9 Health Benefits of Eating Oats and Oatmeal
Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth.
They’re a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits.
These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Here are 9 evidence-based health benefits of eating oats and oatmeal.
Oat groats, the most intact and whole form of oats, take a long time to cook. For this reason, most people prefer rolled, crushed or steel-cut oats.
Instant (quick) oats are the most highly processed variety. While they take the shortest time to cook, the texture may be mushy.
Oats are commonly eaten for breakfast as oatmeal, which is made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is often referred to as porridge.
They’re also often included in muffins, granola bars, cookies and other baked goods.
1. Oats Are Incredibly Nutritious
The nutrient composition of oats is well-balanced
They are a good source of carbs and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan (1, 2, 3).
They also contain more protein and fat than most grains (4).
Oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. Half a cup (78 grams) of dry oats contains (5):
Manganese: 191% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 41% of the RDI
Magnesium: 34% of the RDI
Copper: 24% of the RDI
Iron: 20% of the RDI
Zinc: 20% of the RDI
Folate: 11% of the RDI
Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 39% of the RDI
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% of the RDI
Smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
This is coming with 51 grams of carbs, 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber, but only 303 calories.
This means that oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.
BOTTOM LINE:Oats are rich in carbs and fiber, but also higher in protein and fat than most other grains. They are very high in many vitamins and minerals.
2. Whole Oats Are Rich in Antioxidants, Including Avenanthramides
Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats (6).
Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This gas molecule helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow (7, 8, 9).
In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects (9).
Ferulic acid is also found in large amounts in oats. This is another antioxidant (10).
BOTTOM LINE:Oats contain many powerful antioxidants, including avenanthramides. These compounds may help reduce blood pressure and provide other benefits.
3. Oats Contain a Powerful Soluble Fiber Called Beta-Glucan
Oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber.
Beta-glucan partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in the gut.
The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include:
Reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels (1)
Reduced blood sugar and insulin response (11)
Increased feeling of fullness (12)
Increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract (13)
BOTTOM LINE:Oats are high in the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which has numerous benefits. It helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases feelings of fullness.
4. They Can Lower Cholesterol Levels and Protect LDL Cholesterol From Damage
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. One major risk factor is high blood cholesterol.
Many studies have shown that the beta-glucan fiber in oats is effective at reducing both total and LDL cholesterol levels (1, 14).
Beta-glucan may increase the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile, thereby reducing circulating levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Oxidation of LDL (the «bad») cholesterol, which occurs when LDL reacts with free radicals, is another crucial step in the progression of heart disease.
It produces inflammation in arteries, damages tissues and can raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
One study reports that antioxidants in oats work together with vitamin C to prevent LDL oxidation (15).
BOTTOM LINE:Oats may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing both total and LDL cholesterol and protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
5. Oats Can Improve Blood Sugar Control
Type 2 diabetes is a common disease, characterized by significantly elevated blood sugars. It usually results from decreased sensitivity to the hormone insulin.
Oats may help lower blood sugar levels, especially in people who are overweight or ha