Benefits of Oats
Oats are probably the oldest superfood known to man. While other superfood trends come and go, oats have stuck around for generations because of their versatility and all the health benefits they offer. Did you know that oats are actually the seeds of oat grass? Their official name is Avena sativa, which is a cereal grain from the Poaceae grass family of plants. But don’t fear the word ‘grain’ in this case. Oats are typically a whole grain, and come with all the healthy bits of a grain intact.
You’re most likely used to seeing oats in a rolled form and probably prepared as oatmeal. Those are the “old-fashioned” style. But there are other forms: oat groats, steel-cut or irish, and scottish oats. Oat groats are the entire oat seed (or kernel) that hasn’t changed its shape; the kernel has just been cleaned prior to consumption. Steel-cut oats, also called Irish oats, are oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces so they’re easier to eat. Scottish oats are stone-ground into meal, which creates a porridge like texture when cooked. Rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats, have been steamed and rolled into flat flakes that are dried for preservation’s sake. Oat groats or steel-cut oats are the best way to eat oats if you’re concerned about blood glucose levels. Since the whole forms take longer to digest, they release blood sugar slowly — and thus they are lower on the glycemic index. In that way, they are a healthy carb to eat because they are less likely to cause rapid sugar spikes (and that doesn’t count the brown sugar that many people like to add to their oats). If you can, try and opt for oats that aren’t ‘instant’ oats; those are usually over-processed and laden with heaps of sugar and preservatives.
Now let’s get into the nutrition details. Half a cup of dry oats has the following:
- Carbs: 51g
- Protein: 13g
- Fat: 5g
- Fiber: 8g
- Vitamins and Minerals, % of RDI
- Manganese: 191%
- Phosphorus: 41%
- Magnesium: 34%
- Copper: 24%
- Iron: 20%
- Zinc: 20%
- Folate: 11%
- Vitamin B1: 39%
- Vitamin B5: 10%
- Trace amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B3
Health Benefits of Oats:
We know fiber is good for the gut, but the particular type of fiber in oats is VERY good for digestive health. Oats are rife with beta-glucan. Beta-glucan turns into a gel when mixed with water, which coats the digestive tract and feeds good bacteria in the gut. That’s how it fosters the growth of good bacteria. Like other fibers, it’s still very good at reducing total and LDL cholesterol levels, leading to improved heart health. When oat bran is created from oat groats, it can be added to other foods to boost the fiber content.
More fiber helps relieve constipation by keeping waste moving, and it makes infrequent, irregular bowel movements more regular.
In general, we know that antioxidants are great at dealing with oxidative stress and inflammation overall. However, oats have a very special type of antioxidant that are almost solely found in this grain alone. They’re called Avenanthramides. This type of antioxidant has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide, which is a gas molecule that helps dilate blood vessels and lead to better blood flow. Better vessels and blood flow equals better blood pressure. Avenanthramides also have anti-itching and anti-inflammatory properties as well. (Ever taken an oatmeal bath or used oatmeal shampoo for itching? This antioxidant is why oats work so well for that.)
We know hunger pangs are the worst, and we like to combat them with oats. Oats are a very filling superfood. They absorb water, increasing viscosity, and the volume of food in the digestive tract. This helps create that ‘full’ feeling of satiety. That feeling contributes to weight loss or management by decreasing those hunger pangs. One study determined that beta-glucan increases a hormone called cholecystokinin that helps fight hunger. Nutritional experts recommend starting the day with a filling food like oatmeal for an energy boost and a feeling of fullness between breakfast and lunch.
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- Oats Nutrition: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-oats-oatmeal
- Oats Nutrition: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/oats/
- Oats Benefits: https://www.webmd.com/diet/oatmeal-benefits#1
- Gut Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26511097
- Beta-Glucan: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26811553