Anti-Inflammatory Oatmeal: The Overlooked Breakfast Hero

Many people switch to a warmer breakfast like oatmeal as the weather cools.

Like smoothies, oatmeal is a quick and nutritious breakfast. Add-ins further boost protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. 

Oatmeal provides antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. Research proves oatmeal lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels and aids gut health. 

Keep reading to learn more about using oatmeal on an anti-inflammatory diet, its health benefits, nutrition content, how to make it, and practical tips for eating it.

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter if you know something is good for you to eat. You need tips to get your family and self to actually eat it!

Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Oatmeal

Anti-Inflammatory Compounds

Normal life wear and tear, including illnesses, medications, sun damage, smoking, or eating lots of fried foods and sugary items, produce free radicals and oxidants. 

Free radicals and oxidants are unstable and can cause damage to your cells, leading to illness, poor health, and accelerated aging. 

Anti-oxidants are chemicals that lessen or prevent how much damage free radicals and oxidants can do. Antioxidant-rich foods and drinks turn free radicals into stable, less harmful compounds. 

Oatmeal contains antioxidants that prevent inflammatory responses. Oatmeal contains phenolic acids, tocols (vitamin E), sterols, avenacosides, and avenanthramides, all with antioxidant properties. 

Vitamin E helps prevent aging, chronic disease, cancer, and heart disease.

Avenanthramides are found primarily in oats. Research has shown they are anti-inflammatory and protect against heart disease, colon cancer, and skin irritation. 

Health Benefits of Oatmeal

  1. Reduces Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, and Blood Sugar

Oats are a unique grain that contains large amounts of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. 

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and makes a gummy substance in the intestines. This soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar. 

You may have noticed oatmeal packaging stating it can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the large amount of research validating the effect of soluble fiber.

  1. Lower Risks of Type 2 Diabetes

Higher intakes of whole grains, like oatmeal, are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Research on almost 200,000 adults indicates eating at least two servings of whole grains daily reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 29%. 

  1. Improves Gut Health

Oatmeal intake improves the balance of good bacteria in the gut after two weeks.  

The participants ate 2.9 grams of beta-glucan daily, equating to about one and a half cups of cooked oatmeal (three packets of instant oatmeal). 

Oatmeal also helps prevent constipation and improves bowel regularity. 

  1. Improves Diet, Nutrient Intake and Reduces Risk for Obesity in Children

Children eating oatmeal eat more fiber and nine other vitamins and minerals than those not.  

Children have better diet quality, a 40% reduced risk for obesity, and a 64% reduced risk of excess weight in the mid-section when consuming oatmeal as a regular part of a healthy diet.

Nutrition Content of Oatmeal (Plus Cook Time)

Instant OatmealFlavored Instant Oatmeal (Apple Cinnamon)Quick (1 Minute) OatsRolled or Old Fashioned OatsSteel Cut Oats
Serving Size1 packet (⅓ cup)1 packet (½ cup)½ cup½ cup½ cup 
Calories100160 150 150150 
Carbs18 g33 g27 g27 g27 g
Fiber3 g 4 g4 g4 g4 g
Soluble Fiber1 g0.8 g2 g2 g2 g
Added Sugar0 g8 g0 g0 g0 g
Protein4 g4 g5 g5 g5 g
Cook Time:Microwave 1 minuteMicrowave 1 minuteMicrowave 1 to 2 minutesMicrowave 3 minutesStovetop 10 to 20 minutes
Anti-Inflammatory Oatmeal made with Old-Fashioned Oats, Diced Gala Apples, Cinnamon, and 1 tsp Honey. Packed with soluble fiber and anti-inflammatory foods.

How to Make Anti-Inflammatory Oatmeal 

What Not To Do: 

Avoid or limit added sugar as much as possible. In my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Lists article, I discuss research on what foods are considered anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory. 

Sugary cold and hot cereals, including oatmeal, are listed as inflammatory foods. 

If you or your kids are used to this type, consider buying the lower-sugar version of flavored instant oatmeal packets to reduce sugar intake slowly. They contain half the added sugar (4 g) of flavored instant oatmeal packets.

Limit the amount of added sugar you use in your oatmeal. Added sugar includes honey, table sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, molasses, or syrup.  One teaspoon of any type of sugar is about 4 grams of added sugar. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars to about 50 g or 12 teaspoons daily. 

The American Heart Association further reduces this daily added sugar limit:

  • Women: 100 calories, 25 g, or six teaspoons
  • Men: 150 calories, 36 g or nine teaspoons
  • Children: Less than 100 calories, 25 g, or six teaspoons

What Kind of Oatmeal is Anti-Inflammatory?

All types of oatmeal are anti-inflammatory except for those with added sugar.  The flavored instant oatmeal packets contain added sugar. 

Otherwise, you can choose from the table above which suits your schedule or texture preference.  All oats contain beneficial soluble fiber and are a good source of total fiber. Instant oatmeal is slightly lower in fiber than the rest of the oats. 

