Oats are one of the world’s healthiest grains. Oats are a whole grain which means they contain their nutritious bran and germ and lots of fiber. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least three servings of high fiber whole grains every day. Eating oats is a great way to help meet that goal! Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which makes them not only filling, but also good for your gut, your waistline and your heart. Dietary fiber from whole grains, may help lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and colon cancer!
Soluble and insoluble fiber both go through your body undigested and have healthy benefits.
- Insoluble fiber acts as a bulking agent and does not absorb water. It helps remove toxic waste from our body and promotes bowel regularity (prevents constipation).
- Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes a gel as it moves through your GI (gastrointestinal) tract. It helps food stay in your stomach longer – which makes you feel fuller, for a longer time. It also helps lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and helps regulate blood sugar. Oatmeal is particularly high in a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucans are thought to be extra effective at lowering cholesterol, reducing blood sugar and insulin responses and may even help improve immune function.
According to a 2015 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, oats are the most effective whole grain at lowering cholesterol!
Fiber is not the only reason to go for the oats. Oats are also a great source of many other healthy nutrients, including: magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin, zinc and polyphenols.
- Magnesium – this mineral helps regulate muscle and nerve function, helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and promotes strong bones and teeth.
- Phosphorous – a mineral that helps maintain strong bones and teeth, a healthy metabolism, and muscle and nerve function.
- Selenium – a trace mineral and antioxidant, important for a healthy immune system and regulating your thyroid function.
- Thiamin – (also known as vitamin B1) helps with metabolism, enzyme production, adrenal function and helps maintain a healthy nervous system.
- Zinc – a mineral that is necessary for many biological processes, including: cell production, metabolism and enzyme function. Zinc helps fight infections, heal wounds and protects your eyesight.
- Polyphenols – oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Research shows that polyphenols may provide additional protection against colon cancer, heart disease and skin irritation.
Are you convinced to eat some oats now? We hope so! There are several types of oats that you can choose from…
Whole Oat Groats: These are the whole, intact oat kernels, with just the hull removed. They have a hearty flavor and chewy texture. They can be eaten as a cereal – you will just need a little extra cooking time, as they take longer to cook than the other types of oats. They can also be used in a soup, salad or pilaf.
Steel-Cut Oats: These are unrolled oats that have been passed through steel cutters and chopped into two or three pieces. Like groats, they have a chewy texture and nutty flavor. These are sometime called Irish oats. Scottish oats are similar, except instead of being cut by steel, they are ground by stone. This results in smaller pieces and a creamier texture.
Rolled Oats/Old Fashioned Rolled Oats: These are oat groats that are de-hulled, then steamed – to partially cook them. Then they are flattened with rollers and dried.
Instant or Quick-Cooking Oats: These are produced the same way as rolled oats, but they are steamed for a longer time and completely cooked before the drying process. Instant oats often come flavored and can be loaded with sugar, salt and other undesirable ingredients.
Nutritionally, all of the different types of oats are very similar, with about: 150 calories, 2-3 grams of fat, 5-7 grams of protein and 4-5 grams of fiber per serving (¼ cup dry).
Try to avoid instant oats with added sugars. Choose the less processed whole oats, steel-cut or rolled oats, when possible. The thicker pieces of oats have a lower glycemic index – meaning they are digested more slowly and give you more sustained energy with less of a blood sugar spike.
Looking for ways to liven up your oatmeal, or creative ways to add oats to other foods? Check out these great recipes…
References and More Information on Whole Grains
American Heart Association. Whole Grains and Fiber.
Whole Grains Council
Dairy Council of California. Health Benefits of Oatmeal.
USDA Choose My Plate. Why is it Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains?
Today’s Dietitian. Betting on Beta-Glucans.