Overnight oats and oatmeal are both made from oats. This makes some people wonder if they’re the same or if there’s a difference. Let’s answer, what’s the difference between overnight oats and oatmeal?
Overnight oats and oatmeal are made from oats but prepared and served differently. Overnight oats are soaked in milk, water or yogurt overnight. Overnight the oats absorb the liquid, soften and it’s ready to be served cold in the morning. Oatmeal is made by cooking oats in water or milk and immediately served warm.
The rest of this article details all the differences between overnight oats and oatmeal, the pros and cons of each and how they’re prepared. In addition, I’ll include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients and health benefits.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Are Overnight Oats and Oatmeal the Same?
Overnight oats and oatmeal are not the same. Overnight oats are prepared in advance and must soak overnight before the oats are edible. However, oatmeal is cooked with heat to soften the grains quicker and is consumed shortly after. Overnight oats are served cold and oatmeal is served hot.
Overnight Oats Pros and Cons
- Saves time in the morning because the oatmeal is ready to be consumed without any preparation. The steps are taken the night before.
- Overnight oats retain more of the nutritional value typically lost during the cooking process.
- Soaking decreases physic acid more. Physic acid can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. Cooking breaks them down as well, but research shows soaking does a better job.
- Overnight oats are easier to transport. Since they’re chilled, you can easily pack them in a jar or container to take with you as a breakfast on the go.
- Easier preparation: There is no heating or cooking. The ingredients can be added with the liquid chosen the night before.
- Fewer dishes to wash. There is no pot to clean because they’re not cooked on the stove.
- More versatile. Overnight oats can be prepared in batches. They can be refrigerated up to four days and add the ingredients prior to eating them. Cooked oatmeal can be refrigerated but need to cool first.
- Most people prefer a warmer food to eat in the morning (comfort food).
- The texture is slightly different, and some people may not enjoy it as much as cooked oatmeal.
- If you enjoy the crunch, leave out the seeds, granola, etc. until it’s time to eat the oats.
- More calories per serving, especially important if you’re looking to lose weight.
Oatmeal Pros and Cons
- Heartier taste and texture.
- Comfort food. Many people like eating a warm breakfast, especially on a cold morning.
- Satisfy your immediate cravings. The ingredients added to overnight oats the night before may not satisfy your cravings in the morning.
- Less calories. Important if you’re dieting or looking to drop a few pounds.
- Require more time in the morning.
- Provide a lower percentage of nutrients.
- The hot oatmeal is more difficult to package and take with you.
Ultimately, what oats are best for you depends on how much time you have in the morning and your taste preferences.
Some people enjoy alternating from one day to the next. This helps break the boredom of eating the same type of oatmeal all the time.
Overnight Oats vs Oatmeal: Nutrient Comparison
Overnight oats and oatmeal have the same nutrients, just in different percentages. The differences between the two can greatly affect which one you choose.
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in a 100-gram serving of overnight oats and cooked oatmeal.
|Oatmeal (100 g)
|Overnight Oats (100 g)
|Protein||2.54 g||12.5 g|
|Carbohydrates||12.0 g||67.5 g|
|Fiber||1.7 g||10.0 g|
|Fat||1.52 g||7.50 g|
|Sugar||0.27 g||2.50 g|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0 IU|
|Beta-carotene||0 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.005 mg||0.07 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||6 mcg||28 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.07 mg||0.38 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.01 mg||0.12 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.22 mg||1.09 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.31 mg||1.08 mg|
|Magnesium||27 mg||100 mg|
|Phosphorous||77 mg||325 mg|
|Potassium||70 mg||375 mg|
|Iron||0.90 mg||3.75 mg|
|Copper||0.07 mg||0.39 mg|
|Calcium||9 mg||50 mg|
|Zinc||1.00 mg||3.42 mg|
Overnight oats and oatmeal contain the same types of nutrients. This causes many people to ask, which is more healthier overnight oats or oatmeal?
Overnight oats are healthier than oatmeal due their higher percentage of protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals. Overnight oats provide more B6, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B5, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc than oatmeal.
Oatmeal is healthy also and contains the same nutrients but less of them. Oatmeal contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than overnight oats.
Choosing between the two may come down to your specific goals. One of those may be weight loss.
Is overnight oats or oatmeal better for weight loss?
Oatmeal is better for weight loss due to its fewer calories, total fat and sugar. Overnight oats contain 430% more calories per 100 grams than oatmeal.
Which has more fiber overnight oats or oatmeal?
Overnight oats contain more fiber than oatmeal. Overnight oats provide 10.0 grams of fiber per 100 grams while oatmeal provides 1.7 grams.
What has more protein granola or oatmeal?
Overnight oats contain more protein than oatmeal per serving. Overnight oats provide 12.5 grams of protein per 100 gram serving while oatmeal provides 2.54 grams.
Which is better for bodybuilding, overnight oats or oatmeal?
Overnight oats is better for building muscle and athletic performance due to its higher percentage of protein, carbohydrates and calories. The extra calories and protein contained in overnight oats help to gain weight, muscle and repair muscle. The extra carbs help to provide energy while lifting weights.
