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Is Oatmeal Good for PCOS? Pros & Cons + 3 Alternatives

Kym Campbell

By Kym Campbell, BSc. | Updated March 18th, 2024

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I get this question a lot from women taking part in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge.

It’s a good one because there’s no clear-cut, universal answer. It depends on what you’re comparing it to. Oatmeal for breakfast is better than bread, but it’s not as good as an egg scramble. You also need to consider how you prepare oatmeal, and how flexible you are about alternatives.

Despite its marginal health benefits, oatmeal isn’t great for PCOS. The impact on blood glucose levels doesn’t stack up to the requirements of a good PCOS diet. I explain this more below.

A Critical Review of the Benefits of Oatmeal

Many websites cite good scientific studies to tell you that oats are good for you. But they tend to cherry-pick favorable results and downplay or ignore inconvenient findings.

The three most touted benefits of oatmeal are that it’s good for:

  1. Reducing blood pressure
  2. Improving cholesterol levels
  3. Blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity

These benefits come from beta-glucan fiber and the unique antioxidants found in oats. B vitamins, manganese, and other minerals also make oats nutritious. So, oats might be healthy to some extent, for some people. But a more critical review of the literature results in less enthusiasm about the net effect. Only three out of 25 studies in one systematic review found that oats reduced blood pressure [1]. Some benefits on cholesterol levels were observed. But they found no evidence that it was good for insulin sensitivity.

The reality is that scientists have failed to show that eating oats lowers cardiovascular disease risks [1, 2]. Maybe it lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and dying from any cause as shown in this study. But that’s a big maybe.

This meta-analysis is often used to show that oats are good for glucose control and insulin response [3]. But a closer look shows that this is in comparison to a bad diet, or foods like white bread and glucose drinks [4, 5]. By comparison, oatmeal for breakfast doesn’t appear to be as healthy as having an egg [6].

Studies that compared an oat-enriched diet to a stand diet found no benefit on insulin resistance [7]. This kind of investigation is better for assessing if oatmeal is good for you.

Compelling studies show health benefits from eating more oats [8]. What’s clear though, is that at best, the strength of the effect is small.

The simple answer to the question is oatmeal good for PCOS, is that it all comes down to what you’re comparing it with.

Cons of Oatmeal for PCOS

During my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge, I recommend that people avoid oatmeal.

This is because a good PCOS diet puts a high priority on blood glucose control. We’re not just looking at making small, low-efficacy changes. I want participants to experience noticeable improvements within 30 days. Oatmeal doesn’t make the grade.

Participants see deep and rapid results because my PCOS meal plans are set to the highest standards. For example, medical authorities recommend post meal blood sugar levels remain less than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L). For people with PCOS, levels this high will drive insulin resistance, weight gain, and out-of-control hormones. As I explain in my macros for PCOS article, achieving peak glucose levels of 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L) or less is the best way to reverse PCOS. You can’t do this with an oatmeal breakfast.

Most analyses of the glycemic index (GI) of oatmeal put it at the boundary between low and medium GI [9]. But your blood glucose levels are determined by glycemic load (GL). This is the GI, multiplied by the number of carbohydrates in a serving. The glycemic load of one cup of porridge made from oat flakes is between 13-24 on average. That’s considered a “medium” glycemic load at best. For PCOS people with insulin resistance, that’s high enough to prevent progress.

If you then add sugar, maple, syrup, or dried fruit, the glycemic load is even higher. Make this a daily habit, and you’ve got a breakfast that’s bad for PCOS.

What you need instead are breakfast foods that have no impact on blood glucose levels. This means using animal protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables.

PCOS Oatmeal Recipe Alternatives

The best PCOS breakfast recipes look nothing like regular oatmeal. But you can find plenty of great substitutes that share a similar theme. These are my favorite alternative oatmeal recipes for PCOS:

  1. Kym’s PCOS-Friendly “Oatmeal”
  2. PCOS Breakfast Granola Bake
  3. PCOS-Friendly Chia Quinoa Parfait

Best Oatmeal for PCOS

The alternative PCOS oatmeal recipes above are awesome. But I get that some people still want actual oatmeal. If this is you, then it’s important to understand the different types of oats you can buy.

Only Buy Gluten-Free Oats

The first thing you want to look for are products labeled “gluten-free” or “wheat-free”. I explain the important connection between gluten and PCOS here.

Oats contain avenin which is similar to but different from gluten. Studies show that, unlike gluten, the avenin in oats doesn’t cause a problem for people with celiac disease [10-12]. This means it’s almost certainly tolerable for people with PCOS.

The problem with regular oat products is that they’re often cross-contaminated with gluten. This is because they’re processed and packaged in the same facilities as wheat, barley, and rye. Oat manufacturers differentiate products that haven’t been cross-contaminated. These “gluten-free” oats cost a little more, but the difference is worth it.

Only Buy Whole Groats or Steel Cut Oats

The best oatmeal for PCOS uses whole oat groats. These are the least processed and take the longest time to cook. Only the inedible hulls have been removed.

Organic steel-cut oats are the next best way to make oatmeal. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces. This halves the cooking time needed without altering the nutritional value.

Rolled oats/Old-fashioned oats have been steamed and rolled to make them quicker-cooking. This is a minimal processing step, but it still tends to increase the glycemic index of the product.

