Many of us start our day with a bowl of oatmeal. Not only is this popular morning cereal delicious, but it is also one of the most nutritious wholegrain foods that you can consume. Oats energize your body for the day and protect you from diseases. Beta-glucan present in oats helps to lower high cholesterol and improves blood sugar control. Oats also help to improve digestion. In this article, you will learn about oats and their health benefits.
What are oats?
Oats are the grains of the cereal plant Avena Sativa. They are harvested for use as food, skincare products, and animal feed. They grow in temperate regions like the United States and Canada and can withstand poor soil. Oats are milled, steamed, heated, and cooled in a kiln, which helps to bring out their flavor. They are then rolled, flattened, cut, or ground to produce flakes, oatmeal or flour.
When oats are processed, only the outer inedible shell known as the hull is removed. The bran and the germ remain intact, which ensures that you get all the goodness of the whole grain no matter what form of oats you eat.
Types of oats
There are many different varieties of oats available at the grocery stores. Here’s a guide to the different kinds of oats.
1. Rolled oats
Also known as old-fashioned or regular oats, these oats have been rolled, hulled, steamed, and then rolled. They absorb a lot of liquid, cook in around 15 minutes, and hold their shape when cooked.
2. Quick oats
Quick oats are rolled into thinner flakes, which make them quicker to cook. They take about five minutes to cook and are often used as a breakfast cereal, and also used in muffins, cookies, and bread.
3. Instant oats
These oats are precooked and then dried, cut, and rolled. They can be microwaved with water and prepared in one minute.
4. Steel-cut oats
Also known as Irish oatmeal, steel-cut oats are whole, hulled oats that have been cut with steel blades into smaller pieces. These oats have a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. They take around 20 minutes to cook.
5. Scottish oats
These oats are stone-ground almost to a powder. When cooked for about ten minutes, they turn into a creamy porridge.
6. Oat groats
Groats are the hulled kernels of whole grain oats. They are highly nutritious, chewy and can be substituted for rice. They are cooked like pasta in salted water.
7. Oat flour
Oat flour is whole grain oats milled to a fine powder. It is used in bread and other baked goods. You can also use it to thicken sauces and gravies.
8. Oat bran
Oat bran is made from the outer layer of the hulled oat kernel. It is high in insoluble fiber and can be used to boost fiber content in bread, pancakes, casseroles, and meat patties.
Nutrition facts of oats
A 100-grams serving of raw oats contains (1) –
- Calories – 389
- Carbohydrates – 66.3 grams
- Dietary fiber – 10.6 grams
- Fat – 6.9 grams
- Proteins – 16.9 grams
- Thiamine – 0.8 mg (51% of DV)
- Folate – 56 mcg (14% of DV)
- Pantothenic acid – 1.3 mg (13% of DV)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1 mg (6% of DV)
- Manganese – 4.9 mg (246% of DV)
- Phosphorus – 523 mg (52% of DV)
- Magnesium – 177 mg (44% of DV)
- Copper – 0.6 mg (31% of DV)
- Iron – 4.7 mg (26% of DV)
- Zinc – 4 mg (26% of DV)
Oats are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. They are also rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Whole grain oats contain a unique soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Oats are also a good source of quality proteins. Avenalin is a major protein in oats. It is not found in any other grains but is similar to proteins found in legumes.
Besides being rich in several vitamins and minerals like thiamine, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc, oats also contain several antioxidants. They contain avenathramides, a family of powerful antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation in the arteries and regulate blood pressure (2). Oats also contain ferulic acid and phytic acid.
Health benefits of oats
1. Reduce the risk of heart disease
Oats are rich in soluble fiber, specifically beta-glucan. Beta-glucan increases the viscosity of the food that you eat, which helps to slow down the absorption of fat and cholesterol (3). When beta-glucan reaches the gut, it attaches to the cholesterol-rich bile acids and carries them down the digestive system and out of the body. By preventing the reabsorption of bile acids in the digestive system, beta-glucan helps reduce cholesterol levels.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), food containing at least 3 grams of beta-glucan can lower blood cholesterol, and the risk of heart disease (4).
Oats help to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The beta-glucan present in oats helps to moderate both glucose and insulin response after eating a high-carb meal (5). During one study, 14 patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance were given a diet containing oatmeal for four weeks. The results showed a 40% decrease in the insulin dosage required to achieve controlled glucose levels (6).
Steel-cut oats have a better effect on stabilizing blood sugar than instant oats because they are less processed and contain more soluble fiber.
3. Helps to lose weight
Oats are high fiber foods that help you stay fuller for longer. This property of oats helps to reduce cravings, which ultimately helps in weight loss. During a 2014 study, 48 individuals ate instant oats, old fashioned oats, or ready to eat cereal. The results showed that instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal improved appetite control for over four hours more than ready-to-eat-cereal.
The researchers concluded that the initial viscosity of oatmeal might be especially important for reducing appetite (7). Beta-glucan in oats also promotes the release of peptide YY, a hormone implicated in appetite control. This hormone reduces appetite and calorie intake, and this helps in weight loss (8).
4. Lowers childhood asthma risk
Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways that can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children (9). According to studies, early introduction to oats in children can reduce the risk of developing asthma (10).
According to research published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, introduction to oats, wheat, rye, and barley at the age of 5 to 5.5 months was inversely associated with the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis (11).
Oats are a good source of dietary fiber, which helps in regulating bowel movements and preventing constipation. Older adults often suffer from constipation. While laxatives are helpful, they can also cause weight loss and reduce the quality of life.
During one study, when 30 frail patients with multiple chronic diseases who were receiving laxative treatment took oat bran in their meals for 84 days, it helped improve constipation. It also reduced their need for laxatives (12).
6. Improves immune response
Oats are an immune-system booster. According to studies, the beta-glucan present in oats possesses immunomodulatory properties that help stimulate the immune function (13). The beta-glucan helps neutrophils travel to the site of the infection quickly and improves their ability to eliminate bacteria.
7. Protects the skin
Oatmeal is part of many skin care products. Known as colloidal oatmeal, these finely ground oats, help in the treatment of many skin conditions. The high concentration of starch and beta-glucan in oats protects the skin and allows it to retain moisture. The presence of different types of phenols in oats provides them antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the oat phenols are also strong ultraviolet absorbers.
The cleansing properties of oats are mostly due to saponins. Its many functional features make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent (14).
8. Great for people with gluten sensitivity
People with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease can benefit from eating oats. Oats are mostly gluten-free and can be tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities (15). Oats can help increase the nutritional value of gluten-free diet (16).
However, since oats and wheat are often processed at the same facilities, they can be contaminated with wheat. So, it is essential that people with celiac disease should consume oats that have been certified pure and gluten-free (17).
Side effects of oats
Oats are safe for most people. However, they can cause intestinal gas and bloat in some people. To minimize these side effects, you must start eating oats in small quantities and then increase your portion size gradually. Skincare products containing oats are safe for most people. In some people, they may cause an allergic reaction, which may lead to a breakout.
Oats are a type of cereal grain from the Poaceae grass family of plants. They are available in a variety of forms, depending on how they are processed. Oats are prized for their nutritional value and health benefits, which makes them a popular choice for breakfast.
They help to lower the risk of heart disease, improve blood sugar control, help lose weight, lower the risk of childhood asthma, protect the skin, and treat constipation, among many other health benefits. Though oats are safe for most people, they can cause gas and bloat in some people. Oat based skincare products can also cause acne breakouts in some people.