Which has more carbohydrates overnight oats or oatmeal?
Overnight oats contain 67.5 grams of carbohydrates per 100 gram serving while oatmeal contains 12.0 grams. If you’re on a low carb or Keto diet, oatmeal is the better choice.
Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.
Find out how oatmeal compared to Cream of Wheat in my article, Cream of Wheat vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? We Compare.
Why Does Overnight Oats Contain More Nutrients Than Oatmeal?
Cooking oats degrades the amount of available nutrition the consumer can benefit from. The heat from cooking can cause them to lose approximately 25% or more of their nutritional value. So, soaking the oats softens the grain without losing any of the healthy benefits.
However, if you prefer your oats warm and don’t like the texture of overnight oats, you may want to try this. Cooking them at a lower and consistent temperature, and for a short period, will help them retain some of their nutrients.
The grain may not get as soft, but you’ll still benefit from all the available nutrients within the oats.
Find out how oatmeal compared to brown rice in my article, Brown Rice vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Overnight Oats vs Oatmeal: Taste and Texture
It’s not always about the nutrients provided. Many times people choose one food over the other because of its taste or according to their mood. With overnight oats, it may be the limited time in the morning.
Since there are some similarities between the two, like both being oats, many people wonder and ask, does overnight oats like oatmeal?
Overnight oats and oatmeal have a similar bland taste but overnight oats are cold while oatmeal is hot. They both take on the flavor of any ingredients added to them. Oatmeal’s texture is not smooth but overnight oats are a little more chewier.
What does overnight oats taste like?
Overnight oats have a bland and earthy taste. Adding ingredients or seasonings will add more flavor similar to the addition. The cold overnight oats have a chewier texture than oatmeal.
Old-fashioned rolled oats have a chewier texture than the smoother instant oatmeal.
I polled some of my readers and people in food groups I belong to. I asked, do you prefer the taste of overnight oats or oatmeal for breakfast?
- 57% said they preferred the taste of oatmeal.
- 34% said they preferred the taste of overnight oats.
- 9% said they had no preference.
Find out how oatmeal compared to white rice in my article, Oatmeal vs Rice: Which Is More Healthy? (We Find Out).
Preparation Tips for Overnight Oats and Oatmeal
How To Cook Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are prepared without cooking. Instead, rolled oats are mixed with liquid (usually milk, water or yogurt, or some combination of both) and other ingredients for taste. The oats soak in the refrigerator overnight.
Here are some tips for preparing overnight oats:
- Use old-fashioned rolled oats. Old-fashioned rolled oats have the perfect texture for overnight oats, whereas instant oats may result in a soggy mixture.
- Mix the oats with your favorite milk or yogurt. These can be dairy or plant-based. It is possible to make overnight oats with just milk and skip the yogurt, but if you want the classic creamy texture of overnight oats, the yogurt will help accomplish this.
- The right ratio of liquid to oats. You’ll need adding the right ratios of ingredients to avoid drying out the oats. Most people add a 1:1 ratio. Some people feel a liquid to oats ratio of 2:1 is more ideal for a creamier result. I use a 2:1 ratio.
- Add your desired flavorings. Many people choose to mix in fruit, seeds, sweeteners and spices to give the oats more taste.
- Store the overnight oats in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Mason jars with lids or plastic containers with tight seals are ideal for storing.
It’s possible to get creative with your mix-ins and toppings as well. However, if you’re on a diet or trying to reduce your sugar intake, you’ll want to be sure to omit the syrups, artificial sweeteners and other high-calorie toppings.
The calories can up quickly, especially since overnight oats have more calories to begin with.
Find out if grits or oatmeal has the better satiety in my article, Grits vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Preparation Tips for Oatmeal
Oatmeal is cooked before eating. Here are some tips to get you started on preparing oatmeal:
- Oatmeal can be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave. The method you choose will depend on your preference and how much time you have in the mornings.
- Monitor the oatmeal to avoid burning. You’ll have to keep an eye on your oats as they’re cooking so the mixture isn’t ruined. You should also avoid using high heat and instead use low-medium heat to cook the oats gradually.
- Ensure you’ve added enough liquid. Dry oatmeal can congeal after cooling, resulting in an undesirable texture. Using enough milk with the oats will keep them smooth and creamy.
- Add your toppings after the oatmeal has cooled. Unlike overnight oats where it’s usually safe to mix in your toppings right away, you’ll have to wait for the oatmeal to cool a bit before adding any ingredients. This is to prevent the toppings from cooking, burning or losing their texture and taste.
Overnight Oats and Oatmeal Glycemic Index
Knowing the glycemic index of food is important especially if blood sugar levels are a concern. Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 3. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 4.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Having more knowledge of the glycemic index of food and how it raises blood sugar, many people ask, does overnight oats or oatmeal have a higher GI?
