Having a steaming bowl of oatmeal is an excellent whole grain breakfast to promote better health.
Oats are cereal grain loaded with fiber, protein, and nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, they contain powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants for your health.
To boost the health benefits of oatmeal, simply add nuts, fruits, or spices. Do not add too much sugar, though. Instead, let the natural flavors of the fruits and spices enhance its taste.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of oatmeal.
1. Lowers Cholesterol
The fiber present in oatmeal has lipid-lowering benefits. The beta-glucan soluble fiber lowers LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels and decreases intestinal absorption of cholesterol.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends a daily intake of 3 grams of beta-glucan to lower LDL cholesterol. Just one-half cup of old-fashioned oats contains about 2 grams of this soluble fiber.
In addition, oatmeal contains an antioxidant called avenanthramide that protects against LDL oxidation. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2004 suggests that these antioxidant compounds give even better results when combined with vitamin C.
So to enhance the cholesterol-lowering effects, combine your oatmeal with a vitamin C-rich food such as an orange.
2. Reduces Cardiovascular Risk
Oatmeal is rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries- a leading cause of heart attacks.
Also, the lignans present in oats help prevent heart disease and the beta-glucans promote heart health and have been found to improve ischemic heart injury. This superfood also offers significant cardiovascular benefits for postmenopausal women.
3. Aids in Weight Loss
An oatmeal breakfast is great for those striving to lose those extra pounds and maintain a healthy body weight. Being rich in protein and fiber, it makes you feel fuller and satiated.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that oatmeal provides more filling fiber than other cereals.
Researchers have also compared the effects of unflavored instant oatmeal and oat-based cold cereals and found that the former is better at keeping you fuller and reducing your subsequent energy intake.
They reported that the processing of the soluble fiber beta-glucan in manufacturing cold cereals renders it less effective. These findings were presented at Experimental Biology 2013. Higher levels of beta-glucan are associated with a higher level of peptides, which are appetite-control hormones.
4. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Oatmeal contains high-quality carbohydrates that provide a steady source of energy compared to other breakfast options. Being high in fiber, the body digests it slower and it does not cause a spike in blood glucose levels.
Moreover, scientific studies have found that regular consumption of whole grains like oats reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
5. Lowers High Blood Pressure
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Family Practice showed that regular consumption of oat cereal helps reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with mild or borderline hypertension.
Oat bran and whole oats are particularly useful for controlling high blood pressure. Plus, the fiber and magnesium content in oatmeal slow down the formation of plaque and help increase blood flow.
A daily serving of whole oats and adding more whole grain products to your diet will help control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart attacks.
6. Protects Against Breast Cancer
Oatmeal is rich in phytochemicals like lignans and enterolactone that protect against cancers. Enterolactone, in particular, has been found to be effective in preventing breast and other hormone-related cancers.
In addition, the soluble fiber in oats, rye, and other similar foods has a direct impact on breast cancer cells.
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology also shows that premenopausal women with a diet rich in whole grains may reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by 41 percent.
7. Supports Intestinal Health
The high fiber content in oatmeal has significant benefits for your colon and intestinal health. It is good for people suffering from ulcerative colitis and also can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Plus, oatmeal contributes to healthy bowel functioning and helps relieve constipation.
This whole grain food is also a good wheat alternative for celiac patients. However, it should be eaten in moderation as it has small amounts of gluten.
When adding fiber to your diet, make sure to drink plenty of water too as it will help the fiber do its job.
8. Keeps Stress at Bay
This warm and soothing breakfast cereal helps keep anxiety and stress away. It induces the brain to increase production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite.
In addition, it contains magnesium that helps improve sleep quality, thereby promoting relaxation.
Even a small serving of this complex-carbohydrate food can help relieve stress. To enhance the health as well as mood benefits of this guilt-free comfort food, add blueberries to your bowl of oatmeal. Blueberries are considered one of the best stress-busting foods due to their high antioxidant and vitamin C content.
9. Boosts Immunity
Whole grain oats are rich in immune-boosting nutrients. They are a good source of dietary fiber, which is linked to changes in immune cell activity.
Moreover, the beta-glucans in oatmeal have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Studies suggest that beta-glucans help enhance the immune system response to bacterial infections.
To derive the immune-boosting benefits of oatmeal, opt for steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats instead of the instant oatmeal varieties that are often loaded with sugars.
10. Soothes the Skin
Apart from eating oatmeal, you can also use it to soften and moisturize your skin. Also, oat baths are often used to relieve redness, itching, and skin irritation. It is suitable for all skin types and has anti-inflammatory and exfoliating effects.
Due to its saponins, oatmeal also works as a natural cleanser and removes excess oil, dirt and impurities from the skin. Moreover, some oat phenols work as strong ultraviolet absorbers to protect the skin from sun damage.