Recent research has shown that oatmeal can be a valuable ally in the battle against belly fat. However, not just any oatmeal will do — instant packets with sugary flavourings just aren’t the same and may actually work against you.
To many, the worst part of dieting is the hunger, followed by the lack of satisfaction after a calorie-restricted meal. Fiber-rich foods like oatmeal help you avoid the hunger in several ways:
- Such foods are generally chewier and take longer to eat than low-fibre foods, which make you eat slowly enough that your body has time to notice when it is full.
- Fiber absorbs moisture, which can help you feel full longer, occupying more room in your stomach and taking longer to digest. This effect increases if you drink plenty of water with your meal.
- Oats, in particular, have fewer calories per serving than many low-fibre alternatives. Compare a serving of oatmeal to a calorically-equivalent serving of your favourite cereal and decide which one is more satisfying.
There is evidence, though, that oats can contribute to the loss of belly fat. A 2010 study in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” found that overweight and obese participants who ate a whole-grain oat cereal twice per day reduced their waist circumference more than the group eating a low-fibre cereal of equal calories, though there was no difference in total weight loss. This means that both groups lost weight, probably due to the daily caloric deficit, but the oats eaters lost more belly fat. The oat group also experienced lowered cholesterol levels, and results were seen as early as four weeks into the study.
All available evidence suggests that oats are a healthy food; however, whether or not it helps you lose belly fat is up to you. Simply adding oats to your diet won’t do the job — you must still have a daily caloric deficit to lose fat, so try replacing a high-calorie doughnut with oatmeal instead. Choosing steel-cut oats over instant gives you a better shot at controlling your appetite, and drinking plenty of water helps the fibre in the oats fill you up. Skip high-calorie toppings like sugar and syrup. Eat it plain or use a handful of berries. If you like milk, use nonfat or a milk alternative — unsweetened almond milk has as little as 40 calories per serving.