The question that I get asked frequently by my kidney patients is “are oats/oatmeal good or bad for kidney disease?”
I will answer this question by breaking down different aspects of oats in kidney disease because when it comes to kidney diseases no one size fits all.
Every patient’s condition differs from one other. Therefore, dietary recommendations cannot be generalized.
Oats are a kind of grain that is eaten as a popular breakfast meal.
Back in the days, oats were mostly eaten in European countries but in recent years, due to increasing awareness of eating healthy, oats have found their way into the diets of Indian households as well.
Are oats good for high creatinine?
According to a study done on chronic kidney disease patients, eating oats did not show any changes in creatinine levels in renal patients.
Oats have a significant amount of certain minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. However, they can still be eaten by kidney patients.
The phosphorus present in the food does not get completely absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, when eating a meal that is naturally high in phosphorus, only a portion of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream because it is bound to phytates (an antioxidant) which do not allow the complete breakdown of the mineral in the digestive system.
However, foods that have been fortified (externally added) with phosphorus might get absorbed completely because they do not come from a natural source and are not bound with phytates.
Difference between oats and oatmeal
Oatmeal is a version of oats that undergoes processing to cut back on its cooking time when compared to whole oats which are not as processed as oatmeal and thus need longer cooking time to become fit for consumption.
Oatmeals also contain ingredients other than oats such as added salt and sugar. They may come in different flavors like chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, etc which involves heavy processing.
Different type of oats
There are different types of oats such as instant oats, steel-cut oats, and rolled oats. The difference between them depends on the average cooking time with steel-cut oats needing the longest and instant oats the shortest cooking time.
Whole Oat Groats
Whole oats are the result of harvesting groats (a grain), removing the hulls, and cleaning them. These kinds of oats take the longest time to cook as compared to others because of the minimal processing that they undergo. You can find these types of oats easily in grocery stores.
Steel Cut Oats
Oats are derived from a grain called groats. When the groats are cut into small pieces with sharp steel blades, the resultant product is called steel-cut oats.
The cooking time for steel-cut oats is shorter in comparison to whole oat groats but still longer as compared to rolled oats and instant oats.
Rolled oats are made when the groats are processed, steamed, flattened, and rolled to form flakes. Rolled oats can be cooked much more quickly in comparison to steel-cut oats because the absorption of liquid allows them to maintain their shape while cooking.
When the rolled oats are steamed longer, you get instant oats. It is the most processed type of oats. Therefore, also the fastest to cook. It can be cooked in a few minutes. It is also available in the market in the name of ‘one minute oats’ due to the minimal amount of time required for its cooking.
How oats are good for kidney disease?
Minimally processed oats can be an essential part of a kidney disease diet due to their rich nutritious content. Oats can aid in improving digestive and heart health. Oats are rich in a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan which signals the liver to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from the blood.
People suffering from renal diseases may also suffer from digestive issues such as constipation. Since oats are rich in fiber, they can aid in preventing and relieving constipation.
It contains a soluble fiber that promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. This improves the overall gut health and prevents diseases that arise from the gut.
Oats are also rich in various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B5 (Pantothenic acid), iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. These are needed by the body to function without any deficiencies.
How oats can be bad for kidney disease?
A person suffering from chronic kidney disease should be careful while eating a highly processed and packaged type of oats. These may contain high levels of potassium and phosphorus that could put the kidneys of a CKD patient under stress.
A person suffering from stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease should try to avoid or limit the processed versions of oats and choose their oats in more of a natural form such as whole oats or steel-cut oats to avoid putting any additional burden on their kidneys.
Are Quaker oats and other instant oats okay to consume in CKD?
As I mentioned above, instant oats are the most processed version of oats. This means that they are the farthest from their natural form and the highest in minerals such as potassium and phosphorus. The excess of these minerals has to be excreted from the blood by the kidneys.
Hence, a person with CKD should eat instant oats in moderation and prefer steel-cut oats which take longer to cook but are healthier and minimally processed in comparison to instant oats.
When it comes to quacker or instant oats, make sure to look at the nutritional information behind the packet and choose the ones with the lowest sodium, phosphorus, and potassium content. Lowering sodium content also helps to keep your blood pressure in check.
People suffering from CKD must be careful in their selection of oats and should prefer less processed ones like steel-cut oats because instant oats can be high on certain minerals which are not ideal for a CKD patient.