Instant oatmeal will be the softest and quickest to prepare. Quick oats are still smooth and creamy. Old-Fashioned or Rolled Oats have a slightly firmer texture, whereas Steel Cut Oats have a chewy texture. 

What Anti-Inflammatory Add-Ins Should I Try?

Research shows that switching to reduced-sugar oatmeal with added spices and fruit increases overall liking! 

The sugar was reduced by 35% for oatmeal. The 150 participants tried all three oatmeals on the same day. 

Participants least liked the reduced sugar versions; reduced sugar with added spices and dried apples was slightly lower than full sugar.  

Researchers recommended that oatmeal include more add-ins beyond dried apples and cinnamon to increase flavor. Try some of these add-ins as you reduce the sugar.

  1. Anti-Inflammatory Spices: Ginger and Cinnamon 
  1. Fruits: fresh, frozen, dried. We love frozen fruit to cool off the temperature and make it ready to eat almost immediately. Diced apples microwaved for one minute taste delicious in the fall. 
  1. Vegetables: canned pumpkin puree or squash 
  1. Seeds: chia seeds, ground flax (my favorite), hemp seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  1. Milk: choose from cow’s milk or non-dairy versions. Adding milk makes oatmeal creamy, cools it down faster, and provides protein to keep you full. You could even add unsweetened yogurt. 

Make a new version of oatmeal every time with these add-ins. So many flavors and options. Choose from the following to make a balanced meal that lasts for three to four hours. 

  • A fiber-rich item (fruit, vegetable, nut, nut butter, and seeds)
  • Plus protein (nut, nut butter, milk, yogurt, protein powder) and 
  • Healthy fat (nut, nut butter, seeds, milk, yogurt) 

How to Transition to a Healthier Breakfast Routine 

Assess Where You Are

Common breakfast choices are typically not as healthy. These can work once or twice a week, but choose a nutritious, anti-inflammatory option for most meals. 

Some examples of breakfast foods that are inflammatory, not filling, and expensive include:

  • Cold sweetened cereals
  • Pre-made refined and low-fiber breakfast items (waffles, pancakes, donuts, pastries, granola bars, Pop-Tarts, coffee cake, bagels, English muffins)
  • Some high-fiber and whole-grain versions of these foods exist but may have lots of added sugar and are more expensive

Breakfast is a place to make impactful and inexpensive changes!

For the past five months, breakfast has been hard at our house. With two major surgeries and three kids six and under, I let breakfast go. 

My kids ate cold breakfast cereal at least five days a week. I did attempt to pick out lower sugar, high-fiber versions and offer fruit on the side. Normally, I make a balanced breakfast five to six days a week. 

Set a Goal

For your family, it might be three mornings a week, and you want to incorporate anti-inflammatory oatmeal on those days. 

I tried a slow transition for my family and made other breakfast options, including oatmeal, several days a week, but most of my kids refused and begged for the cereal. 

So, I transitioned cold turkey off of cereal. I warned them that we weren’t buying anymore once the boxes were gone. 

Expect Gradual Progress

Your taste buds regrow every two weeks or so. Gradually reducing sugary breakfast items over a few weeks is less noticeable as your taste buds regrow less accustomed to sugar.  

I knew a hard shift from sweet breakfast cereal would take time. For my kids, not having sweet cereal as an option was needed. 

It took four weeks for all of my kids to transition back to a healthier breakfast. One did it in a day (my oatmeal lover). 

You can start with sweeter oatmeal, with add-ins you or your kids like. Some days, I served familiar side items like milk, fruit, yogurt, or scrambled eggs. Over time, reduce the added sugar.

I made oatmeal with 75% fruit and 25% oatmeal for one child. I’ve slowly changed this to 50% fruit and 50% oatmeal. 

Easy and affordable breakfast options like oatmeal are a must in most homes. 

Oatmeal is an inexpensive, anti-inflammatory food to experiment with. If you do not like the version you made, a bowl of Old-Fashioned Oatmeal costs about $0.10 with no add-ins, whereas a bowl of Cheerios costs $0.72 (not including milk).


Oatmeal is a quick, inexpensive, and anti-inflammatory breakfast. You can learn more about adding oatmeal to smoothies. There are so many ways to eat more oats than just a bowl of oatmeal. 

Oatmeal contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation. It is packed with soluble fiber that lowers blood sugar and cholesterol and boosts healthy gut bacteria.

Oatmeal is a perfect trial food for yourself and your family. Children who eat oatmeal tend to have a more nutritious diet and healthier body weight.

Read more about quickly planning healthy anti-inflammatory dinners and eating healthy on a budget.  

Or grab my detailed printable anti-inflammatory foods list (PDF) to assess your diet and ideas for new foods to try. 

Let’s get UNstuck and stay UNstuck!

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