Because diet is so critical to overall health, making oatmeal a daily habit can be a smart choice. You may have heard the hype about oatmeal and the prevention of heart disease and cancer, but when it comes to marketing, it’s always best to check the facts. Is oatmeal really that good for you?
Well, on the one hand, oats are a perfect example of a healthy whole grain. They offer well-balanced nutrition plus fiber and antioxidants. And, they have more protein and healthy fat than other grains.
One serving of oats represents 51 grams of carbs, 13 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of fat. You get all that plus significant levels of many vitamins and minerals for only 303 calories.
But what actually happens if you eat oatmeal every day? Read on to find out if the benefits of eating oatmeal really live up to the hype.
Antioxidants are important because they bind with and neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. There are many different types of antioxidants, but oatmeal is rich in a type called polyphenols. More specifically, oatmeal contains a kind of polyphenol called avenanthramide, and it is virtually the only food that contains it.
Avenanthramides are thought to bring down blood pressure because they boost production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is responsible for dilating blood vessels to improve blood flow. As with most antioxidants, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory effects, but unusually, they also tend to reduce itchiness.
2. You’ll Benefit from a Special Kind of Fiber
Fiber is important to overall digestive health, and oats contain a large amount of a special type called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber that dissolves partially upon eating and produces a thick gel in the gut. Why is that desirable, you ask?
Regular consumption of beta-glucan has been found to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol numbers. It lowers your blood sugar and the insulin response necessary to process glucose. Beta-glucan also supports the health of the good bacteria in your gut, and as a bonus, helps you feel full longer.
3. You Will Improve Your Cholesterol & Blood Sugar Levels
So let’s talk a bit more about these critical measures of health. High cholesterol is one of the leading indicators of heart disease, which is the number one killer of adults worldwide. The beta-glucan in oats reduces both total and LDL cholesterol by increasing the production of cholesterol-rich bile and decreasing the level of cholesterol circulating in the blood.
As a soluble fiber, beta-glucan also improves blood sugar levels as well as insulin response to glucose. That’s because the gel created by beta-glucan delays emptying of the stomach into the intestines. Glucose is therefore dumped into the bloodstream more slowly and evenly, allowing insulin to process it without a struggle.
4. You’ll Find Losing Weight is Easier
There is no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, but foods that are filling without being fattening can help you along the way. Food cravings are one of the most difficult things to overcome when you’re trying to lose weight, so feeling full for as long as possible after a meal is crucial.
Once again, beta-glucan comes to the rescue as it promotes the release of peptide YY (PYY). PYY is a hormone that your gut produces when it receives food. It is a hormone associated with satiety and studies show it leads to to reduced calorie intake and a lower overall risk of obesity.
5. You Can Protect Your Children From Asthma
Here’s a great reason to make oatmeal a family affair. Asthma is the most common chronic disease in kids and it’s scary because it affects breathing. Asthma involves inflammation in the airways, and typically causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
Research says that introducing solid foods early in a child’s life (before the age of 6 months) actually increases the risk of childhood asthma. But oats are a notable exception.
Studies actually show that feeding your baby oats prior to this half-year mark may lower the child’s risk of both asthma and other allergic conditions. If you would like to add oats to your young baby’s diet, make sure they are blended smooth and don’t require chewing.
6. Your Bowels Move Like Clockwork
Another reason that fiber is so important in your diet is that it can prevent constipation. In this case, we can credit the insoluble oat bran, which is the outer layer of the grain. Oat bran adds bulk to your stool and retains just enough water to make it easy to pass.
Dietary methods of bowel regulation are always better than harsh medications, which come with their own side effects. However, if you are just beginning to add oat bran to your diet, it’s best to increase the amount gradually. It takes the body a little while to adjust to it, and too much at once is likely to cause the constipation you’re trying to fix.
7. You’ll Have a Great Skin Care Tool on Hand
And finally, you don’t necessarily have to eat oatmeal to get some of the benefits. Have you ever noticed how many skin care products contain oats? That’s because finely ground, or colloidal, oats have long been known to reduce inflammation, irritation, and itchiness of the skin.
There are plenty of recipes for homemade oatmeal face masks containing other ingredients like honey, egg yolk, yogurt, and coconut oil. How you make yours depends on your ultimate goal. If you are looking for exfoliation, you will probably leave the oats whole. If you are hoping to reduce the symptoms of eczema or other skin irritation, ground oat power may work better.
In the case of oatmeal, you can go ahead and believe the hype. It is one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat (or slather on your skin). Daily oat consumption is useful in disease prevention, too, and let’s not forget the simple gift of regular bowel movements.
While bland by itself, oatmeal can be jazzed up in hundreds of ways, including a sprinkling of brown sugar, honey, walnuts, raisins, blueberries, or whatever you like. Give a daily oatmeal habit a try – you won’t be sorry!