January: Oats

oatmeal with berriesby Samantha Okerson

It’s a brand new year which means brand new resolutions. Is your resolution to eat healthier this year? Well, it’s your lucky day because January is known as  National Oatmeal Month or the month of oats! Yup, you heard it; there is a whole month dedicated to oatmeal and oats!1

When you think of oats you may think, “Don’t horses eat oats?” Humans can eat oats too in a variety of ways. The most common way we like to eat oats is through oatmeal or those yummy breakfast cereals we all love.

Why are oats so important in January you ask?
As consumers we buy the most amount of oats in January compared to the rest of the year. We buy less fruits and vegetables because most are not in season in the winter.

How can eating oats help me achieve my resolution to eat healthier? 2

  • Oats help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), which reduces the risk of heart disease.3,4
  • Improve satiety and help you feel fuller longer, so you don’t go for that extra snack.5
  • Contribute to lower blood pressure.6
  • May reduce the risk of type II diabetes because of the soluble fiber they contain.7

What’s the difference between instant/rolled/steel cut oats? 8

  • Instant oats cook more quickly than rolled and steel cut oats but retain less of the texture and often become mushy after they have been cooked. Instant oats are mostly used to make oatmeal.
  • Rolled oats are usually used for granola bars, cookies, or a breakfast bowl. They keep their round shape after they have been cooked.
  • steel cut oatsSteel cut oats take the longest to cook and they result in a chewy texture. These oats are cut into small pieces rather than being rolled like the other types of oats. They are usually used for porridge.

Even though they are three different types of oats, they still contain roughly the same nutritional value, aside from fiber! Oats that take longer to cook generally contain more fiber – steel cut oats boast 5 grams of fiber in a 1/4 cup (dry) serving: double the fiber found in rolled oats.

What if I have celiac disease or am gluten free?
Many people believe they need to stay away from oats when they are gluten free or have celiac disease. In a study of 106 adults with celiac disease, long-term, daily consumption of oats did not result in small-bowel mucosal villous damage, inflammation, or gastrointestinal symptoms.9  

Some people ate 20 grams of oats per day (one small serving) for eight years without any significant increase in symptoms or evidence of damage. The study also showed that oats contributed to higher total fiber intake, so eating oats often was likely benefiting them and not causing them any harm. Keep in mind, this was only one study; if you have celiac disease or are gluten free, consult your health care team if you are unsure about food product.9

FUN FACT: Did you know you can actually make bread, turkey burgers, soup and even chicken with oats being one of the ingredients?

Here is a link to one delicious and healthy recipe for ABC Meatball Soup that incorporates oats as one of the ingredients: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/oats-january-grain-of-the-month


  1. Michigan State University Extension. January is National Oatmeal Month. Accessed January 2016.
  2. Whole Grains Council. Oats: January Grain of the Month. Accessed January 2016.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers. Accessed January 2016.
  4. Thies F, et al. Oats and CVD risk markers: a systematic literature review. British Journal of Nutrition 2014; 112 Suppl 2:S19-30. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514002281.
  5. Wadyka, S; Health Magazine. 7 Fun Oatmeal Facts for National Oatmeal Day. Accessed January 2016.
  6. Kaukinen K, Collin P, Huhtala H, Mäki M. Long-term consumption of oats in adult celiac disease patients. Nutrients 2013; 5(11):4380-9.
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