Regularly eating all forms of whole grains are associated with good health, but oats in particular have special qualities and a host of health benefits. The compounds found in oats help to protect the heart and lungs, reduce the risk of cancer, and increase the body's ability to fight off infectious diseases. Oats are also highly beneficial for the digestive system, help to aid weight loss and are one of the best foods to nourish the nervous system.
The seed portion of the oat plant is what we commonly refer to as "oats". After the inedible hull is removed, a "groat" remains. A variety of oat products are made from the groat, such as many forms of oatmeal, oat flour and oat bran. Oats in general have a mild, creamy, and somewhat floury texture.
Oats contain healthy amounts of Vitamin E, several B vitamins, the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and the trace minerals selenium, copper, zinc, iron and manganese. They are rich in the phytochemicals 1,3-beta-glucan and avenanthramides, which are potent antioxidants that help fight to disease, especially cancer. Oats contribute both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as silica. Insoluble fiber benefits the digestive system and silica is an anti-inflammatory mineral which soothes the digestive tract. The soluble fiber in oats works like a sponge in the body, cleansing arteries and preventing blockages. Oats also have the advantage of not interfering with mineral absorption, as they do not contain phytic acid.
Traditionally, oats have been reported to have antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and stimulant properties. Oats are also beneficial for the skin; oat baths have been used to help soothe itchiness, eczema, dry skin and psoriasis.
high blood pressure
In a study in the Journal of Family Practice, groups of women and men who had high blood pressure experienced significant reduction in blood pressure, the need for antihypertensive medication, and improved blood glucose, when oats were added to their diet.
Research shows that beginning the day with a nutritious, fiber-rich diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Oatmeal was found to have the highest satiety value out of all breakfast foods, providing a greater feeling of fullness.
Several long-term studies show that people with high whole grain intake had from twenty-eight to sixty-one percent lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared with those with the lowest intakes.
Oats also play a vital role in the prevention of adult onset diabetes. They have a low glycemic index (GI), which means that they release sugar very slowly into the bloodstream; this reduces the production of insulin and the consequent risk of developing diabetes.
Enhanced Immune Response
Beta-glucan is a phytocheimcal found in high quantities in oats. In laboratory studies reported in the journal Surgery, beta-glucan significantly enhanced the human immune system's response to bacterial infection, by navigating to the site of an infection more quickly, and enhancing its ability to eliminate the bacteria found there.
Tips on Using Oats
- Keep oats in an airtight and moisture-proof container to prevent bugs from getting in and mold/fungi growth from forming.
- All forms of oats, whether old-fashioned, quick-cooking, or instant oatmeal, fall under the definition of whole grain. This is because all three parts of the grain are preserved during the milling process, so no matter which variety, all provide the same nutrients in the same amounts.
- Pins JJ, Geleva D, Keenan JM, Frazel C, O'Connor PJ, Cherney LM. Do whole-grain oat cereals reduce the need for antihypertensive medications and improve blood pressure control?. J Fam Pract. 2002;51:353-359.
- Slavin JL, Jacobs D, Marquart L, Wiemer K. The role of whole grains in disease prevention. J Am diet Assoc. 2001;101:780-785.
- Tsikitis VL, Albina JE, Reichner JS. Beta-glucan affects leukocyte navigation in a complex chemotactic gradient. Surgery. 2004 Aug;136(2):384-9. 2004.