With its warm, comforting flavor and deliciously chewy texture, oatmeal isn’t only a classic breakfast choice, it’s also considered a healthy way to start your day. But you might be wondering if the carbs in oatmeal are OK on the keto diet.
Keep reading to get the facts on this popular grain and find out if the carbs in oatmeal render it a keto-friendly food or not.
Oatmeal is made by adding rolled or crushed oats to water or milk. Because oats rapidly absorb liquid, they become the soft comfort food you know and love.
Oats are packed with key B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folate. These vitamins are crucial for healthy skin, hair, and muscles, as well as brain function and new cell creation[*].
Oats offer numerous minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. These are well-known for helping to build and protect bones, carrying oxygen throughout the body, and regulating blood pressure[*][*].
Oats are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, and coronary heart disease[*].
There are several varieties of oats including whole grain oats, oat bran, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats, instant oatmeal, and oat flour.
The least processed (and therefore the best type to eat) are whole grain oats. While they pack the most nutritional benefits, they require the longest cooking time, which is why many people opt for quick oats or rolled oats.
More than just a breakfast porridge, oats are quite versatile and found in many other foods such as cookies, granola, bread, pancakes, and more.
Even though oats are naturally gluten-free, they’re commonly packaged in facilities where gluten is present. As such, if you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, opt for oats that are clearly marked as gluten-free.
Oatmeal Nutrition Facts
A 3.5 oz. serving size (100 grams) of oats contain about 389 total calories. Breaking down these calories, you can find 17 grams of protein, 66 grams of carbs, 56 grams of net carbs, 10 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of fat[*].
Yes, you read that right — 56 grams of net carbs per serving. Gulp.
Needless to say, this carb count will make the ketosis process very hard. In fact, even half of this amount would come to around 28 grams of carbs, meaning that you would still be consuming more than half of your total daily carb value in one sitting.
Avoiding these carbohydrates early in the ketogenic diet is extremely important, as your body will still be looking for them as its main source of energy instead of relying on your fat stores and ketones first.
Even though oats are packed with health benefits and are one of the healthiest breakfast cereal options, they might not be a wise choice on keto. Or are they?
Oatmeal can be one of the tougher high-carb healthy foods to give up when starting a keto diet.
However, if you’re following a low-carb or keto diet and really want to squeeze in a little oatmeal, it’s not impossible.
While 100 grams of oats comes out to 56 grams of carbs, you could limit your intake to a quarter of that (25 grams). You’ll be lowering your carb count all the way down to 14 grams of carbohydrates, staying within the safe zone for carbs per serving.
The standard keto diet (SKD) recommends that you stay between 20-50 grams for your daily carb intake. This is especially important if you’re just starting keto.
Carbs are your body’s preferred fuel choice, pulling energy from your glycogen stores first. However, when your body is deprived of carbs, it will pull from its second favorite energy source — fat. If you’re just starting to transition to ketosis, your body is still going to search for carbs as its primary energy source. So the lower your carb intake, the better.
For those who have been in ketosis for a while and know how to listen to their body, there may be other options.
If this still isn’t enough carbs for an athlete training at extreme intensity, the cyclical keto diet (CKD) might be the better choice. The CKD is a type of keto diet made for those training at such high intensity that their glycogen stores get completely wiped out.
The CKD follows the standard keto diet five days of the week, with the other two days (anywhere from 24-48 hours) following a high-carb, low-fat intake. The carb count for these 48 hours can range anywhere from 400 to 600 grams of carbs, depending on the person.
While oatmeal may pack some serious nutritional value, its high-carb count can make it difficult if you’re struggling with weight loss. That said, despite oatmeal’s high carb count, it doesn’t produce a rapid increase in glucose. In fact, its glycemic index sits around 57 per every 250 grams[*].
If you’re just starting a low-carb or ketogenic diet, you may want to avoid anything with oats as the main ingredient, especially oatmeal. Once your metabolism is altered to a ketogenic state and you’re able to switch into ketosis at an easier rate, oatmeal can be reintroduced — as long as it’s done in smaller amounts.
For healthy oatmeal alternatives, you can’t go wrong with these easy-to-make recipes:
- Energy- Boosting Matcha Chia Seed Pudding: This pudding is one of the best ways to start the day with a punch. Matcha tea is packed with antioxidants and chlorophyll (a natural detoxifier that supports liver function)[*], while chia delivers high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. These minerals are essential for bone and teeth health[*][*][*][*].
- Quick n’ Easy Keto Egg Muffins: This super quick eggy breakfast is not only high-protein, but it also helps to promote healthy bones and skin. When adding spinach, rich in vitamin A and K, you’ll be enhancing its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties[*][*].
- Protein-Packed Blueberry Scones: Blueberries are one of the most potent sources of antioxidants and are packed with vitamin C, a vital component in collagen production. These scones also contain almond flour, an ingredient which studies have shown may promote low cholesterol levels and suppress hunger[*][*][*].
Oatmeal is a comforting breakfast dish, but it’s not the low-carb or keto-friendly food you’re looking for. The good news is that there are oatmeal alternatives that will taste just as good. What’s more, if you simply can’t resist oatmeal, there are a few exceptions to keep it as part of your keto lifestyle:
- If you’re following the cyclical ketogenic diet and consume the oatmeal during your high-carb days, that’s fine.
- If you’re following the targeted ketogenic diet and consume the oatmeal directly before or after your period of exercise, that will work.
- Your carb intake for the day including oatmeal does not exceed 20-50 grams of carbs.