How Long Does Oatmeal Take to Digest?

By: Bob's Red Mill | April 4 2022

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to digest the meals you eat? If you have, you're not alone. The internet is full of questions and answers discussing the digestion process. The truth is, some foods digest quicker than others, and while you may not be able to time it, you can get a general idea of how quickly food moves through your system by observing how full you remain after eating.

Each body is unique, and each of us digests different macronutrients at different rates. One of the essential macronutrients that our bodies digest is carbs. Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source, and to keep our energy levels high, they need to be readily available to fuel the body at any given time.

Compared to other nutrients, carbohydrates have the shortest digestion time—especially refined carbs. Refined carbohydrates like cookies and crackers are digested quicker than unprocessed carbs. But, even though the energy they provide is quickly obtained, it's short-lived.

When searching for food that will keep you fuller for longer, reach for complex carbohydrates rather than refined ones. Complex carbohydrates are digested much more slowly. This slow digestion process allows them to provide a long-lasting, stable energy source. So not only will you remain satisfied for longer, but eating more foods rich in complex carbohydrates can help prevent unwanted energy crashes. In addition, the fuller you remain, the fewer  urges you may have to reach for unhealthy snacks.

Is Oatmeal a Complex Carbohydrate?

Oatmeal is often praised for being one of the healthiest energy sources around, but what makes it so? Not only does oatmeal provide complex carbohydrates to keep your body and brain fueled throughout the day, but it's also full of other nutrients. When you eat a bowl of oatmeal, the complex carbs deliver energy to your body. And because these carbs are slowly digested, the energy will last much longer.

In addition to being a complex carbohydrate, oatmeal is also a whole grain and much more nutritious than refined carbs. Whole grains contain all parts of the grain—the bran, germ and endosperm. This being so, they also have more nutrients and benefit your body in more ways than one.

Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates

Are complex carbohydrates really that much better for you? Let's take a closer look at simple vs. complex carbs and the differences.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are those which are more easily digested by the body. Simple carbs can be found in healthy, whole foods like fruits and dairy. However, they are also found in processed, refined foods like pasta, sugar and bread. Eating simple carbohydrates provides you with a quick boost of energy, yet, once you've burned through that energy, you are met with an equally dramatic energy crash. To compensate for the energy you just used, your body overcompensates with rest causing you to feel lethargic and making it hard to stay awake.

Complex Carbohydrates

In comparison, because complex carbohydrates take longer to break down, the stream of energy is released over a more extended time. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods like vegetables, oats, whole grains and legumes. Because the build of energy is more natural when consuming complex carbohydrates, the fall of energy is equally as steady, and you don't experience a crash.

How Long Does Oatmeal Take to Digest?

So, how long does oatmeal take to digest? Since oatmeal is a complex carb, it's digested slower than foods containing simple carbs. However, oatmeal also contains dietary fiber, which helps with digestion and absorption. When these two factors are combined, the digestion time of oatmeal is relatively fast and takes about two to three hours. 

The Benefits of Consuming Oatmeal Regularly

Consuming complex carbs regularly can provide you with sustained energy levels and help you remain satiated throughout the day. A good source of complex carbs, starting your morning off with a bowl of oats is an excellent way to ensure that you remain energized and alert for the events ahead. Continue scrolling to discover the many benefits of adding oatmeal to your weekly menu.

Oats Are a Balanced Breakfast Option

Aside from being great for you, oats are also easy to make. Filling, tasty and full of flavor, beginning your morning with a bowl of oats is sure to wake you up with a smile. If you have a bit of extra time over the weekend and want to spice up your usual bowl of oats, try a baked recipe instead. Unique recipes like this Baked Pear Oatmeal are an excellent breakfast to surprise the family with. Simple and easily adapted to suit taste preferences and dietary needs, it's a fiber-filled dish that everyone will enjoy.

Oatmeal Recipes to Make Ahead

Searching for an oat recipe that you can make in a time crunch? Several oatmeal recipes can be made ahead of time so that you can quickly grab them as you're heading out the door. When prepping your menu for the week ahead, review the oat recipes below to see which can be incorporated into your morning routine.

Overnight Oatmeal Cup

Two glasses of imple overnight oats

Overnight oatmeal is one of the most simple and nutritious breakfast recipes out there. To make overnight oats, you simply combine all of the ingredients you'd typically add to your oatmeal, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, as you sleep, the oats will soak up all of the tasty flavors of the ingredients and create delicious and creamy oatmeal that you can grab and enjoy on the go. For a fantastic cup of overnight oats, use our Gluten Free and Organic Oatmeal Cups and Nutritional Booster Powders

Spiced Oatmeal Cookie Booster Smoothie

Smoothies are another healthy breakfast option that you can make in minutes. Ensure that you get out the door on time and make this Spiced Oatmeal Cookie Booster for breakfast. It's a quick and vegan smoothie loaded with healthy foods to get your day started. Additionally, to cut down the prep time, prepare the ingredients of this smoothie the night before, so all you have to do is blend them up in the morning! 

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Bars

A sure-fire way to free up more time on weekday mornings is to plan your breakfasts out on the weekend. Make these Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Bars to ensure that you always have something healthy and tasty to reach for. The perfect alternative to breakfast cereals, they combine the chewy goodness of rolled oats with a flaky crust and cranberry filling and come together in the work bowl of your food processor. Simple to make and clean up, keep these oatmeal bars in the freezer, and allow them to thaw on the counter as you get ready for work. By the time you're heading out the door, they'll be ready to eat!

Oats Are Naturally Gluten Free

One of the things we love most about oats is that they're an allergy-friendly food. However, while oats are naturally gluten free, you'll want to check with the manufacturer to make sure they are processed in a gluten free facility. Even a tiny amount of gluten can cause symptoms in individuals intolerant to it. And, despite their gluten free nature, cross-contamination is a concern when processed using the same equipment as other grains. 

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats are an excellent way to incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet. What's more, they're made in our dedicated gluten free facility to ensure that they maintain their gluten free integrity.

To make your favorite gluten free dessert even more nutritious, follow this Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookie Recipe. This recipe combines our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour with Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats to create a chewy, great-tasting cookie sans gluten.

Oats Can Be Sweet or Savory

Savory Oatmeal with Baked Eggs

Oat's naturally nutty flavor tastes excellent when combined with various ingredients. While oats are usually paired with sweet foods like fruit and brown sugar, they can also be used to create a savory side dish. So switch up your next breakfast bowl of oats and make a flavorful recipe like this Savory Oatmeal with Baked Eggs. Chicken broth, Steel Cut Oats and eggs create a hearty, filling breakfast dish we can't get enough of. 

Oats can also create light lunches and savory appetizers like this Peachy Salad with Savory Toasted Oats and Cheesy Oatmeal.

Incorporating more oats into your diet is one habit that's sure to help you reach your health goals. Oats are a slowly digested source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein that will help keep you energized and alert for the day ahead. Pull from one of the recipes above, or whip up one of your own to begin enjoying the benefits of oats today. From everyone at Bob's Red Mill, we wish you a healthy and happy day!

Do you enjoy cooking with oats? We'd love to hear about the recipes you create with this superfood ingredient. Share your favorite oat-based meals with us in the comments below.


  1. Alan Macdonald
    Oatmeal upsets my stomach amd it gives me gas amd cramps and bloating and very painful as well ,ans i waa wondering soes ir have milk in the because i am lactose intolerant
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Our oats do not contain milk. There is a small percentage of the population that cannot tolerate oats, unfortunately. We recommend bringing this up with your doctor or health professional.

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