tried eating oatmeal for breakfast yesterday. I chose the real deal - not the instant type. Even so, it didn't agree with me. Had a terrible night, feel bloated, woke up with distended belly. This was totally not worth it. In fact, it reminded me of how bad I felt in the morning before Paleo (and just thought that was normal). Still struggling with what to have for breakfast on those days I'm not in the mood for eggs....guess fresh fruit is the answer.

283 · February 16, 2011 at 02:11 AM

W O W ! Hey Kaz ,his is exactly as if I would have written of myself. I remember driving to the gym , where I worked, 5 days a week . Had awful stomach pains after eating my bowl of oatmeal.

* you wrote """" Because of this, I do not eat them. I think they taste awesome, though, and ate them every day for years despite the pain. I had no idea the oats were to blame for my digestive issues, though, because I thought I was being "healthy" by eating them. I feel much wiser now, and much happier since eliminating them from my diet."""" keep on truckin' ~S

276 · February 28, 2010 at 05:21 PM

I eat oatmeal occasionally. It is a great source of beta glucans which promote the immune system and a great source of starch, which is long chains of glucose molecules (a single saccharide or a disaccharide is a sugar). Starch is people food, along with monounsaturated and saturated fat.

I don't know of much that is bad about oatmeal. It is somewhat high (for a grain) in omega 6 fatty acids (4-5% or so) and some, including me, believe that omega 6s are very bad. That said, oatmeal doesn't have much omega 6 at all compared to what most people eat. Also, oatmeal can be hard to digest and can produce gas if eaten in large quantities.

Overall, I think oatmeal is a great food.

0 · September 06, 2013 at 04:31 PM

Is it safe to say that People here posting with blood sugar issues stay away from Oats in general besides the point of it being "non Paleo" ?

I for one don't have blood sugar issues and in fact want an insulin spike particularly after my 3x per week heavy weight lifting routine and I enjoy Oats with berries and raw honey.

So again besides of course being non paleo and not so nutritious compared to other food sources AND if one soaks the Steel Cut Oats in water, whats the real harm?

0 · March 09, 2013 at 05:01 PM

I've used the earnest hot and fit oatmeal blend. It seems to do the trick and I have no issues with it.

5744 · February 01, 2013 at 01:59 AM

Organic, steel cut oats. Soak them for 24+ hours, rinse them very well and store them in a cold environment. I've had no issues with them, so I'm not sure they are that bad at all. Not the same for everyone though, so it's one of those "proceed with caution" things.

2316 · February 01, 2013 at 01:43 AM

Oatmeal is my #1 reason for going paleo...I would eat a huge bowl of delicious oatmeal with almonds and frozen berries almost every night. I became curious as to why I was always deathly hungry 45 minutes after pounding multiple servings. Long story short; a series of Google searches lead me to the paleo diet.

0 · February 01, 2013 at 01:01 AM

The hard part about this diet is I have food allergies. One is egg whites. So hard to find something good to eat for breakfast.

0 · January 02, 2012 at 10:56 PM

Guys! I LOVE OATMEAL. I know it is tasteless for some, but for me... plain rolled oats soaked in nothing but hot water... delicious! BUT!!!! I am emotionally attached to rolled oats and have to give up on them because all the stomach pain they cause. For long time I was making myself believe that the pain was in my had, but now seeing similar experiences from others, there is one way to go. Goodbye oats!

5235 · February 15, 2011 at 10:55 PM

I've tried to consume conventional as well as certified gluten-free oats, and even they do hideous things to my digestive system -- if it wasn't one bowel extreme, it was the other, or sometimes both. (Ugh, quite gruesome, as I'm sure you can imagine.) All grains do that to me, though, not just oats.

They also do not keep me full, no matter how much I'd bulk them up.

Because of this, I do not eat them. I think they taste awesome, though, and ate them every day for years despite the pain. I had no idea the oats were to blame for my digestive issues, though, because I thought I was being "healthy" by eating them. I feel much wiser now, and much happier since eliminating them from my diet. :)

0 · February 15, 2011 at 04:26 PM

I eat oatmeal every morning (1/2 cup dry) w/1 tbsp flax, 1 packet stevia. Also, 2 eggs and 2 whites. The only grains I eat all day. I've lost 57 pounds since Sept 2010. I would like to go Primal, etc. , but don't see (yet) why I need to drop the oatmeal.

2264 · March 03, 2010 at 08:28 PM

If you must eat oats, Bob's Red Mill sells rolled oats that have been carefully handled to avoid cross-contamination with gluten. I have celiac and I can tolerate them fine in small doses (the only doses I've tried). They make a fine substitute for breadcrumbs in things like meatloaf and meatballs.

585 · March 03, 2010 at 08:11 PM

Personally, I eat oats every now and again, but I go with steel-cut. If we're applying the "if you have to process it to eat it, don't" metric, then oats are OK, or at least far more OK than other grains. Steel-cut are just oats that have been cut up, no other changes. There's a quick version (7-10 minutes) and the slow verson (30 mins or they're fantastic in the crock pot over night with some fruit, nuts and cream - see Good Eats for more). While it does have starch, it also has quite a lot of protein for a grain, so that's not bad, either.

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