Whether you have fond childhood memories of sitting down to a steamy bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on a frosty morning, or less fond images of oatmeal (also known as porridge – picture the three bears, or in the case of Oliver Twist, as gruel), it’s past time you gave it a second look.
Oats are one of the healthiest grains on earth. They’re gluten-free and a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. And, studies show that oats and oatmeal have an impressive list of health benefits. If you’re not familiar with the amazing powers of oatmeal, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Oats are a powerhouse of nutrition.
Oats are a great source of carbohydrates and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan. They also contain more protein and fat than most grains. Plus, they are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds, including:
• Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
• Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
• As well as smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
A half-cup of oats contains 51 grams of carbs, 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber, but only 303 calories, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.
Oats are loaded with antioxidants.
Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats. Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure and have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching qualities. Oats also contain ferulic acid, another antioxidant.
Oats have an impressive supply of beta-glucan.
Beta-glucan is a powerful soluble fiber that reduces LDL and total cholesterol levels; reduces blood sugar and insulin response; gives a feeling of fullness; and promotes increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Oats may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing both total and LDL cholesterol and protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Oats may help lower blood sugar levels, especially in people who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes. They may also improve insulin sensitivity.
Eating filling foods like oatmeal may help you eat fewer calories. By delaying the time it takes your stomach to empty of food, the beta-glucan in oatmeal may increase your feeling of fullness and help you lose weight.
Oats may help prevent childhood asthma.
Common symptoms of childhood asthma are recurrent coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Many researchers believe early introduction of solid foods may increase a child’s risk of developing asthma and other allergic diseases. However, studies suggest that this doesn’t apply to all foods. Early introduction of oats, may actually be protective. One study reports that feeding oats to infants before the age of 6 months is linked to a decreased risk of childhood asthma.
Oats are naturally gluten-free.
If you or a family member has celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, oats are a naturally gluten-free grain option. However it is important to check with manufacturers to ensure that their products are not made using the same equipment as other potentially contaminating grains. (Always purchase gluten-free products from reputable companies and read food labels carefully.)
Oats may improve regularity.
Elderly people often experience constipation, with infrequent, irregular bowel movements that are difficult to pass. Studies indicate that oat bran, the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain, may help relieve constipation in older people, significantly reducing the need to use laxatives.
Oats are a versatile super food.
Besides making a great breakfast cereal, oats are excellent for baking in cookies, breads, snack bars and muffins. At breakfast, I love my oatmeal with butter and Splenda, but try your own favorite toppings, including cinnamon, fresh fruit or yogurt. I also prefer “Old Fashioned Oats,” vs. instant oatmeal. It only takes 5 minutes to cook and the texture is much creamier. The bottom line is, if you aren’t including oats or oatmeal in your diet, you have lots of reasons to try it. And, to top off the list of benefits, oats are also an economical food that can be bought in bulk and stored safely. So dig in and discover the amazing benefits of oats.