Although oats look unassuming, this popular staple grain is actually incredibly nutritious. Not only are they packed with fiber, but they're high in vitamins and minerals and give you that full feeling that can lower cholesterol and aid with weight loss. Yup, oats are pretty much where it's at, and if you have a creative streak, oatmeal is an especially great canvas for adding any add ins you can think of (fruit, nuts, coconut, even chocolate!). It's important to remember that not all oats are created equal: although quick oats, rolled oats and steel cut oats are all similar in nutritional value they differ when it comes to glycemic index. Steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index, they have less starch and take longer to digest which makes them more suitable for those watching their sugar intake. If you can't choose steel cut oats, rolled oats are also a good alternative. But no matter how you eat them, oats are a smart addition to any meal and provide the bulk and nutrients you need to start or end your day.
1. Oats have tons of soluble fiber
There's a reason oatmeal is known for keeping you “regular.” It's all the soluble fiber in these little grains of goodness. The soluble fiber, or beta-glucan, also found in oranges, lentils, vegetables and other whole grains, forms a gel-like substance which facilitates easier digestion and regularity in the gut. It promotes a feeling of fullness as well as increases the growth of healthy bacteria. If eaten everyday, the soluble fiber in oats can dramatically lower cholesterol, regulate metabolism and even treat IBS. And if you're feeling especially “backed” up, oats can effectively treat constipation.
Here is a Kefir Muesli for breakfast that can be made the night before and is especially effective at treating digestive issues:
- 1/2 cup oats
- 3/4 cup kefir
- 1 tbsp sweetener (like honey or maple syrup)
- 1/2 banana, mashed
- 1/4 cup fruit (like berries or chopped apple)
Combine oats, kefir and sweetener in a mug or cup. Keep in fridge overnight. In the morning add fruit and mashed banana. Makes 1 serving.
2. Oats are versatile
Oats are incredibly versatile. You can incorporate them in a variety of dishes that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oats can be added to smoothies, placed on top of yogurt and used as a flour substitute for pancakes and muffins. They have a mild, nutty flavor and when combined with non-dairy milk and allowed to set overnight will turn into creamy, delicious muesli! Savory oatmeals are especially trendy right now as oats serve as a perfect canvas for lots of interesting flavors and add-ins. Oatmeal “risotto” anyone?
Here is a simple Oatmeal Pancake recipe that turns out great every time:
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 a banana
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Grease a frying pan with coconut oil and fry pancakes. Add blueberries, sliced bananas or chocolate chips. Makes 4 pancakes.
3. Oats are high in manganese, magnesium and iron
For being relatively inexpensive, oats are brimming with nutrients and are among one of the most nutrient dense grains out there. Oats contain 4.9g per 100g serving of manganese, a mineral partly responsible for bone formation, blood sugar control and skin health. Our bodies require 11g of manganese a day for proper functioning so a daily dose of oats can most definitely provide this. Oats contain 7% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium which, among many other functions, helps to maintain regular nerve and muscle function, aids in bone formation, and supports immune health. Besides manganese and magnesium, oats contain high amounts of iron, 4.7mg for every 100g. It's recommended that women take 17-18.9 mg a day and men take 19.3-20.5, meaning oats can help hit your iron quota for the day.
4. Oats are great for balancing blood sugar
For those looking to reduce their sugar intake and who are extra sensitive to sugary foods, oats are amazing for these types of diets. Because of their high fiber content, oats are a great choice. They digest and process in the body slower than other grains which means oats are less likely to spike your blood sugar and cause digestive upsets. Oats are also very high in protein – 17g per 100g! Which means their carbohydrate content is pleasantly balanced by the high protein content, keeping blood sugar low.
5. Oats can help you lose weight
Amongst all of these great benefits, oats are a star when it comes to weight-loss, mostly because of their ability to keep you feeling full. Many weight-loss diets condemn carbs and will focus mostly on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. However, carbs play an important role in weight-loss in the sense that they make you feel full, therefore it's less likely you might binge on, say, a three cheese burrito or a cookies and cream cake. To really feel the weight-loss benefits of oats it's suggested to consume them in the morning -- that way you are kick-starting your metabolism and the complex carbs are providing even and sustaining energy throughout your day. I've had some of my most productive, energetic mornings after a bowl of oatmeal.