A popular breakfast option for health nuts around the world, oats can be prepared in numerous ways. You could soak them overnight with yogurt and berries, blend them into smoothies, add them to pancake batter, or cook them into porridge. The high nutritional quality of oats makes them a hit with nutritionists. And if you’ve haven’t added them to your diet yet, we’ve listed out their health benefits that might convince you to.
1. Aid Weight Loss
If you’re on a diet, oatmeal will be your new best friend. A cup of its serving packs in 16.5 g of fiber, which makes up for 66% of your recommended daily intake. It also offers 26.35 g of protein.1 Both of these macronutrients make oats a filling food and keep you satiated for longer by delaying the time it takes for the stomach to empty the food.2 The beta-glucan in oatmeal might also contribute to this feeling of “fullness” by promoting the release of peptide YY (PYY), a hormone that’s produced in the gut in response to eating. This, in turn, keeps you from overeating and going beyond your caloric goals for that day.3 4 5
id="2">2. Manage Blood Sugar Levels
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, are at risk of it, or are just trying to keep a check on your blood sugar levels, oatmeal might be helpful.6 7 The beta-glucan in oats is believed to form a thick gel that delays emptying of the stomach and slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood. This keeps you from getting a sugar crash.8
id="3">3. Prevents Constipation
If you struggle with constipation and infrequent, irregular bowel movements that are difficult to pass, oats might help.11 12 Laxatives are often prescribed to ease constipation but, despite being effective, they may cause unhealthy weight loss and reduce your quality of life. Studies have found that oat bran, the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain, may help relieve constipation in older people.13 In one such study, 30 elderly patients who consumed a soup or dessert containing oat bran daily experienced improved well being. 59% of the patients in question were able to stop using laxatives after the 3-month duration of the study, while the overall laxative use increased by 8% in patients who didn’t consume oat bran.14
id="4">4. May Lower The Risk Of Asthma
Oats are sometimes used topically to soothe inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and are a popular ingredient in facial masks.
Asthma, an inflammatory disorder of the airways, is the most common chronic disease in children.15 And although not all children have the same symptoms, many experience recurring coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If your child does experience the same, oats might help.16 A few researchers have found that early introduction of solid foods could increase the risk of a child developing asthma and other allergic diseases.17 However, this hasn’t be found to apply to all foods. Early introduction of oats, in fact, has been found to protect against the incidence of asthma. One study even found that feeding oats to infants before the age of 6 months decreased the risk of childhood asthma.18 19
id="5">5. Lower Cholesterol Levels
As mentioned earlier, the beta-glucan in oats, make them sticky, thick, and gel-like. This particular fiber in oats is what makes it ideal to lower cholesterol levels. A review of 58 clinical trials on oats that included 3,974 people across the globe found that an average daily intake of 3.5 grams of soluble fiber from oats reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 4.2%. It was also found to reduce other markers of bad cholesterol by 4.8% and the protein on these particles, apoB, by 2.3% when compared to the group of people that didn’t consume oats.20 21 22
6. May Protect Heart Health
Consuming oats regularly may keep your heart healthy. Some studies that have looked into this benefit have also compared different oat forms (oat groats vs. instant). Others have looked at the effect of whole-grain intake as a whole.
A meta-analysis of 18 studies found that the risk of heart disease was 21% lower in people who had the highest intake of whole grains, including oats, as compared to people who had the lowest intake. Another study, that involved 54,871 Danish adults of ages 50–64, found that men and women with the highest total whole grain intake had 25% and 27% lower risk of heart attack than individuals with intakes with the lowest intake. Rye and oats, but not wheat, were associated with a lowered risk of heart disease, especially in men.23
Be Wary Of Cross-Contamination If You Have Celiac Disease
Although pure oats are gluten-free, most commercial brands are processed in facilities that also produce (gluten-containing) wheat, rye, and barley. Cross-contamination may also occur if oats are grown too close to wheat. The Food and Drug Administration allows the voluntary use of the regulated term “gluten-free” in products that contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. And since it is voluntary some (unlabelled) brands might, in fact, be gluten-free. That said, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity it might be best to go for brands of oats that are specifically labeled “gluten-free.”24
Oats Can Be Differentiated Based On How They Are Processed
If you’ve ever been confused regarding all the different types of oats there are in the market, here’s a quick guide that might be helpful:25
- Oat groats: These are whole oat kernels, including the germ, endosperm, and bran, that have been cleaned, with only the loose, inedible hulls removed.
- Oat bran: This is made up of the fiber in a groat. It is often eaten as a cereal or added to recipes to boost fiber content.
- Steel-cut or Irish: These are oat groats that have been cut into two or three smaller pieces, sometimes using a steel blade (hence the term steel-cut). The larger the size of the pieces, the longer they will take to cook.
- Scottish oats: These are oat groats that have been stone-ground into a meal. They turn into a porridge-like texture when cooked.
- Rolled or old-fashioned: These are oat groats that have been steamed, rolled, and flattened into flakes. They are then dried to remove moisture so they are shelf-stable.
