Oats for d-Health

Guest Post by Sally Marchini – dietitian

Oats are an awesome topic for a d-blog as they bring together so many aspects of food in our lives with diabetes including the glycemic index of carbohydrates, the importance of whole grains in our diets, soluble and insoluble fibre, heart health and the chance to talk about more delicious recipes. Not to mention with winter on our doorstep, oats are a wonderful comfort food breakfast for the coming cold mornings – Yes! And this idea follows on well from a recent blog about healthy eating on a budget as oats are definitely a bargain food!


Of course, like with all foods that I talk about individually, I need to make clear that they should be consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet as is demonstrated in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

I’ll also talk about oats and coeliac disease, since around 10% of us with type 1 get coeliac disease, and I know I was devastated to find out that oats were off my diet when I was diagnosed. Now they’re back, so I’ll speak more of that further down 🙂

Glycemic Index

Oats come in various states – groats (the whole oat, just with husk removed), steel cut (the next ‘least’ processed version), oat bran, rolled oats, traditional oats and quick oats – just to name a few. As we often discuss, the less processing that the grain goes through, the lower it’s glycemic index should be as our body has to do the processing itself to break the whole grains down into glucose that our bodies need for fuel.  So, when you’re choosing oats try to avoid the ‘quick oats’ which have been chopped smaller for faster cooking, when whole oats actually don’t need much (if any) cooking anyway.

It is also interesting to note that oats are lower in carbohydrates than many other grains. According to Calorie King, they come in at only 58% carbohydrate compared with rice at 79%, wheat at 71%, and quinoa at 64%.

Our D-health

We’ve probably all heard of the cholesterol lowering and glucose ‘slowering’ (I know, I made it up, but you get what I mean lol) abilities of beta-glucans that are found in oats, but oats are packed with a huge range of nutrients that are essential for maintaining health including B-vitamins, minerals (including iron, magnesium, and zinc) plus a whole lot more as well both soluble and insoluble fibre to keep our gut healthy too.

They also contain a plant nutrient that is unique to oats called Avenanthrades which have been demonstrated by research to possess anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being shown to reduce a process involved in atherosclerosis. All good evidence for us with diabetes to include them in our diet on a regular basis as part of our 3-6 grain serves per day where one serve is a quarter cup of raw oats (17g carb = 1 serve/exchange).

There’s a lot of evidence to demonstrate the heart health benefits of oats, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come!

Oats and coeliac disease

Coeliac Australia says on their website that “FSANZ defines wheat, rye, barley and oats as gluten containing grains, as all four grains have been shown to trigger a reaction in those with coeliac disease.

“Many gluten free or pure oat products are now being imported to Australia. It is important to note that this means that the product is only free of contamination from wheat, rye or barley crops during the harvesting, processing or packaging of the product. The product has not had the gluten extracted or been genetically modified to be gluten free.

“It is recommended by the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) for Coeliac Australia that despite the extensive medical research done in relation to oats and coeliac disease, oats should be excluded from a gluten free diet until the research is more conclusive and definitive.”

However, if you’ve been strictly gluten free for over a year and have fully recovered any previous damage, then it’s possible to do an ‘oat challenge’ using uncontaminated oats including 50g oats a day  for 3 months with a pre- and post- biopsy to determine if oats are likely to cause you villi damage/inflammation.

Having diabetes, my doctor encouraged me to do this to help with the inclusion of more low-GI grains in my diet, and I would encourage the same of other people with diabetes who miss oats in their diet.

Notice I said ‘uncontaminated’ oats? From a coeliac perspective it’s important with all ‘gluten free’ grains to ensure they’ve been processed/packaged in a gluten free facility. Two I know of here in Australia are Freedom Foods and Carman’s Fine Foods.  If you know of any others, please comment in the space below, thanks 🙂


The obvious way to eat oats is to include them in your breakfast as porridge, muesli or in a smoothie, but there are so many other delicious ways to use them.

One of my favourite snacks used to be this Lowan recipe for oatbran and apple muffins as they were so easy to make and turned out perfectly every time, remembering I’m not a baker lol With both oat bran and apple, the GI of these would definitely be low. I just used a little less sugar – if you like it sweet you could use some sweetener in place of some of the sugar. I also choose to use light olive oil rather than vegetable oil (from an inflammation perspective).


I also like the look of this oat crumble topped pears with yogurt recipe which is likely to have a low-GI, but go easy on the sugar/maple syrup. Perhaps try some Agave syrup with its low GI instead?


And as far as savoury goes, they’re ideal to add to casseroles and soups. And how delicious does this recipe for lamb rissoles with tabouli and hummus sound? Yummo!


This roasted pumpkin crumble also looks like a top low-GI idea, especially good for those vegetarians amongst us!

And if you’re after more info on oats, Accredited Practising Dietitian/Nutritionist Catherine Saxelby wrote a blog on oats with more detail on the types of oats and her own favourite recipes that you can read here.  And here’s a website that has a listing of all the nutrients if you’re interested.

Please share your favourite oaty recipes in the comments below!  Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.