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Is Oatmeal A Complete Protein? (How Healthy Is It Really?)

Protein is an important nutrient for all of us, but complete proteins are even better for our health. Most sources of complete proteins are animal products. But luckily, there are some plant-based alternatives.

Many whole grains contain a decent amount of protein. For example, oatmeal is a good source of this nutrient. But is it a complete protein?

Is oatmeal a complete protein?

Oats aren’t a complete protein on their own, and the same goes for oatmeal. There are ways, though, to prepare your oatmeal so that it’s a great source of all the nine essential amino acids.

Aside from protein, oatmeal is a great source of various minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. So, eating oatmeal is very beneficial for your health, especially when you choose plain, unflavored oats.

Make sure to also check out Do I Need To Worry About Eating Complete Proteins? and Yes, You Can Be A Vegan And An Athlete Too.

Why is oatmeal not a complete protein?

Oatmeal is made with oats and often whole milk or water. When you prepare oatmeal with water, you’re not getting a complete protein profile. 

But if you add whole milk instead, you can reap even more health benefits and amino acids, which means you get a complete protein. It also means that you’re getting more protein in a single serving.

Is oatmeal a complete protein?
Is oatmeal a complete protein?

Oats provide you with eight out of the nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. 

It’s quite low in lysine, so it’s important to pair oatmeal with foods containing this missing amino acid.

But even though oatmeal is not a complete protein, it contains a higher quality protein than other whole grains. So, it’s still a good idea to include it in your diet.

How can you make oatmeal a complete protein?

A single one-cup serving of oatmeal cooked with water contains about 5.9 g of protein, which is around 12% of your daily recommended need for this nutrient. 

This is a good amount for wholegrain, but oatmeal is still not a complete protein.

Luckily, there are many ways you can create a complete protein profile using oatmeal. The easiest one is to cook oatmeal with milk (especially whole milk). 

This adds not only lysine but all other amino acids to the finished product.

Cooking your oatmeal with milk also increases the protein content. One cup of whole milk provides you with 7.9 g of protein, so you’re getting even more of this nutrient.

If you don’t eat dairy, you can add other ingredients to your oatmeal. For example, cranberries, mangoes, pumpkin seeds, and almonds contain lysine. 

How can you make oatmeal a complete protein?
How can you make oatmeal a complete protein?

So, if you add these to your oatmeal, you will get a complete protein.

There are also many other foods that create a complete protein profile with oats. These include cauliflower, carrots, watermelon, crimini mushrooms, black beans, and Dijon mustard.

You don’t have to eat them during the same meal as oatmeal, but make sure to consume them within a 24-hour window. That way, your body will absorb all the amino acids it needs.

Is oatmeal good for you?

Oatmeal, just like all other whole grains, is an excellent source of dietary fiber. One cup of cooked oatmeal contains 16% of your daily need for fiber

This nutrient is important for gut health, as it feeds the ‘good’ gut bacteria in your stomach.

Fiber can also help you lose weight. This is because it fills you up and prevents overeating, so you’re less likely to take in excess calories.

Oatmeal also contains 68% of your daily need for manganese. This mineral helps your body form connective tissues, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. 

It’s also important for carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.

Oatmeal also packs a good dose of other minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. 

So, since mineral deficiencies are common these days, it’s a good idea to add oatmeal to your diet to avoid them.

Aside from minerals, oats are an excellent source of antioxidants. These plant compounds help flush out free radicals from your body. 

This prevents oxidative damage to your cells and lowers your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Is oatmeal good for you?
Is oatmeal good for you?

The same antioxidants in oats also help lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, which leads to better blood flow.

So, as you can see, eating a lot of antioxidant-rich foods is important for good health.

Oats also contain other plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, which can decrease the risk of childhood asthma. 

Studies show that feeding children oatmeal can help protect them against asthma.

Eating oatmeal has also been known to relieve constipation. Experts believe that it’s because of the beta-glucan fiber found in oatmeal as well as the plant compounds that they come with.

But remember that this benefit only applies to plain oats and not the ones with added sugar and other preservatives. So, it’s best to stick to old-fashioned oats.

In addition, the type of fiber found in oatmeal – beta-glucan – has been shown to reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. This, in turn, lowers your risk of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.

The same fiber also reduces inflammation in the arteries and prevents tissues damage. So, if you’re prone to cardiovascular issues, eating whole grains like oatmeal is recommended.

Aside from health benefits when they’re consumed, oats are beneficial for your skin. In fact, oats can help with skin irritation and even soothe the unpleasant symptoms of eczema. 

But it’s important to note that these benefits are only visible when oats are applied to the skin, not consumed.

Conclusion

On its own, oatmeal isn’t a complete protein. But you can prepare it with milk or add other ingredients to it that will turn it into a complete protein. 

On its own, oatmeal isn’t a complete protein
On its own, oatmeal isn’t a complete protein

Oats are also a good source of protein for vegans and those on plant-based diets. So, it’s a good idea to incorporate this whole grain into your dietary plan.

Aside from protein, oatmeal is rich in various nutrients, including fiber, thiamin, manganese, iron, magnesium, and selenium, among others. 

As a result of that, eating oatmeal can help prevent mineral deficiencies.

Make sure to also check out Do I Need To Worry About Eating Complete Proteins? and Yes, You Can Be A Vegan And An Athlete Too.

Sources: Nutrition Data, PMC, and National Library of Medicine