Eating oatmeal for breakfast is not a newly found pattern among health-conscious folks. Oats have been consumed since the middle ages. The cereal is also used as a healthy livestock feed, especially horses, as they can digest oats in their raw form. Switching back to humans, oats are prepared in numerous ways all around the world. In this article, I will present six compelling health benefits of eating oats and highlight why you should have them regularly (or otherwise).
Health Benefits of Eating Oats / Oatmeal
1. Fiber-rich Meal: Any doctor or nutritionist would suggest us add fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet. Ever wondered why? Obviously, fruits and vegetables contain several important nutrients, but fiber is one element that is present only in plant-based foods. And, oats are a very rich source of fiber. Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining the digestive system of our body. It is a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get digested by our body. And there are two types – soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but absorbs it. As a result, it regulates bowel movement and makes it easier for excretion. In the meanwhile, soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel. This will modulate the digestion process and enable efficient nutrient absorption. As a result, it makes us feel full and improves our appetite.
2. Facilitates Weight Loss: As explained above, oats are rich in fiber, and fiber will not be digested by our body. Since the fiber cannot be digested, it technically means it does not add any additional calories when consumed. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber which is abundant in oats. This soluble fiber dissolves, and the resultant gel slows the bowel movement and maintains the pace. This is the reason we do not feel hungry immediately after eating oats and makes us avoid excess eating. Beta-glucan is also known to reduce the bad cholesterol levels in the system. Regular consumption of oatmeal along with fruits and vegetables would be one of the best diets for healthy weight loss.
3. Gluten-free Cereal: Gluten is a set of proteins that is usually present in cereals, especially wheat. Gluten provides a bread dough with its elastic, spongy, and soft texture. There are special gluten-free menus and specialty restaurants popping up everywhere. Food products are branded and marketed as gluten-free. But why is gluten-free food popular nowadays? The truth is that gluten-free food products are overrated and marketed aggressively. There are lots of misconceptions and rumors surrounding the concept. A small population of people has adverse effects when they consume gluten. One major reason is because of an autoimmune disorder called Celiac disease, where gluten will trigger one’s immune system to attack their own gastrointestinal system. There are also other complexities like indigestion, neurological issues, etc. So, people with the above said issues would have to look for alternatives other than wheat, rye, or barley. Natural oats do not contain gluten. But to be honest, commercial oats might contain traces of gluten in them because of contamination during processing and packaging. Buy yourself a good brand of oats bag if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. This will serve a wholesome purpose.
4. Lowers Blood Sugar: Diabetes is a major disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It happens when the blood sugar level is high consistently. Consuming oats is a good solution for lowering blood glucose as it has a low glycemic index. The high fiber content also will help in regulating blood glucose. The soluble fiber present in oats will provide a feeling of fullness. As a result, it helps us intake less food (calories). So, having oats regularly as a part of your diet will reduce the risk of diabetes and manage insulin response. And, people with diabetes also can enjoy the benefits as oats will keep the sugar level under control. Always purchase minimally processed oats. Avoid instant oatmeal packages as they will be processed with artificial sweeteners.
5. Highly Nutritional: Till now, we discussed some health benefits unique to oats and didn’t mention its most obvious impact. Oats is a complete cereal with many essential nutrients. It contains a good amount of carbohydrates to power you for the morning. The fiber, especially, beta-glucan will do a brilliant job in regulating your digestion and, as a result, positively impacts your metabolism. Manganese is present in abundance. It is crucial in the production and functioning of enzymes. It helps to regulate blood pressure and efficiently utilizes available glucose. Apart from this, there are other important nutrients like iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium present. Zinc, which is significant for the functioning of our immune system, is also present. Oats is a balanced cereal with the nutrients mentioned above plus some other trace minerals, vitamins. It has a good amount of protein and fat. Regularly consuming oats will provide complete balanced nutrition comparatively.
6. Controls Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a common and overlooked health issue amongst our masses. Obesity, diabetes, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, genetics are some of the reasons for high blood pressure. But our eating habits play a vital role. For instance, high salt content food, packaged and processed food, will contribute to increased blood pressure. That’s where regular consumption of oats comes into play. It contains antioxidants like avenanthramides, tocols, ferulic acid, phytic acid, and polyphenols. These antioxidants improve blood circulation in the vessels by dilating them. It is important to note that these antioxidants are present majorly in the bran (peripheral layer). So, using over-processed brands of oats will not provide you all the goodness. Make sure to get whole grains of oats from any good brand and cook it to reap their benefits. In the long term, it will definitely have a positive impact on blood pressure. Of course, watch the amount of salt you use while cooking.
Verdict: Eating a healthy bowl of oatmeal along with a side of egg-white and a glass of green tea or orange juice would be “a” best way to start your mornings. Of course, this combination is for people planning to lose weight. Based on your health goals, you can customize your meal. For instance, throw in a turkey sandwich if you are looking to gain healthy weight and use whole eggs instead of just egg whites. Oats is actually not a boring cereal to cook with. Many people are unaware of the numerous ways in which they can cook oats. It is not just the good ol’ oatmeal. Technically, any dish that can be prepared with whole grains can use oats as a healthy substitution. Ranging from baking oats bread to cooking Indian oats upma, oats milkshake to oats kheer, it is a suitable cereal for starter, main course, and dessert. Get creative and mix up the recipes to keep you focused on that road to a healthy lifestyle.