Oatmeal is one of those foods that you always find on lists of healthy foods you should be eating, and there’s good reason for that: Research shows that it’s helpful in reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and reducing risk of heart disease. And an oatmeal diet—which can mean eating oatmeal for a couple of meals a day and then eating a nutritious dinner—has also been shown to be an effective way to lose weight.
But you don’t need to necessarily be on an oatmeal diet to see the benefits of eating oatmeal: Whether you decide to eat oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner, including this healthy grain in your diet can be good for your health and can be helpful for weight loss. One study by researchers at University of Central Florida found that eating a bowl of oatmeal with some protein for breakfast helped people who weren’t successful dieters—they only managed to cut about 100 calories from their daily diet and walked no more than 15 minutes a day—lose about a pound a week. Pretty impressive!
Here’s why oatmeal is such a superstar when it comes to helping you get healthy and lose weight:
1. It helps you stay full. You know how you can eat a giant doughnut and feel hungry a couple of hours later? If you eat oatmeal, you’ll feel fuller for a longer period of time. That’s because oatmeal contains a special fiber called beta-glucan, which can trigger hormones that tell you to stop eating. Beta-glucan is also sticky, so oatmeal stays in your system for a longer period of time.
2. Oatmeal can help reduce fat in our bodies. Insulin, which is released by the body in response to blood sugar, is the hormone that tells our bodies whether to store energy as fat. When you eat oatmeal, it helps keep blood sugar from spiking, which means less insulin and less fat-building.
3. It cuts down cholesterol. Doctors believe that the fibers in oatmeal bind to cholesterol molecules and carry it out of the body. Research shows that oatmeal can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in people who eat a bowl of oatmeal a day. Even better: The more oatmeal you eat, the more your cholesterol may go down, according to studies.
4. It’ll get you to crave healthier foods. It’s not clear exactly why, but research shows that eating oatmeal triggers cravings for healthier foods like healthy protein and veggies—foods that are high in lower belly fat-reducing minerals like magnesium and vitamins that rev up metabolism like B vitamins.
5. It may boost immunity. According to research from the University of Montana, the fibers in oatmeal may help white blood cells track down infections and help remove them from the body. These fibers may also disable some bacteria and viruses and help you get better faster when you have a cold or infection.
6. It may even help fight cancer. Oatmeal contains a phytochemical called enterolactone, which may help regulate hormone levels in women and reduce breast cancer risk, according to some early research.