Oats are usually eaten during breakfast and prepared as oatmeal. While some may like this warm, hearty meal, others might find it rather bland.
Love them or hate them, one thing’s for sure: oats are undeniably packed with rich nutritional value that may help address various health concerns such as weight loss and heart health.
Here are 5 good reasons why you should eat more oats.
Satisfying enough to prevent excess calorie intake
If you are trying to lose fat, you must be eating at a caloric deficit or fewer calories relative to your daily energy expenditure. Being in a caloric deficit can be challenging because you need to be eating less but as much as possible to keep yourself feeling satiated. For a calorie deficit to be bearable, your diet must consist of satiating foods dense in nutrients.
Oats are an excellent food choice to satisfy hunger. These whole grains, in particular, contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. When digested, beta-glucan attracts water, making the digested food viscous, and in turn, increases its volume in the gut. This increase in volume and thickness or viscosity consequently slows down digestion, increases satisfaction, and suppresses appetite. In turn, feeling satiated reduces excessive calorie intake, leading to a successful caloric deficit and weight loss.
Good energy source
Oats are primarily composed of carbohydrates which means it is a good energy source to fuel your daily activities and more importantly your physical training or workouts. As mentioned, the soluble fiber beta-glucan makes oats slow-digesting, which means these carbohydrates can provide you energy for a longer time, improve your training performance and replenish your energy levels for your next physical activity.
While carbohydrates may have a bad reputation of spiking blood sugar and insulin levels, especially after ingesting it, the beta-glucan fiber in oats, most especially less processed ones, helps prevent these sudden sharp spikes in sugar levels. Hence, oats can be a part of your diet to prevent diabetes.
Plant-based food rich in protein
While oats are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, they also contain a considerable amount of protein which is the magic macronutrient for building, repairing, and retaining muscle. If your goal is to build muscle, you need to take a considerable amount of protein every day, approximately 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight.
While the go-to protein sources are usually animal-based foods such as chicken breast and eggs, oats can also be an excellent plant-based protein source, especially for vegans who want to build muscle. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 40-gram serving of oats contains 5 grams of protein, equivalent to the protein content of a small egg.
Beta-glucan fiber does not only help suppress appetite – but also helps lower cholesterol to keep your heart healthy, especially when consumed regularly. Various research studies have shown that an intake of 3 grams of beta-glucan per day significantly decreased both total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol without affecting the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. This cholesterol-lowering characteristic of beta-glucan can then reduce the risk of heart disease, among other health problems.
Versatile, tasty ingredient
There are different types of oats based on how they were processed, and each type can be prepared in various ways. Though there are different types of oats, the nutritional value amongst these is relatively the same. The most popular types are rolled oats and instant oats.
Rolled oats are moderately processed oats – steamed, rolled, and flattened into thick flakes. Rolled oats can be easily prepared into overnight oats. Add water or milk to your old-fashioned oats. You may add some sweeteners, nuts, or edible seeds like chia or flax seeds for additional protein and fiber. Let it sit in your refrigerator overnight and have it the next day with fresh fruit for a quick breakfast.
Rolled oats can also be used in baking sweet treats like granola bars and oatmeal cookies. Rolled oats can even be turned into homemade oat flour. Toss rolled oats into your food processor or blender and grind it until fine. Replace regular flour with oat flour so you can add the oats’ health benefits to your baked goods.
From the name itself, quick or instant oats are the easiest and most convenient oats to prepare. These are the most processed type of oats, reduced to smaller and thinner pieces than old-fashioned oats so that they can be cooked easily. Add some water to your instant oats and cook it in a microwave for approximately a minute or two. Add milk, sweetener, or fruit of your choice.
Pairing oats with other nutritious foods, particularly as part of a healthy diet, is great if you have health goals you wish to achieve. Eating oats with dense foods in calories or sugar will negate the various health benefits of oats. For instance, if you are in a caloric deficit but still want your oatmeal to be sweet, use zero-calorie natural sweeteners or sugar substitutes. Instead of using cow’s milk, you may swap it with plant-based milk, which usually has lower calories than unsweetened almond milk.
Also, be mindful of the ingredients of the oats you consume. More processed oats such as instant oats may have added ingredients like sweeteners or flavorings, versus less processed varieties like rolled oats. Ensure that the main ingredient of these products is still oats.
Oats have a good combination of complex carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, and other nutrients. This food not only helps achieve body aesthetic goals like losing fat and gaining muscle but also improves heart and gut health and blood sugar levels. Aside from that, oats come in a variety of forms that can be used in various ways. Whatever your specific health goal is, oats have been proven to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods the can address multiple health concerns.
It’s time to get more of them in your diet, no?