Monday, December 11, 2023

Health Benefits of Oats

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Oats are a world renowned quintessential breakfast option and rightly so!

Oats, scientifically known as Avena sativa, are a versatile whole-grain cereal consumed primarily as oatmeal. Oats are a nutritious breakfast option, loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. In recent times, oats have gained popularity and can be included into your meal plan in a variety of ways – porridge, parathas, idlis, dosas, uttapams, cookies, cakes, smoothies and oat milk.

Whether it is rolled oats, steel cut oats, overnight oats or instant oatmeal, the health benefits of oats are impressive. Opt for oats for a wholesome meal to improve your health and well being.

Here are the health benefits of oats- 

Oats are incredibly nutritious

Oats are a well-balanced and nutrient-dense food.

Oats are a good source of carbohydrates, fibre (including beta-glucan), high-quality protein, essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

A fun fact about oats is that it has a relatively high amount of protein and healthy fats when compared to most grains making it one of the healthier choices.

Whole oats are rich in antioxidants and an immunity booster

Oats are rich in antioxidants, particularly avenanthramides and polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering effects in the body.  Additionally, oats contain soluble fibre and beta-glucan, which can tremendously boost your immune system, improve your sensitivity to antibiotics and even heal wounds rapidly. The presence of zinc and selenium in oats is responsible for fighting infections, including respiratory infections like asthma.

Oats are great for your gut health

Constipation is a common issue that plagues people of all ages and stages, with a higher prevalence among older adults. Oats and oat bran, thanks to its beta-glucan soluble fibre, promote regular bowel movements, support gut health, overall digestion and reduce symptoms of conditions of irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Oats also contain insoluble fibre, which adds bulk to your stool and helps in stool consolidation.

Your heart loves oats

Oats are a powerful ally in reducing cholesterol and promoting heart health. Their high content of beta-glucan, a soluble fibre, is effective at lowering blood glucose, enhancing beneficial gut bacteria, and regulating type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, beta-glucan in oats reduces both your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which effectively lowers your risk of developing heart disease. Oats also contain unique antioxidants, which combat inflammation, relax your arteries, and also help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. This combination of soluble fibre, antioxidants and protective compounds in oats makes them an excellent choice for heart health and cholesterol management, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders.

Oats can improve blood sugar levels

Oats, particularly the beta-glucan soluble fibre in oats, can help improve your insulin sensitivity and lower your blood sugar levels, especially if you suffer from obesity or type 2 diabetes. Beta-glucan’s ability to form a gel, helps slows down the emptying of your stomach and glucose absorption. Less-processed oats like steel-cut oats have a low to medium glycemic index, making them a suitable choice for diabetics. Regular oat consumption can even help prevent sharp rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, benefiting those with diabetes or weight concerns.

Oats boost your energy

Oats are a wonderful breakfast choice due to their carbohydrate richness and their abundant B vitamins, which contribute to increased energy levels. Their high fibre content also ensures prolonged satiety, preventing energy fluctuations.

Eating oats improves your bone health

Oats contain a substantial amount of silicon, which plays a crucial role in your bone health. Consequently, women dealing with postmenopausal osteoporosis can experience notable advantages by incorporating oats into their regular diet.

Consuming oats reduces your risk of cancer

Oats contain lignans, vitamin C and antioxidants, which help combat hormonal disturbances and even fight cancer, particularly ovarian, breast, prostate and colon cancer. Additionally, oatmeal reduces inflammation and inhibits the growth of cancer cells without harming healthy cells in your body.

Oatmeal is very filling and can help you lose weight 

Oatmeal is a satisfying breakfast choice that aids in weight loss by promoting fullness and delaying stomach emptying through its beta-glucan fibre. It also boosts the release of the satiety hormone PYY, reducing calorie intake and the risk of obesity. The rich fibre content in oats leads to quicker satiety and stable blood glucose levels, helping prevent overeating and obesity, but it’s important to opt for plain oats to avoid added sugars that can hinder weight loss efforts.

Eating oats enhances your quality of sleep 

Oats, rich in amino acids and nutrients, support the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing chemical in the body. Additionally, oats promote insulin production, reduce stress in the body and release serotonin thus contributing to relaxation and better sleep. Oats make for an excellent bedtime snack, particularly when combined with milk or honey.

Eating oats reduces hypertension and stress

Including oats in your diet decreases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure. The soluble fibre in oats effectively clears out your arteries and has proven to be advantageous if you suffer from hypertension. Oats also have a soothing effect on the body by reducing the production of stress hormones in your body and increasing serotonin, fostering a sense of well being and happiness.

Consuming oats relieve menopause symptoms 

Elevated fibre consumption may alleviate menopausal irritability and oats can be beneficial in this regard.

Oats are good for your skin and hair 

Oats are commonly used in skincare products due to their historical effectiveness in treating skin conditions like eczema, with colloidal oatmeal providing relief for dry and itchy skin. Oats are rich in zinc, making them beneficial for managing acne and absorbing excess skin oil. Additionally, they have moisturising properties thanks to beta-glucans fibre. Oats can also help in skin lightening and when consumed and applied regularly, they promote hair growth by providing essential nutrients like iron, fibre and fatty acids.

How to incorporate oats into your diet

You can incorporate oats into your diet in various ways. While oatmeal is a common breakfast choice, you can also enjoy oats throughout the day with these healthy options:

  1. Replace breadcrumbs with oatmeal in recipes
  2. Create a wheat-less lentil loaf using oats.
  3. Bake oatmeal cookies as a healthier alternative to sweets.
  4. Explore the idea of savoury oatmeal or masala oats.
  5. Prepare overnight oats for a delicious breakfast or convenient snacking.
  6. Make homemade granola using oats, nuts and dried fruit.
  7. Mix oatmeal with plain yogurt and unsweetened fruit for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
  8. Enhance pancake batter with oats for added texture and nutrition.
  9. Make dosa, idli, uttapam or parathas using oats for a gluten free option.
  10. Use oats to make oat milk for a dairy free alternative to whole milk.

Oats are a highly nutritious food, satisfying and versatile. 

Be sure to add them to your diet for some healthy goodness!

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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