Oats Nutrition Facts

Calories in Oats and Their Health Benefits

Bowl of oatmeal with blueberries
Richard Eskite Photography/Photolibrary/Getty Images.

Oats are a whole grain, meaning the grain is intact and the kernel is composed of three distinct parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ. Because they are a whole grain, they have more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber, then other processed grains. Oats also have more soluble fiber than most grains, much of which is beta-glucan, thought to be beneficial for cholesterol.

Oats are a good source of complex carbohydrate and are available in a variety of cooking forms.

If you are looking to modify your carbohydrate intake, note that one cup of cooked oats is equivalent to almost two slices of bread.

Oats Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup cooked with water, no salt added (234 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 166 
Calories from Fat 32 
Total Fat 3.6g5%
Saturated Fat 0.7g4%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.3g 
Monounsaturated Fat 1g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 9mg0%
Potassium 164mg5%
Carbohydrates 28.1g9%
Dietary Fiber 4g16%
Sugars 0.6g 
Protein 5.9g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% · Iron 12%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Although oats provide almost 30 grams of carbohydrates, they're a healthier choice than other breakfast options that would provide similar amounts, like the two slices of bread or a bagel. The fiber and protein provided are reasonable, and the fat content isn't high. While a one cup serving is usually the go-to, remember that you can half that and pair with fruit , flaxseed, chia seeds, or other healthy options.

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are a good source of fiber, containing 4 grams in one cup cooked. Oats contain soluble fiber, the type of fiber that has been shown to help lower cholesterol, which is why your doctor may recommend starting your day with a filling bowl of oatmeal.

They are also a good source of manganese, which is a component of antioxidant enzymes important in facilitating bone development and helping to make and break down glucose.

Lastly, oats are a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. For a dish that you usually enjoy in the morning, that's a pretty impressive way to start your day.

Common Questions About Oats

How does the calorie and carbohydrate content of oats change from dry to wet?

Cooking oats is usually done with a 1:2 ratio, meaning that for every one part dry you need two parts wet ingredient. Therefore, when cooking, the dry measurement will yield double the serving cooked. For instance, half cup of dry oatmeal yields one cup cooked. If you are looking at the label and it reads one-half cup of uncooked oatmeal is 166 calories, 28 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, and 5.9 grams protein, then it will contain the same amount of calories in one cup cooked. If you eat only one-half cup cooked, you can reduce the calories and other nutrient values by half. 

Are oats gluten free?

Oats are naturally gluten-free, however, many oats get introduced to gluten containing grains, like wheat, rye, barley and spelt during farming, transportation, and storage. They become contaminated with gluten and therefore are no longer considered gluten free. If you are looking for 100 percent gluten free oats, they must be labeled, so don't assume any oat is gluten free.

What's the difference between steel-cut oats and other varieties?

The difference occurs during processing. The more processed an oat is the less cooking time it requires. Typically, an increase in processing will increase the food's glycemic index. By definition the different varieties of oats are as follows:

  • Groats: the whole kernel with only the husk removed. 
  • Steel cut oats: (otherwise known as Irish oats) are groat oats that are toasted and cut into tiny chunks with a steel blade. They have a chewier texture when cooked.
  • Rolled oats: typically marketed as old-fashioned oats, these are what we usually use as oatmeal; the groat oats are softened by steaming and then pressed through metal rollers to flatten. This cooks the oats partially.
  • Quick cooking oats: rolled oats that are pressed even thinner than regular rolled oats to speed up cook time and allow more water to penetrate.
  • Instant oatmeal: most typically packaged with added flavors and sugar, this type of oatmeal is made of rolled oats that are pre-cooked and dried. This is not the best choice of oatmeal.

Nutritionally, both steel cut oats and rolled oats are similar. Both are whole-grain oats with all three parts of the grain—the bran, germ, and endosperm—intact. The only differences are their textures and cooking times, which may have differing affects on blood sugars.

Picking and Storing Oats

Purchase plain oats without added sugars or flavorings. Opt to flavor your oatmeal on your own with fresh or frozen fruit and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla powder.

Store oats in a tightly closed container in a cool, dry place. Use them by their best buy date.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Oats

Oats can be prepared raw, as in overnight oats, or cooked as hot porridge. Oats can also be used in replacing breadcrumbs in recipes like meatloaf. Use oats to add fiber and texture to breads and cookies, or make your own low-sugar granola to eat as a snack or as an addition to low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese for a protein and fiber packed meal.

Recipes With Oats

Sources:

Labensky, SR, Hause, AM. On Cooking: A textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. 3rd ed. Upper Sadle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003: 699.

Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrients for Health. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/sites/lpi.oregonstate.edu/files/pdf/mic/micronutrients_for_health.pdf

Continue Reading