By Monica Mendoza
Simple they may be, but oats have a lot to offer beyond just being an easy-to-cook breakfast staple. In fact, there are many ways to incorporate more oats into your daily meals, like pancakes, salads, smoothies, muffins, and no-bake cookies and biscuits. You can even use oats to replace rice in various recipes, like congee or pilaf. If you have limited culinary skills or don’t have much time to cook, then there’s also ready-to-drink, delicious milked oats.
With the question of availability and variety out of the way, here now are several healthy reasons why you should start eating (and drinking) more oats.
Oats Have a Great Balance of Nutrients
Oats are among the healthiest, if not the healthiest, whole grain foods you can eat. They are a good source of healthy carbohydrates and contain about 17 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, which is higher than most kinds of grains. Dry oats also contain a variety of vitamins including vitamins E, B1, B5, folate, and minerals like manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc.
One cup of oats also contains just 4 grams of fat and about 300 calories per cup. This makes it a good choice for weight loss since it can make you feel full even with a small serving.
Oats are Rich in Soluble Fiber
Oats contain about 11 grams of soluble fiber per 100 grams. This includes beta-glucan, a powerful fiber which reduces both LDL or “bad” cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It also contributes to the growth of good bacteria in the stomach and intestines, thus promoting better digestion and bowel movement.
Beta glucan and other fibers in oats also help make you feel fuller quickly and for longer, since it slows down your digestion. What’s more, beta-glucan has also been found to increase the production of cholecystokinin, a kind of hunger-fighting hormone. Both of these actions may help in the process of losing weight and decreasing the risk of obesity.
Oats are Rich in Antioxidants
In particular, whole oats have a high concentration of the polyphenol called avenanthramide, which helps lower blood pressure by increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that dilates the blood vessels, which in turn results in better blood flow. Avenanthramide has also been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Oats also contain vitamin E, which is scientifically proven to help strengthen the immune system. Vitamin E also helps keep the skin healthy, balancing its pH and at the same time keeping it soft and moisturized.
Oats are Gluten-Free
Those with celiac disease will be happy to know that oats are naturally gluten-free, so they can enjoy the nutritional benefits of these whole grains without worrying about aggravating their medical condition. To be on the safe side, check the labels to make sure that the oats you are buying aren’t made or processed using the same equipment as other non-gluten-free grains like wheat and barley.
Oats Reduce Risk Factors for CVD
Researchers have yet to arrive at conclusive evidence that oats and other whole grains can directly reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders. However, oats have already been proven to reduce risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and diabetes.
Oats can Help Boost Your Energy in a Healthy Way
Do you feel lazy during the mornings? Eating oats for breakfast might just be the ticket to feeling more energized. Oats are a good source of both good, slow-digesting carbohydrates and proteins, which helps energize your body and make you feel more alert. And because the natural sugars in oats are processed much slower compared to other kinds of sugar, your energy levels are more or less consistent until they are fully digested.
It’s a common enough food that we sometimes take it for granted. But with all of these health benefits, and possibly more that have yet to be discovered, it’s about time that we pay more attention to the humble oat!