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The Unhealthiest Way to Prepare Oatmeal, According to a Dietitian

Just because oatmeal is healthy doesn't mean that all oatmeal is healthy.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Waking up and preparing a hot bowl of oatmeal is synonymous with a "healthy" breakfast. Whether you prefer it in the form of overnight oats, instant oatmeal, baked oatmeal, Crockpot oatmeal, Mason jar oatmeal, frozen oatmeal, or a savory oatmeal dish, oatmeal is the king of healthy breakfasts. And one of its biggest benefits is its heart-health benefits.

"Oatmeal is a [source] of soluble fiber that is good for our hearts," says Amber Pankonin, MS, RD, registered dietitian and owner of the Stirlist.

In a 1/2 cup serving of rolled-cut oats, you'll get 4 grams of fiber, which will not only help keep you full but also promotes heart health. (And in that same ½ cup, you'll also get 5 grams of protein!) Oatmeal has also been found to reduce inflammation, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.

But the way you prepare it can easily make it super unhealthy. And the unhealthiest way to prepare your oatmeal is by adding in the sweet stuff, according to Pankonin, in the form of table sugar, brown sugar, honey, chocolate chips, and more. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)

Adding excess sugar to your diets can actually be harmful to heart health, nearly negating the beneficial effects of your oatmeal. A 15-year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar.

"In fact, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar for men and only 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women on a daily basis," says Pankonin.

To put that in context, here's what that looks like with a 1 tablespoon serving of the following sugary additions:

In turn, how can you make it healthy? Pankonin suggests that you skip the added sugar and stick with adding in fruit.

"Instead of added sugar, try using fruit like fresh or frozen strawberries or blueberries for added flavor," says Pankonin. "Even though these fruits provide natural sugars, it will be better for your heart compared to added sugars from other sources." For more, don't miss We Just Discovered The Easiest Healthy Hack for Oatmeal.

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