Overnight oats have a lower glycemic index than oatmeal. Whether a food is consumed hot or cold have significant effects on glucose and insulin responses after consumption. Oats soaked overnight in skim milk was shown to have a lower glycemic index than cooked oatmeal and cooked cream of rice in a 2019 study.
Steel-cut oats have a lower GI because they are the least processed. Rolled oats are a little higher because they’ve been partially cooked. Quick oats have been steamed and rolled into thinner pieces to cook quicker. This process increases their GI.
Similar to the 2019 study 5, a study published in the Journal of the Diabetic Association found boiled potatoes eaten cold had a GI score of 56. When eaten hot the boiled potato had a GI score of 89 6.
Find out how oatmeal compared to quinoa in my article, Quinoa vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Overnight Oats and Oatmeal Health Benefits
Overnight oats provide more nutrients and therefore the greater benefits. Since both contains the same nutrients, the benefits are the same, just in different degrees. Let’s take a look at how each nutrient benefits health.
- Overnight oats contain 10.0 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
- Oatmeal contains 1.7 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Both foods are high in soluble fiber, which is helpful for many reasons 7. What makes fiber soluble is it dissolves in water.
Soluble fiber is known for the following:
- Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
- Help overall digestive health.
- Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less.
- Overnight oats contain 375 mg of potassium per 100 grams
- Oatmeal contains 70 mg of potassium per 100 grams
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 8.
Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 9.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 10. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
- Overnight oats contain 100 mg of magnesium per 100 grams
- Oatmeal contains 27 mg of magnesium per 100 grams
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 11.
Magnesium helps control the following:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Nerve function
In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 12.
One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
- Overnight oats contain 325 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams
- Oatmeal contains 77 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams
Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Promote bone and teeth strength.
- Help the body store and manage energy.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Muscle contraction.
- Muscle recovery.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
Find out which had more nutrients, oatmeal or granola in my article, Granola vs Oatmeal: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.
Of the six B vitamins listed below, overnight oats provide a higher percentage of all of them compared to oatmeal.
The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Brain function.
- Red blood cells.
- Nerve function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Energy levels.
A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation. In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 13.
- Overnight oats contain 3.75 mg of iron per 100 grams
- Oatmeal contains 0.90 mg of iron per 100 grams
Much higher in iron than other grains, oatmeal is an excellent choice if you need getting your daily value of iron. Iron is essential in the creation of red blood cells and is a necessary part of any healthy diet.
Iron is also vital for growth and development, as some hormones need iron to be appropriately balanced 14.
- Overnight oats contain 50 mg of calcium per 100 grams
- Oatmeal contains 9 mg of calcium per 100 grams
Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 15.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Helps nerve function.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
Find out if there is a difference in benefits between steel cut and regular oatmeal in my article, Steel Cut Oatmeal vs Oatmeal: Which Is Better? Let’s Compare.
Oatmeal and overnight oats are both made with oats which are naturally gluten-free and might be a great substitute to other gluten-heavy items of a similar taste. Even those who don’t have a completely gluten-free diet may benefit from cutting down on their gluten.
Recently it has been discussed many more people have at least a small amount of gluten intolerance and are unaware of it. Having less gluten in your diet is a good choice for most.
Important: Although oats and granola made from just oats and honey are gluten free, they may come in contact with gluten-containing grains in storage or during transportation. Most of the Quaker oat products have solved this issue and label those products gluten free. Always check the label of your oatmeal or granola products to determine if its gluten free.
Which cost more, overnight oats or oatmeal? Overnight oats and oatmeal costs the same. They are both prepared with the same type of oats purchased in the store.
How to store overnight oats or oatmeal? Overnight oats and oatmeal are both stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to four days. The ingredients added may change the storage time depending on the ingredient used.
Is oatmeal better than eggs? Find out in my article here, Eggs vs Oatmeal – Which Is Better? Let’s Compare.
Read Next – More Oatmeal vs Food Articles!
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- USDA: Cereals, oats, regular and quick, unenriched, cooked with water (includes boiling and microwaving), without salt
- USDA: Rolled Overnight Oats
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Glycaemic and insulinaemic impact of oats soaked overnight in milk vs. cream of rice with and without sugar, nuts, and seeds: a randomized, controlled trial
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Glycemic index of potatoes commonly consumed in North America
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial
- National Institutes of Health: Iron
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- Bob’s Red Mill: 5 Reasons to Try Overnight Oats
- University of Utah: Overnight Oats Recipe
- Iowa State University: Overnight Oats
- Oregon State University: Off the Quad overnight oats
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Wake Up to Overnight Oats
- Quaker: How to Prepare Quaker Oats
- Quaker: How does Quaker make Gluten Free Oats?
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Oats
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Instant Oatmeal Increases Satiety and Reduces Energy Intake Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Oat-Based Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity: when gluten free is not a fad
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Oatmeal-Containing Breakfast is Associated with Better Diet Quality and Higher Intake of Key Food Groups and Nutrients Compared to Other Breakfasts in Children
- Oldways Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains A to Z
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Oatmeal – Whole Grain Goodness
- Iowa State University: Nutrition Education: Oatmeal