Oats are a nutritional powerhouse. They’re high in fiber and protein and low in fat. This means they’re great for your heart, weight, digestive health, and even skin. Oats also offer a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer and diabetes, reducing the risk of depression, and more! Read below to discover how oats can benefit you from the inside out.
A Peek Into Oats
Oats, formally known as Avena sativa, are a type of cereal grain that comes from the Poaceae grass family. The seeds are what end up in our breakfast bowls. Whether loved or hated for their soft and chewy texture when cooked, oats are most prized for their nutritional value and health benefits.
Oats come in a variety of forms, primarily based on how they are processed. This includes:
- Oat Groats: Oat Groats are the whole oat kernels that have been cleaned, with only the inedible hull left. They contain the intact germ, endosperm, and bran.
- Steel-Cut Oats or Irish Oats: These are made from oat groats which have been cut into smaller pieces using a steel blade. The larger the size of the pieces, the longer it takes to cook them.
- Scottish Oats: This has been ground into flour from groat endosperm by stone milling. It’s porridge-like when cooked.
- Rolled or Old-Fashioned: Steamed, rolled, and flattened flakes of oat groats have been dried to remove moisture so they are shelf-stable.
- Instant Oat Groats: These are steamed for a longer time and rolled into thinner pieces so that they can absorb water easily. Be aware that many brands come sweetened or flavored, so be sure to check the ingredients for added sugars.
Carbohydrates in Oats
Oatmeal makes for a great breakfast because it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps you feel full longer and experience fewer cravings throughout the day. This, in turn, allows you to consume fewer calories throughout the day, helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Protein in Oats
Oats contain more protein than any other grain. One serving of oats has 4 grams of protein, which is about the same amount as an egg. Oats are also high in lysine and methionine, two amino acids that help your body absorb calcium and magnesium.
Protein helps build muscle mass, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood sugar levels. This is especially important for those with weight issues or diabetes. Oats are high in beta-glucan fiber that binds cholesterol to help remove it from your body, helping to keep your cholesterol low.
Fats in Oats
Oats are a great source of fiber and protein. They’re also low in fat! Other than the small number of saturated fats, oats contain no cholesterol. Oats lower cholesterol by lowering blood triglycerides.
Eating oats can help to reduce heart disease risk factors like high levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Not only does oatmeal increase levels of HDL in the bloodstream, but it also improves insulin sensitivity and lowers your blood pressure.
Oats are also one of the best sources of soluble fiber, which lowers blood sugar and helps to maintain bowel health. When you eat oats, they break down into sugars more slowly and gently than other grains, making them a great choice for diabetics who want to avoid spikes in blood sugar. Since oats have a low glycemic index rating, they can help improve digestion and prevent bloating too!
If you’re not eating oats every day, here’s why you should!
- Reduce the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
Consuming whole-oat sources of soluble fiber, such as oats or oat bran, may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. This is because these foods are rich in a substance called beta-glucans which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and prevent clots from forming. The type that has proven most beneficial for this purpose is gum acacia tree bark extract (GATB).
- Provide Important Vitamins and Minerals
Oats contain thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron.
- Improve Digestive Health
Oats are a great source of fiber, which plays an essential role in your digestive health. High-fiber diets have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and oats are packed with fiber.
- Oats are Gluten-Free
Oats are gluten-free by nature, but you should still check with manufacturers to ensure that their products aren’t contaminated.
- Control Your Weight
Whole grains help keep you full longer and experience fewer cravings. This means you can eat fewer calories throughout the day, helping you maintain a healthy weight.
- Source of Antioxidants
Oats offer antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium that protect cells from oxidative damage. The antioxidant properties of oats may be associated with cancer prevention and heart disease protection.
Now that you better understand the benefits of oats, try out this simple recipe.
- 3/4 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
- 3/4 cup milk (plant-based or dairy)
- 1/2 teaspoon natural sweetener
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir well and cover it. Store in the refrigerator overnight and for up to three days. You can eat this cold ― straight out of the refrigerator.
Options: The sky’s the limit with options on this one. If you like fruit in your regular oatmeal, you may like fruit in your overnight oats, too. Berries or any bite-sized fruit is excellent on top. Mini chocolate chips and coconut flakes are also delicious. Dried fruit and nuts are a good addition as well.
Oats are a great way to start your day because they’re so easy to make and provide a lot of fuel for your body. They’ll keep your energy levels up and your cravings down.