What is the difference between oatmeal and cream of wheat?

August 10, 2009

Q: I grew up eating cream of wheat as a child and still love it today. But, I notice that most fitness and figure competitiors, as well as bodybuilders, choose oatmeal as their hot cereal of choice. Is there any real difference between oatmeal and cream of wheat, besides taste and texture?

A: While oatmeal and cream of wheat are both hot cereals, and both are made from grains, their similarities end there. For starters, as their names imply, cream of wheat is made from the grain, wheat, while oatmeal is made from the grain, oats. Furthermore, and this is really where their major differences come into play, cream of wheat is highly processed. Just like white bread, which also starts with wheat, cream of wheat is stripped of most of its fiber-filled bran and vitamin- and mineral-rich germ. The end result is mostly starchy endosperm. Of course, the cereal is later fortified with vitamins and minerals, but the real problem is that with the majority of the fiber gone, this starchy cereal is a fast-digesting carb. If you’re eating that for breakfast you won’t be burning as much fat throughout the day, or have as much energy, as research shows you will with a whole-grain, such as oatmeal. Oatmeal is not stripped of its fiber and therefore is a slow-digesting carb. Research shows that athletes who consume a slow-digesting carb for breakfast, burn more fat and have more energy throughout the day, as well as during exercise. Oatmeal also provides multiple health benefits. It has been shown in clinical studies to help lower cholesterol and it contains antioxidants, which have been shown to help reduce plaque formation on arteries.

So stick with oatmeal as your breakfast hot cereal of choice. However, if you want to get your cream of wheat fix, a good time to have some would be immediately after workouts when the insulin boost this fast-carb provides will help to drive the carbs into your muscles and turn on the processes in muscle that boost recovery and growth.

Here’s the nutritional comparison of oatmeal and cream of wheat:

1 cup cooked oatmeal: 147 calories, 6 g protein, 25 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g fat
1 cup cooked cream of wheat: 131 calories, 4 g protein, 28 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0.5 g fat

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