Most of us are aware that oats or oatmeal is a healthy way to start your day, and has health benefits if you include it as a regular part of your normal diet. With the knowledge around our health and the foods that can help us, and the realization that we are generally overweight, mankind has come up with many diets and eating plans to improve our health and longevity.
There is even a diet or eating plan called the oatmeal diet, which focuses on eating oats for the first week and then slowly adding other food groups to your diet in an effort to lose weight.
Since this is not a health site, but a survival site, where we discuss all things survival-related, the question came up as to whether oatmeal would be a good survival food and if it could sustain you in a survival situation where it is the only thing you had to eat.
You can live off oatmeal alone provided that the duration you only eat oatmeal is not too extended. Oatmeal cannot sustain you long term by itself; you would need to supplement it after a while with other foods to get a sufficient energy-rich nutritious diet that will sustain you with enough energy for survival.
To do the question justices, we first need to take a good look at oatmeal and see what its benefits are and where it could possibly fit in as a food source for survival.
Many camping and trail foods, much of them freeze-dried, include oats as part of their ingredients, or as a complete hiking meal on its own. But does this mean that you can survive on oats alone?
What Are The Benefits Of Oatmeal?
Of all the grains that people eat on a regular basis, oats is one of the best ones for our health. It is a whole grain product, which means it is good as a source of fiber, it is gluten free, if that is important to you in a survival situation, and it is packed with minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins.
The mineral content of oats is quite impressive, boasting Manganese, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Phosphorus. In a half-cup of dry oats, the only mineral that exceeds your daily intake requirement is manganese. All the other fall a bit short of what you would require on a daily basis.
The main notable vitamins included in oatmeal are vitamin B1 and B5 and small amounts of B6 and B3. A dose of the same half-cup of dry oatmeal only provides a small portion of your daily requirement.
A meal of half a cup of oats will also supply your body with 1.8 ounces (51g) of carbs, 0.2 ounces (8g) of fiber, 0.45 ounces (13g) of protein, 0.18 ounces (5g) of fat, and only 300 calories.
This makes oats a champion among the grains that we eat and why it makes a good breakfast meal to get our day started.
Oatmeal has also been scientifically proven to help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol levels, aid in digestion, and help to reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancer.
What Is The Downside Of Eating Oats Alone?
All of these benefits that oatmeal offers for our health only apply when it is included as one part of a healthy, balanced diet which would include other food-groups.
So how does oatmeal stack up as a survival food if it is the only option available to you at the time? Consider the type of nutrition that you would need in a survival situation. The nutrition you need on a daily basis will be determined by the type of outdoor environment that you find yourself stranded in. your nutritional needs in cold weather will be different from your nutritional needs in a hot climate.
The first downside of oats for survival food is its calorie value that it offers. At only 300 calories in half a cup of dry oatmeal, you would need to consume two cups of oatmeal per day in order to get to the minimum calorie count of 1200. This has been deemed the minimum calorie intake needed to sustain a normal active life.
In a survival situation, the calorie demand to keep you healthy and supplied with sufficient energy to perform physical survival tasks could be at least double this value at 2400 calories and possibly more if you are in a cold climate and your body is expending energy to keep warm.
Another downside of oats is that it has a very low fat content, and fat is an important source of energy, particularly in cold conditions in a survival situation.
Oats lacks other vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are essential for energy, nutrition, and long-term survival. Calcium levels are low in oats, as are crucial vitamins for health, namely vitamin C, which helps to fight off diseases such as scurvy.
It also lacks the essential proteins that provide us with amino acids that are important for our overall health, including brain functions and other bodily processes.
What Can You Supplement Your Oats Diet With?
If you only have oats available to you as nutrition, it is a great start and will give you an advantage that is better than other survival situations can offer you.
Having oats available for survival will give you a head start and keep your energy levels up while you find other sources of nutrition that you can add to the oats to make it part of a more balanced diet.
Foraging for wild greens such as wild onions, pine needles, wild sorrel, and other greens can add additional minerals and vitamins to your diet.
The oats will give you enough energy for a while so that you can build traps and make tools to enable you to secure a protein source. Building traps can allow you to source protein in the form of rabbits or rodents or wild birds.
If there is a stream, a lake or other body of water in the area, you will have the time to build fishing gear to enable you to catch fish to source protein as a supplement to your oats.
How Long Could You Survive On Oatmeal?
Having a supply of oats available as a resource in a survival situation will buy you time, but not a lot of time. You can probably survive for about two or three weeks eating oats alone.
The time your oats diet will buy you will allow you time to but your well-practiced bushcraft skills to good use and find other sources of food to supplement the oats supply.
If you had to survive much longer than a couple of weeks on oats alone, you would experience a slow but increasing decline in energy levels. You will also begin to experience a general lackluster feeling as your body starts to decline from the lack of additional proteins, minerals, and vitamins that the oatmeal cannot provide.
You will be more and more susceptible to infection, disease, and the effects of the elements on your body.
Oatmeal is a great nutritional food that has benefits to any person as part of a balanced diet that includes other sources of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fats necessary for a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle.
The importance of oats in a balanced diet cannot be denied, but as a food source on its own, it is insufficient to sustain a person in a survival situation indefinitely.
At most, living off oats alone will buy you some time to enable you to find other sources of food to supplement the oats. After about two or three weeks, you will probably not have enough energy reserves to continue performing the tasks necessary to survive as your body starts to decline into malnutrition.
As part of prepping, or being prepared as an outdoors person, it is important to be continually learning, practicing, and expanding your bushcraft survival skills. This not only includes how to start fires but also how to make tools that will help you catch or hunt for meat or fish and the skills necessary to forage for wild edible plants in your location.