Eating oats is one of the simplest steps you can take to improve your overall heath. It is a superfood which is easily available, cheap and not hard to add to your diet. The benefits of eating oats have been known for a while now. During the 80’s when it was shown eating oats helped lower cholesterol it became very fashionable. However, the hype died down but it became popular once more in the late 90’s when it was allowed to carry a label which said it may reduce the risk of heart disease.
The reason why oats is a nutritional powerhouse is they contain minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and is high in fibre and protein. The variety of nutrients in oats makes it a complete superfood. It not only reduces the risk of heart disease but also helps with weight management, diabetes, boosts the immune system and lowers cholesterol.
Oats are a great source of protein with a protein content of up to 24%. The major protein present is avenalin with oats been the only grain which has it. Furthermore, its protein is of such high quality it’s equivalent to milk and meat. Another nutrient unique to oats is the antioxidant avenanthramides which protect the circulatory system and fight inflammation.
Most of the nutrients reside in the oat bran which also has the most soluble fibre that lowers LDL cholesterol. The type of fibre which has been shown to be most effective is beta-glucans. They bind to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being reabsorbed. In addition, beta-glucan helps stabilise blood sugar levels. The fibre in oats slows digestion and is necessary for a healthy digestive system.
Oats are rich in phytonutrients like polyphenols, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, lutein, ligans and phytoestrogens. Oats contain minerals like iron, selenium which is also an antioxidant, magnesium, manganese and copper which are vital for the body to function. It is a good source of vitamin E and B vitamins like thiamine, folic acid, biotin and panethoic acid.
The original health benefit of oats was their ability to reduce cholesterol due to beta-glucans. Many studies have shown this to be true. Eating a bowl of oats a day can reduce cholesterol by up to 20%. Consequently, this means a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease. The other health benefit of beta-glucans is their effect on blood sugar levels. They slow the metabolism and absorption of sugar which stabilises blood sugar levels. Eating refined grains like white rice can cause spikes which play havoc with blood sugar levels. Oats have an all round positive effect on the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure, protecting against plaque build up, maintaining blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol. It’s a top quality superfood which protects against heart disease.
Eating oats can help you maintain or lose weight. A bowl of oats for breakfast can leave you feeling full for longer. Furthermore, a breakfast high in protein is very effective in helping you to lose weight. Another health benefit of oats is they boost your immune system. The beta-glucans assist white blood cells in fighting off bacterial infections.
Oats come in several varieties and they can be used in many recipes. Rolled oats are the most popular as they are fairly quick to cook and minimally processed. They are steamed and rolled into small flat flakes. Similarly, steel cut oats are even less processed and are just shopped into small pieces. As a result they take the longest to cook. Quick oats are similar to rolled oats but are just rolled longer so they take less time to cook. Finally, instant oats are the most processed and only require hot liquid to cook. Most of them have added sugar and so wouldn’t recommend them.
Oats can be eaten raw or cooked. They are mostly eaten for breakfast as part of muesli or granola. Oats are also are eaten as porridge which is oats cooked with milk or water. They can also be baked and are used in flapjacks, cakes, cookies and bread. A great way to start the day is to have a bowl of porridge with extra superfoods like blueberries, banana, honey or cinnamon added on top.
There are beta-glucan supplements which are widely available. They provide similar benefits to eating oats but are easier to add to your diet. Our favourite is Beta Glucan from Vitabase which uses a good quality source and is suitable for everyone. Alternatively, if you want the real thing we highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill Oats.