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Secret Ingredients Lurking in Your Bowl of Oatmeal

We draw attention to some of the ingredients didn't know are in that packet or cup of oats.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Enjoying a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is a great way to start your morning and can provide a host of health benefits, from lower cholesterol to more regular bowel movements.

However, not all oatmeal varieties are healthy. In fact, some instant oatmeals should be avoided altogether. When you look at the nutrition label and ingredients list on the back of a box of instant oatmeals, we want you to know which ingredients you should steer clear of as well as which ingredients are fine to consume.

Below, we call out four ingredients that may be in your oatmeal and you don't even know it. After, be sure to check out Costco Foods You Should Always Avoid, According to Nutritionists.


steel cut oatmeal

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report in 2018 that said unsafe levels of the herbicide, glyphosate, was found in various oat cereals, oatmeal, and granola products on supermarket shelves. While it's believed to be a carcinogen, the research remains inconclusive. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the tolerable limit for glyphosate residue in grains is 30 parts per million (ppm), which is significantly lower than what was found in the breakfast foods examined (from 0.3 to 1.67 ppm), the EWG still argues that it's likely not to consume in any amounts. Perhaps choosing an organic oatmeal brand could help reduce exposure to any pesticides that may have been used by farmers pre-harvest.

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Added sugars


The convenience of pouring a pre-mixed packet of flavored oatmeal into a bowl and adding water or milk is almost too tempting to pass up—especially when you're on the go and in a rush. However, oftentimes these flavorful selections are loaded in added sugars—up to 17 grams!

Instead, opt for plain steel-cut oats, a drizzle of maple syrup, and fresh berries for a healthier breakfast.

See some of the worst added sugar offenders in pre-made oatmeal in our ultimate guide: Every Oatmeal in America in 2021—Ranked.

Guar gum

eat healthy breakfast table with oatmeal

Guar gum is frequently used as a food additive in various processed foods including ice cream, yogurt, salad dressing, gluten-free baked goods, and even soup. While it's not necessarily unhealthy for you—in fact, it's made from legumes called guar beans and it's mostly made up of soluble fibers, which aid digestion and help you go to the bathroom more easily—this additive may trigger an allergic reaction in some people, although it is extremely rare. It can also result in excess gas and bloating. If you find that you experience negative side effects often in products that contain guar gum, consider limiting your intake.

Palm oils

young girls with pigtails eating snack at a table, peanut free preschool snacks

Instant oatmeals that have fun flavors for kids, such as Quaker Oats Dinosaur Eggs Brown Sugar, contain several questionable ingredients, namely hydrogenated palm kernel oil and palm oil. Both of these vegetable oils are high sources of saturated fat, and this tiny oatmeal packet contains 11% of the daily value of saturated fat. Studies have shown that excess, long-term intake of palm oil can result in higher levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, which can lead to heart issues over the years.

For more, be sure to check out 14 Kids' Cereals You Always Leave on Grocery Store Shelves.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne
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