- Quick or instant: These are oat groats that are steamed for a longer period than the old-fashioned variety and rolled into thinner pieces so that they can absorb water easily and cook very quickly. Do bear in mind that many brands of instant oats come sweetened or flavored, so be sure to check the ingredients for no added sugar.
|↑1||Basic Report: 20038, Oats. The United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Holt, S. H. A., J. C. Brand Miller, Peter Petocz, and Efi Farmakalidis. “A satiety index of common foods.” European journal of clinical nutrition 49, no. 9 (1995): 675-690.|
|↑3||Kristensen, Mette, and Morten Georg Jensen. “Dietary fibres in the regulation of appetite and food intake. Importance of viscosity.” Appetite 56, no. 1 (2011): 65-70.|
|↑4||Beck, Eleanor J., Linda C. Tapsell, Marijka J. Batterham, Susan M. Tosh, and Xu-Feng Huang. “Increases in peptide YY levels following oat β-glucan ingestion are dose-dependent in overweight adults.” Nutrition Research 29, no. 10 (2009): 705-709.|
|↑5||Karra, Efthimia, Keval Chandarana, and Rachel L. Batterham. “The role of peptide YY in appetite regulation and obesity.” The Journal of physiology 587, no. 1 (2009): 19-25.|
|↑6||Nazare, Julie‐Anne, Sylvie Normand, Angeliki Oste Triantafyllou, Aude Brac de la Perrière, Michel Desage, and Martine Laville. “Modulation of the postprandial phase by β‐glucan in overweight subjects: Effects on glucose and insulin kinetics.” Molecular nutrition & food research 53, no. 3 (2009): 361-369.|
|↑7||Jenkins, A. L., D. J. A. Jenkins, U. Zdravkovic, P. Würsch, and V. Vuksan. “Depression of the glycemic index by high levels of β-glucan fiber in two functional foods tested in type 2 diabetes.” European journal of clinical nutrition 56, no. 7 (2002): 622.|
|↑8||Tapola, N., H. Karvonen, L. Niskanen, M. Mikola, and E. Sarkkinen. “Glycemic responses of oat bran products in type 2 diabetic patients.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 15, no. 4 (2005): 255-261.|
|↑9||Hou, Qingtao, Yun Li, Ling Li, Gaiping Cheng, Xin Sun, Sheyu Li, and Haoming Tian. “The metabolic effects of oats intake in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrients 7, no. 12 (2015): 10369-10387.|
|↑10||Bao, Lei, Xiaxia Cai, Meihong Xu, and Yong Li. “Effect of oat intake on glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” British Journal of Nutrition 112, no. 3 (2014): 457-466.|
|↑11||Sturtzel, Baerbel, A. Dietrich, K-H. Wagner, C. Gisinger, and I. Elmadfa. “The status of vitamins B6, B12, folate, and of homocysteine in geriatric home residents receiving laxatives or dietary fiber.” The journal of nutrition, health & aging 14, no. 3 (2010): 219-223.|
|↑12||Sturtzel, Bärbel, and Ibrahim Elmadfa. “Intervention with dietary fiber to treat constipation and reduce laxative use in residents of nursing homes.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 52, no. Suppl. 1 (2008): 54-56.|
|↑13||Norton, Christine. “Constipation in older patients: effects on quality of life.” British Journal of Nursing 15, no. 4 (2006): 188-192.|
|↑14||Sturtzel, B., C. Mikulits, C. Gisinger, and I. Elmadfa. “Use of fiber instead of laxative treatment in a geriatric hospital to improve the wellbeing of seniors.” JNHA-The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging 13, no. 2 (2009): 136-139.|
|↑15||Asher, I., and N. Pearce. “Global burden of asthma among children.” The international journal of tuberculosis and lung disease 18, no. 11 (2014): 1269-1278.|
|↑16||Fiocchi, Alessandro, Amal Assa’ad, and Sami Bahna. “Food allergy and the introduction of solid foods to infants: a consensus document.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 97, no. 1 (2006): 10-21.|
|↑17||Virtanen, Suvi M., Minna Kaila, Juha Pekkanen, Michael G. Kenward, Ulla Uusitalo, Pirjo Pietinen, Carina Kronberg-Kippilä et al. “Early introduction of oats associated with decreased risk of persistent asthma and early introduction of fish with decreased risk of allergic rhinitis.” British journal of nutrition 103, no. 2 (2010): 266-273.|
|↑18||Abrams, Elissa Michele, and Allan B. Becker. “Introducing solid food: Age of introduction and its effect on risk of food allergy and other atopic diseases.” Canadian Family Physician 59, no. 7 (2013): 721-722.|
|↑19||Nwaru, Bright I., Hanna-Mari Takkinen, Onni Niemelä, Minna Kaila, Maijaliisa Erkkola, Suvi Ahonen, Anna-Maija Haapala et al. “Timing of infant feeding in relation to childhood asthma and allergic diseases.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 131, no. 1 (2013): 78-86.|
|↑20||The Benefits of Oats.
|↑21||Whitehead, Anne, Eleanor J. Beck, Susan Tosh, and Thomas MS Wolever. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100, no. 6 (2014): 1413-1421.|
|↑22||Braaten, J. T., P. J. Wood, F. W. Scott, M. S. Wolynetz, M. K. Lowe, P. Bradley-White, and M. W. Collins. “Oat beta-glucan reduces blood cholesterol concentration in hypercholesterolemic subjects.” European journal of clinical nutrition 48, no. 7 (1994): 465-474.|
|↑23||Helnæs, Anne, Cecilie Kyrø, Ingelise Andersen, Sandra Lacoppidan, Kim Overvad, Jane Christensen, Anne Tjønneland, and Anja Olsen. “Intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of myocardial infarction: the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Cohort.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 103, no. 4 (2016): 999-1007.|
|↑24, ↑25||Oats. Harvard Health Publishing.|