Oatmeal and Diabetes: What you should do and not do?

Health and Nutrition

Diabetes and its complications can be prevented or reduced by following a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use

(1). Oatmeal porridge is one of the most commonly consumed breakfast dishes. Oats are available in many forms and all can be used to make hot cereal for breakfast (2). Oats for making hot cereal are available in different forms, including steel-cut oats, large-flake oats, quick-cooking oats and instant oatmeal. Oat flakes are also used to make muesli and granola cereal, generally eaten cold.


Composition of oats

The major component of oats is a carbohydrate which is about 68 % and oats contain 10 % dietary fiber. They also contain about 13 % protein, 6.5 % fat and several micronutrients. But the important nutrients as far as diabetes is concerned are carbohydrate, protein and dietary fiber (3).


Oats and diabetes

A literature search looked at the beneficial effect of oatmeal on diabetic patients. Oatmeal intake has a beneficial effect on glucose control and lipid profile of diabetic patients (4).

Since diabetic people are at a higher risk of developing heart problems and abnormal lipid profile is a risk factor, oatmeal is a food which is recommended for diabetic people.

Diabetic people are urged to increase the intake to 14 grams fiber per 1,000 kcals daily or about 25 grams per day for adult women and 38 grams per day for adult men (5).

Oats contain good amount of fiber which includes soluble fibre, the mixed linkage β-glucan (2).


Importance of glycaemic index and glycaemic load

Foods with lower glycaemic responses are more desirable for people who are actively managing their blood glucose levels. That is people with prediabetes and diabetes. The lower glycaemic response could mean less medication necessary to keep blood glucose levels in check.

The glycaemic index (GI) of differently processed oats was found from data collected. The GI of steel-cut oats was 55, large-flake oats were 53 which are low GI values. While oats muesli and oats in the form of granola have a GI is of 56 which is medium GI. Quick-cooking oats GI is 71 and instant oatmeal GI is 75, these fall in the high GI category (6).

The longer the oats take to cook the better the glucose control power because more cell wall breakdown is observed. Cell wall breakdown results in beta-glucan entering bloodstream and it helps in the regulation of glucose levels in the blood.

The number of oats and how long it takes to cook the oats have an effect on blood glucose regulating effect of oats (6).


What you should do and not do when diabetics consume oatmeal?

Diabetic patients should use steel cut oats and large flake oats to make breakfast oatmeal because they come under the low GI category.

Because oats in muesli and granola form are medium category GI. Try to restrict the intake in these forms.

Do not use quick-cooking and instant oatmeal because they have a high GI

Do not add sugar to the oatmeal.

Do not add fruits to the oatmeal because they contain sugars.


Final word

Oatmeal is recommended as a breakfast food for diabetics but they should choose oats which require cooking for a longer time and should not add sugar or fruits to the oatmeal.




  1. World Health Organization (2018). Diabetes.



  1. Tosh, S.M. and Chu, Y. (2015) Systematic review of the effect of processing of whole-grain oat cereals on glycaemic response, British Journal of Nutrition. Vol.114(8).



  1. United States department of agriculture, Agriculture research service, USDA food composition data base. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference


  1. Hou, Q., Li, Y., Li, L., Cheng, G., Sun, X., Li, S. and Tian, H. (2015) The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Nutrients. Vol. 7(12).



  1. Evert, A.B., Boucher, J.L., Cypress, M., Dunbar, S.A., Franz, M.J., Mayer-Davis, E.J., Neumiller, J.J., Nwankwo, R., Verdi, C.L., Urbanski, P. and Yancy, W.S. (2014) Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes, Diabetes care. Vol. 37(Supplement 1).



  1. Varma, P., Bhankharia, H. and Bhatia, S. (2016) Oats: A multi-functional grain, Journal of Clinical and Preventive Cardiology. Vol. 5(1). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303976126_Oats_A_multi-functional_grain

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