Oats are a popular breakfast food, with many people adding fruit and nuts to a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Oats are famous for being an affordable, robust source of energy, and it turns out that they are also extremely good for your body in a number of other interesting and surprising ways. Read on to discover ten reasons why regularly adding more oats to your diet could help to boost your health and improve your quality of life.
1) Oats can lower your cholesterol levels:
A large number of different studies have established a strong connection between oats and healthy cholesterol levels, and this impact is a significant one. Research shows that when people with high cholesterol begin to eat at least one serving of oatmeal each day, their cholesterol is lowered by up to 23%. It is thought that this is for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, oats contain compounds called tocotrienols, which are antioxidants that are part of vitamin E. They inhibit the production of LDL (i.e. ‘bad’) cholesterol, and a high intake of them reliably reduces cholesterol levels. Secondly, oats are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibers. In particular, scientists have discovered that beta-glucan (a type of soluble fiber) is capable of lowering LDL cholesterol levels. This is because soluble fiber breaks down during its journey through your digestive tract, and it traps bile acids that are rich in bad cholesterol. As a result, it reduces the amount of cholesterol that ends up in your bloodstream.
2) They may help you to lose weight:
A serving of oats contains just 130 calories, and it’s chemical composition makes it stay in your stomach for longer than most foods. This helps you to feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time, reducing hunger and making you less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. One interesting study on childhood obesity has revealed that children under eighteen are an impressive 50% less likely to become obese if they have a steady intake of oats. In addition, eating oats can temporarily improve your metabolism, making your body burn more calories at a faster rate.
3) They reduce your risk of developing heart disease:
In 1997, the FDA announced that it is acceptable for oat-based products to feature a label that mentions the link between oats and a reduced risk of heart disease. One study with around ten thousand participants found that over the course of nearly two decades, people who consumed the most oats (and other sources of fiber) were up to 15% less likely to develop heart disease. In addition to the fact that oats lower cholesterol levels, they reduce your risk of heart disease in part because of their beneficial influence on blood pressure. If you consume a serving of oats every day, you are lowering your risk of needing medication for high blood pressure.
4) They can help to prevent asthma in children:
Studies on allergies and asthma in children have shown that those who eat the most oats (and other whole grains) are much less likely to develop asthma. One particularly famous study was conducted on nearly 600 children and showed that only 2.8% of the children with the highest intake of whole grains had already been diagnosed with asthma. In contrast, close to 17% of the children with the lowest intake of whole grains had been diagnosed with asthma. Research is ongoing, but it is thought that the reason for these statistics might lie in the fact that oats (and other whole grain foods) provide the body with anti-inflammatory compounds such as magnesium and vitamin E.
5) They make you less likely to develop any form of breast cancer:
Oats contain lignans, which are phytoestrogen compounds that appear to lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 52%. Studies have shown that women who eat the largest amount of oats (as well as other sources of dietary fiber) have lower circulating estrogen levels, and this may be what is responsible for the reduction in breast cancer risk. It is thought that high circulating estrogen levels promote all forms of breast cancer.
6) They promote healthy blood sugar levels:
When you eat oats, the beta-glucan they contain slows down the digestive process, which means that it takes longer for carbohydrates to be absorbed into your bloodstream. As a result, blood sugar cannot spike in a dramatic or dangerous way.
7) They boost the cardiovascular health of postmenopausal women:
Women who have been through the menopausal have some extra motivations to add plenty of oats to their diet. Specifically, postmenopausal women who eat oats (and other whole grains) almost every day of the week are much less likely to experience arterial hardening and narrowing.
8. They improve your immune system:
Studies have shown that the soluble fiber beta-glucan can help white blood cells travel to an area of infection at a faster rate. In addition, it improves their ability to destroy invading bacteria at the site of the infection. This means that oats are an ideal addition to your diet if you want to avoid suffering from annoying illnesses such as the cold and the flu.
9) They make you less likely to develop type 2 diabetes:
The American Diabetes Association advises that people who suffer from diabetes eat plenty of oats (and other grains) because of the aforementioned fact that soluble fiber helps to keep blood sugar levels under control. This means that if you do not already suffer from diabetes, a diet rich in oats may be able to stop you from eventually suffering from type 2 diabetes. For example, one study performed on women found that those who regularly ate oats (and other whole grains) were 31% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
10) They promote a healthy digestive system:
The facts that oats are such a good source of fiber means that they can improve bowel health. They promote regular bowel movements and discourage constipation. Oats also provide you with selenium, and a high intake of selenium is linked to a reduction in your risk of developing colorectal cancers.
As is obvious from the above health benefits, oats are an excellent addition to your life if you want to make your diet more nutritious. You should aim to have at least a cup of oats each day, and you can add oats to hot cereal or use them to make porridge for a healthy and enjoyable breakfast. Oats tend to taste particularly good when combined with fruit or chopped nuts.