Can Oats Fit Into A Kidney Disease Diet?

Oats (Avena sativa) is a type of edible cereal grain that is frequently consumed during breakfast. Oats are very popular in Europe but because of their health benefits, this cereal is seeing a resurgence in North America.

Compared to most other cereals, oats have proven nutritional value and excellent health benefits. Oats are consumed as oatmeal, which is made by simply boiling the oats in milk or water. The resulting substance produced is known as porridge. Today, one can find oats in many other foods like granola, muesli, cookies, muffins and bread. In general, oats are packed with important minerals, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and can be considered a prebiotic.

Are Oats And Kidney Disease Compatible?

For people with kidney disease who want to maintain good kidney health regular consumption of oats is HIGHLY recommended. It doesn’t matter what kind of kidney disease you follow, oats are allowed on all of them. The only exception is maybe if you have high phosphorus levels. In that case you can limit oats to two to three times per week.

The evidence for the health benefits of oats is so strong that the US Food and Drug Administration has allowed the use of a health claim on food packages that contain beta-glucan (read below).

Can I Eat Fresh Oats With Kidney Disease?

The first thing to know is that oats obtained right from the field cannot be eaten- the hard husk has to be removed and the fruit has to be processed (boiled) to make it palatable and digestible. Because of the time and labor involved in the preparation of freshly grown oats, the majority of people today buy processed oats from the grocery store.

How Many Types Of Oats Exist?

The four types of oats available include the instant, quick-cooking, steel-cut and rolled- all these terms refer to the different methods of preparing the hulled oats for cooking.

  • Rolled oats are groats that have been steamed and mushed flat. These oats are recommended if you plan to bake them.
  • Quick-cooking oats are usually the rolled oats that have been further mushed, pre-cooked or steamed; this helps reduce the prep time
  • Steel-cut oats are groats that have been diced into smaller pieces instead of being rolled. These oats are slightly more crunchy and have a nuttier flavor.
  • Instant oats are processed and require the least amount of preparation time. The texture is usually soft, creamy, and smooth. If you are short of time and patience, then you may want to purchase quick or instant oats.

If all this is confusing, do not fret because the bottom line is that all these different types of oats have the same nutritional value and content; no matter what type of oatmeal you consume, you will still derive the health benefits.

How Many Calories Are Contained In Oats?

According to the US Dept of Agriculture, one cup of cooked oatmeal contains the following?

  • 166 calories
  • 4 g of dietary fiber
  • 6 g of protein
  • 3.5 g of fat

Why Do Oats Have Health Benefits For Kidney Disease?

Oats have health benefits because of the following reasons:

  • They contain polyphenols which are plant-based substances that contain avenanthramides, which act as antioxidants. These avenananthramides are potent scavengers of free radicals and lower inflammation in the body.
  • Unlike other grains, oats also contain a specific type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan which has consistently been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also acts as as prebiotic.
  • They contain many minerals and vitamins which enhance the body. 

Oats have many health benefits which include the following:

  • Provide minerals and vitamins. Oats are rich in many vitamins and minerals. Thus, one does not have to take extra supplements. These minerals and vitamins are essential for the normal functioning of many organs in the body. Some of the minerals found in oats include: 
    • Iron
    • Magnesium
    • Zinc
    • Phosphorous
    • Copper
    • Thiamine
    • Fiber (Soluble and insoluble)
    • Vitamins B1 and B5

  • Lowers blood glucose. The soluble fiber, beta-glucan, helps reduce blood sugars by increasing the sensitivity of insulin. Diabetics who eat oats will note that their blood sugars are lower and they require less insulin and/or diabetic medications to lower blood sugar. By lowering sugar, oats can prevent kidney damage.
  • Lower blood cholesterol and this reduces the development of atherosclerosis. Thus, the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney dysfunction are decreased.

  • Managing weight: Because oats contain soluble fiber it quickly makes the person satiated. Thus, the individual will not overeat. Secondly, the insoluble fiber will remain in the intestine for a long time and thus the individual will not feel hungry. Both of these factors can help the person lose weight. Further, this fiber also helps with the transportation of cholesterol in and out of the body.

  • Relieves constipation: The high fiber content in oats can help prevent constipation. People with kidney disease often develop constipation and thus regular consumption of oats can prevent abdominal discomfort, bloated sensation and ensure that the bowel movements are regular.
  • Anti Inflammatory: More recent studies indicate that oats have anti-inflammatory properties meaning that they can lower inflammation by scavenging free radicals. This is good news for people with kidney disease; the lower the inflammation, the lesser the risk of kidney injury.
  • Promoting the growth of healthy bacteria. The presence of fiber in oats also helps replenish the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. This helps prevent disease and improves the overall health of the body.

When Should Oats Be Consumed?

While there is no absolute rule when oats can be eaten, most people eat them for breakfast. Oats are best consumed with any kidney friendly milk. To make the taste palatable, one can add slices of fresh fruits.

How Much Should Be Consumed?

Because oats are rich in fiber, one should avoid making oats the main meal of the day. Too many oats can cause a bloated sensation. Limit the daily intake to about 25-40 grams per day or one bowl. Of course, if you are hungry you can eat more.

Are There Gluten-Free Oats?

Yes; For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, today there are oat products that are gluten-free. Oats do not contain gluten. They are gluten free, but unless stated may be processed in a facility that processes wheat. Also, many autoimmune diseases in kidney disease and in general respond well to elimination of wheat from the diet.

How Does One Prepare Oatmeal?

The longest time to cook is with oat groat as it contains whole oats. Crushed, steel-cut, and rolled oats are somewhat processed and take less time to prepare. It is important to read the labels on how to prepare the oats. Most commercial brands sold in stores are made by boiling the oats in water or milk. The cooking time varies from 10-60 minutes. The instant variety is the fastest to prepare but it also comes with many additives like preservatives and sugar.

Once the oats are boiled and softened into a porridge, one can add the following depending on personal preferences:

  • Pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon, cloves
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Sweeteners

Individuals with kidney disease should limit the addition of salt and sugar.

Final Point

Oats are very healthy and provide a number of health benefits for the individual with kidney disease. Besides reducing the risk of kidney disease, they also lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and help with weight loss. For individuals with kidney disease, it is important to select a variety that has been less processed and contains low sugar.