Oatmeal is the breakfast item that everyone loves to hate. It has a bad reputation of being a bland bowl of grain that is quite boring to eat. Nutritionists, neurosurgeons, and health experts alike all tout the benefits of indulging in a daily bowl of oats. So, yes, oatmeal really is as healthy as people say it is, but only if you eat it the right way.
Health experts say that you are more likely to eat healthy when you eat a nutritious breakfast. Eating a donut for breakfast may inspire you to eat a burger for lunch. On the other hand, eating a bowl of nourishing oatmeal for breakfast will help you make healthier meal decisions later on. The reason for this is because the foods you eat directly affect how the brain functions. New studies revealed that the brain uses a lot of energy, and fueling it with the wrong foods can induce cravings, stress, headaches, and more.
Oats don’t simply benefit the brain; rather, they help benefit many organs and systems in the body. They may help lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, or enhance the digestive process. Continue reading to learn about all the ways you can benefit from eating more oats.
Note: Oats are not the same thing as oatmeal packets that you find in stores. Those packets are heavily processed and contain questionable ingredients that can harm your health. Please choose old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats in order to reap the health benefits.
They May Improve Digestion
Oats are naturally rich in fiber, which is an essential component for optimal gut health. They have a special soluble fiber, beta-glucan, which partially dissolves in water to form a gel-like solution in the gut. Helping to slow down the digestive process, this fiber helps the body feel full to prevent overeating. Additionally, beta-glucan helps to increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
They Help Lower Cholesterol
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Two major risk factors of heart disease are high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Several studies found that the beta-glucan fiber in oats works to reduce cholesterol levels, including LDL (bad) cholesterol. By increasing the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile, beta-glucan helps to reduce levels of circulating cholesterol in the blood.
They Help Regulate Blood Sugar
Beta-glucan fiber in oats works to inhibit blood sugar spikes after consuming a meal. A randomized controlled trial in 2013 monitored over 250 adults with type 2 diabetes. They were given a 30-day dietary intervention with a follow-up at one year. Two groups received 50 grams or 100 grams of whole grain oats every day, in addition to a healthy diet. The other two groups had no dietary change, or followed a high-calorie diet. The results found that the participants who ate oats experienced a significant decrease in blood glucose post-meal. Participants in the 100-gram oat group even experienced mild weight loss.
They May Relieve Constipation
Constipation is more common than you think, especially in the United States. People who suffer from constipation often resort to laxatives. Although laxatives are effective, it’s not ideal for the body to rely on something to make it have a bowel movement. Several studies confirm that oat bran, the fiber-rich outer part of the grain, may help to relieve constipation in elderly people. One study found that overall well-being improved after participants consumed a soup or dessert containing oat bran daily for 12 weeks. There was no more need for laxatives.
They Are Antioxidant Superstars
Whole oats, not the sugary oatmeal packets that contain processed ingredients, are rich sources of polyphenols. Avenanthramides, a group of antioxidants, are almost uniquely specific to oats. These antioxidants may help reduce blood pressure levels by enhancing nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide works to dilate blood vessels to improve blood flow. They also exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties when you apply oats topically to the skin. This is especially beneficial for people with rashes, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. Finally, avenanthramides may provide additional protection against colon cancer and coronary heart disease.