Arrowhead Mills, Steel Cut Oats, is an example of a good oatmeal product. This product is organic and gluten-free. It’s also cheaper than more popular brands like Bob’s Red Mill.

Worst Oatmeal for PCOS

I recommend avoiding quick/instant oats. These have been processed more than rolled oats. This makes them higher GI. For example, Quaker, Quick 1-Minute Oats, have a GI of 66 [13]. Steel-cut oats, by comparison, have a GI of 52 [13]. For context, GI values of 55 or less are considered “low”. 70 or higher is “high GI”.

These numbers are for products that contain only oats. But most commercial quick-oats have a long list of ingredients, many of which are bad for PCOS. Sugar is often the second ingredient. Some popular products are 28% sugar! Many flavored instant oatmeal products also contain dairy. Both sugar and dairy are on my list of foods to avoid with PCOS.

Don’t feel bad if instant oats are your favorite breakfast food. Back in the day, Quaker Instant Oatmeal was a staple for me too. But saying goodbye to these kinds of high-sugar foods made a big difference to my PCOS symptoms. I’m sure it will for you too.

Tips for Making PCOS Oatmeal

If you’re going to make oatmeal, then make sure to use non-dairy milk. I explain why you shouldn’t use cow’s milk in my PCOS and dairy article.

It also pays to follow these tips for lowering the glycemic load. This reduces any adverse impact on blood glucose levels:

  1. Make overnight oats and eat them cold. Soaking oats overnight increases the content of resistant starch.
  2. Increase the protein content with a PCOS protein powder.
  3. Increase healthy fat content with a good PCOS yogurt and plenty of nuts.
  4. Increase the fiber content with chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.
  5. Boost antioxidants with raw cacao and/or cinnamon.

Better still. You can serve your oatmeal savory style. Add avocado, bell peppers, bacon, eggs, and salsa. Sounds weird. But it’s actually pretty good.

The Bottom Line

A lot of people wonder is oatmeal okay for PCOS. The answer depends on what you’re comparing it to, how you prepare it, and your openness to alternatives.

Oatmeal for breakfast is better than toast. But it’s not as good as an egg scramble.

If you’ve taken part in my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge, you’ve already begun adapting to a PCOS-friendly diet. In this case, eating oatmeal for breakfast is unlikely to add further benefits. Unless you’re careful how you use it, regular oatmeal consumption can slow your progress.

For better breakfast options, download this free 3-Day PCOS meal plan.

Ready to Take Action?

  • Join my free 30-Day PCOS Diet Challenge here. This is a unique program where you'll receive weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and helpful video lessons. You'll also be part of a motivated and inspiring community of like-minded women.

  • Download my free 3-Day PCOS Diet Meal Plan here. This is perfect for getting started if you aren't ready to commit to 30 days.

  • Join my PCOS Monthly Meal Planning Service here. This service includes hundreds of PCOS recipes within a pre-populated, yet customizable meal plan. It's designed to save you time and help you apply a PCOS diet.

  • Sign up for my Beat PCOS 10-Week Program. This is a comprehensive program that covers diet, PCOS-centric emotional eating, exercise, stress management, and much more. All within a support group environment. The 10-Week Program includes the same recipes and meal plan as my monthly meal planning service.


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1Thies, F., et al., Oats and CVD risk markers: a systematic literature review. Br J Nutr, 2014. 112 Suppl 2: p. S19-30.

2Wehrli, F., et al., Oat Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 2021. 13(8).

3Hou, Q., et al., The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 2015. 7(12): p. 10369-87.

4Jenkins, A.L., et al., Depression of the glycemic index by high levels of beta-glucan fiber in two functional foods tested in type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2002. 56(7): p. 622-8.

5Tapola, N., et al., Glycemic responses of oat bran products in type 2 diabetic patients. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2005. 15(4): p. 255-61.

6Ballesteros, M.N., et al., One Egg per Day Improves Inflammation when Compared to an Oatmeal-Based Breakfast without Increasing Other Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Diabetic Patients. Nutrients, 2015. 7(5): p. 3449-63.

7McGeoch, S.C., et al., A randomized crossover study to assess the effect of an oat-rich diet on glycaemic control, plasma lipids and postprandial glycaemia, inflammation and oxidative stress in Type 2 diabetes. Diabet Med, 2013. 30(11): p. 1314-23.

8Li, X., et al., Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial. Nutrients, 2016. 8(9).

9Foster-Powell, K., S.H. Holt, and J.C. Brand-Miller, International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr, 2002. 76(1): p. 5-56.

10Garsed, K. and B.B. Scott, Can oats be taken in a gluten-free diet? A systematic review. Scand J Gastroenterol, 2007. 42(2): p. 171-8.

11Pinto-Sánchez, M.I., et al., Safety of Adding Oats to a Gluten-Free Diet for Patients With Celiac Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Clinical and Observational Studies. Gastroenterology, 2017. 153(2): p. 395-409.e3.

12Thies, F., et al., Oats and bowel disease: a systematic literature review. Br J Nutr, 2014. 112 Suppl 2: p. S31-43.

13Atkinson, F.S., K. Foster-Powell, and J.C. Brand-Miller, International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 2008. 31(12): p. 2281-3.

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