Oats and oatmeal are incredibly healthy and offer a wide range of benefits for your well-being. These include aiding weight loss, regulating blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Oats are considered one of the healthiest grains available. They are gluten-free whole grains and are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Here are 9 scientifically supported reasons why incorporating oats and oatmeal into your diet is a great choice:
What are oats and oatmeal? Oats are a type of whole grain, scientifically known as Avena sativa.
The least processed form of oats is oat groats, but they take quite a while to cook. Many people prefer rolled, crushed, or steel-cut oats for convenience.
Instant oats are the most processed variety and cook quickly, but they can be mushy in texture.
Oats are commonly enjoyed as oatmeal, made by boiling oats in water or milk, often referred to as porridge. They are also commonly used in muffins, granola bars, cookies, and other baked goods.
1. Nutrient-Rich Oats
Oats offer a well-balanced nutrient profile. They provide a good source of carbohydrates and fiber, including the beneficial fiber beta-glucan.
Oats also offer high-quality protein, containing essential amino acids.
In just half a cup of dry oats, you get:
- 63.91% of your daily manganese
- 13.3% of your daily phosphorus
- 13.3% of your daily magnesium
- 17.6% of your daily copper
- 9.4% of your daily iron
- 13.4% of your daily zinc
- 3.24% of your daily folate
- 15.5% of your daily vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 9.07% of your daily vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and vitamin B3 (niacin)
One cup of prepared oatmeal (from half a cup of dry oats with water) provides:
- 25/5 grams of carbs
- 6.5 grams of protein
- 2.5 grams of fat
- 4 grams of fiber
- 151.5 calories
This makes oats one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can include in your diet.
2. Antioxidant-Rich Whole Oats
Whole oats are rich in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Notably, they contain a unique group of antioxidants known as avenanthramides, found almost exclusively in oats.
Studies have shown that avenanthramides can help lower blood pressure by promoting the production of nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and improves blood flow. Additionally, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties.
3. Soluble Fiber Powerhouse
Oats contain significant amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like substance in your gut.
The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include:
- Reduced blood glucose and insulin levels
- Promotion of beneficial gut bacteria growth
- Regulation of type 2 diabetes
4. Cholesterol Management
Heart disease is a major global health concern, with high cholesterol as a key risk factor.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the beta-glucan fiber in oats effectively reduces both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Beta-glucan may enhance the release of cholesterol-rich bile, lowering cholesterol circulation in the blood. Oats can also protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, a crucial step in the development of heart disease.
5. Blood Sugar Control
Type 2 diabetes is a prevalent condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, often due to reduced sensitivity to insulin.
Oats can help lower blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with obesity or type 2 diabetes. This effect is primarily attributed to beta-glucan’s ability to form a thick gel that delays stomach emptying and glucose absorption.
Beta-glucan from oats and barley can also improve insulin sensitivity, although further research is needed.
6. Weight Management with Oatmeal
Oatmeal is not only a delicious breakfast choice but also highly filling. Consuming filling foods can lead to reduced calorie intake and support weight loss.
Beta-glucan in oatmeal delays stomach emptying, increasing feelings of fullness. It may also trigger the release of peptide YY (PYY), a gut hormone that reduces calorie consumption and lowers the risk of obesity.
7. Skin Care Benefits
Oats are often included in skincare products, sometimes labeled as “colloidal oatmeal.” The FDA has approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin-protective substance.
Oats have a history of soothing itchiness and irritation in various skin conditions, such as eczema. However, these skin benefits apply only to oats applied topically, not those consumed.
8. Potential Asthma Prevention
Asthma is a common chronic condition in children, characterized by airway inflammation.
Research suggests that introducing oats early in a child’s diet may offer protection against asthma development, although this is still debated.
9. Easing Constipation
Constipation affects people of all ages and populations, causing infrequent and difficult bowel movements.
Studies indicate that oat bran, the fiber-rich outer layer of oats, can help relieve constipation. It has also shown benefits in aiding digestion and reducing gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals with ulcerative colitis.
While oats’ soluble fiber is generally effective against constipation, it may be less effective against opioid-induced constipation due to its limited impact on colon movement.
How to Incorporate Oats into Your Diet There are various enjoyable ways to include oats in your diet. The most common is preparing oatmeal for breakfast. Here’s a simple oatmeal recipe:
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup (250 ml) water or milk
- A pinch of salt
- Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the oats, stirring occasionally, until soft.
To enhance the taste and nutrition of your oatmeal, consider adding cinnamon, fruits, nuts, seeds, and Greek yogurt.
Oats are also commonly found in baked goods, muesli, granola, and bread.
Although oats are naturally gluten-free, cross-contamination with gluten can occur during harvesting and processing. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should opt for certified gluten-free oat products.
Oats are a nutritious powerhouse, packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Their unique components, including beta-glucan and avenanthramides, offer a multitude of health benefits, from managing blood sugar and cholesterol to supporting weight loss and skin care. Oats are a versatile and nutrient-dense addition to your diet, making them an excellent choice for overall well-being.