Oats are a species of cereal grain and are known for their seed. They are used as a popular breakfast for human and as the feed for the livestock.Oatmeal is prominent among other oat dishes, and is made by oats that have been ground, milled, rolled, and steel-cut. Oats provide several health and beauty benefits as they contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, polyphenols and dietary fibers etc.
Health Benefits of Oats
Some major health benefits of oats are as follows.
(1) Regulates Blood Sugar Level
Oats that are not heavily processed have a low glycemic index. It slowly release sugar into the bloodstream, prevents a sudden spike in blood sugar level and aid in managing diabtes.
The dietary fibers in the oats slow down sugar absorption by the bloodstream, and thus regulates blood sugar levels. A study involving patients with type-2 diabetes finds that consuming oats have a positive impact on glucose levels and lipid profile.
Beta-glucan in oats aids in managing diabetes by reducing blood glucose concentrations. Studies suggest oats are also effective against postprandial hyperglycemia.
Avoid instant oats as they have high sugar, and may provide contradictory results.
(2) Promotes Cardiovascular Health
The antioxidants such as avenanthramides, vitamin E, and other relevant compounds in the oats protect our cardiovascular system from free radical damage and strengthens it.Vitamin E in oats also lowers bad cholesterol levels.
The dietary fibers in the oats reduce LDL cholesterol and minimizes the risk of athersclerosis, a condition that leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries and is a leading cause of various cardiovascular problems. It mainly occurs due to the accumulation of plaque and fat deposits within the arterial walls.
Oat bran contains around 15 to 26 percent dietary fibers, while oats have around 7 percent dietary fibers.As per studies, oatmeal could decrease the average cholesterol level by up to 12 percent.
As per an Australian study, in comparison to wheat fiber oat fiber is more effective in reducing cholesterol levels and protects from cardiovascular diseases.Dietary fibers block out the absorption of certain substances that cause heart ailments.
As per the Harvard medical school adding whole grains such as Steel-cut oats in our diet is one of the best methods of lowering cholesterol levels.A report by the University of Wisconsin-madison, Beta-glucan, a heart-healthy chemical in oats also promotes cardiovascular health.
Oats may regulate high blood pressure, which further improves cardiovascular health.Other vitamins and minerals, etc in oats promote cardiovascular health.
(3) Protection From Cancer(s)
In simple terms, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body and is mainly caused by the mutation to DNA within the cells.
Antioxidants like avenanthramides and other polyphenolic compounds in the oats protect our cells from free radical damage and reduce the risk of various cancers.
Fibers in the oats protect against colon cancer, rectal cancer, and bowel cancer.
A set of 12 studies conducted on 800,000 people found that consuming a large bowl of oats regularly can cut the risk of death by cancer by up to 20 percent.
The anti-inflammatory properties of avenanthramides in the oats inhibits the growth of cancer cells without causing any harm to healthy cells.
(4) Provides Relief From Constipation
The laxative properties of insoluble dietary fibers in steel-cut oats and old fashioned rolled oats improve bowel movement, provide quick relief from constipation, and protects against colorectal cancer.
Oat bran improves the bioavailability of vitamin B12 in elderly people and improves constipation.
However, the soluble fibers in oats may cause constipation and intestinal gas, when consumed in excess.
Consume oats in moderation to avoid such problems.
(5) Make Immunity Stronger
Consuming oats strengthens our immune system, the defense mechanism that protects and treats us from microbial infections, injuries, and diseases.
Antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds in oats protect the white blood cells (the backbone of the immune system) from free radical damage and thus strengthens immunity.
A stronger immune system contributes to a lower risk of getting a cough, cold, fever, and flu, etc.
The beta-glucan in oats strengthens immunity by enhancing the activity of immune cells such as macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells, and makes them effective against plenty of diseases causing microbes.
It is effective against chronic fatigue syndrome, physical stress, emotional stress, and protects from respiratory infections post-exercise stress.
It also improves immunity during intense treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
Starting with oats at an early age can significantly reduce the risk of asthma.
Studies have revealed that feeding oats to babies within the first 5 months of birth can reduce the risk of childhood asthma by two-thirds, because of the anti-inflammatory properties of oats.
(6) Provides relief from hypertension
Consuming oats may protect from hypertension or high blood pressure, a silent killer and a leading cause of various cardiovascular problems.
Studies have found that soluble fibers in the oats help in the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
It can reduce systolic blood pressure by 7.5 points, and diastolic blood pressure by 5.5 points.
Cooked and organic oatmeal can also cut down the risk of heart disease by 22 percent.
Beta-glucan in oats improves carbohydrate metabolism and regulates blood pressure levels in obese individuals.
Oatmeal is comfort food that reduces stress hormones and increases serotonin, a hormone that keeps us calm.
All this contributes to lowering blood pressure.
(7) May Strengthen Bones
Oats are good for our bones as it contains silicon, a mineral that assists bone formation and maintenance, and aids in treating postmenopausal osteoporosis.
When it comes to bone strengthening, steel-cut oats are preferred over rolled oats as they have less air exposure, and are less likely to turn rancid.
However, a report by the University of Pennsylvania states, oats might hinder calcium absorption.
So, consult a doctor before using oats for this benefit.
(8) Promotes weight loss
Eating oats regularly promotes weight loss.
The dietary fibers in the oats fill you up, provide satiety, controls overeating, a leading cause of obesity.
Enjoying oatmeal as a breakfast keeps you energetic throughout the day, and also saves you from hunger pangs.
Studies have found that higher consumption of whole-grain foods such as oats can significantly reduce the body mass index.
As per a Taiwanese study, oats are effective against metabolic disorders.
Oats can absorb water, which further improves their satiating properties. Beta-Glucan in oats delays emptying of the stomach and controls overeating.
Regularly drinking oatmeal water on an empty stomach for one month can aid in weight loss. For better results, accompany it with a proper diet and exercise.
If you decide to consume oats for weight loss benefit, go with the plain oats.
Avoid instant oats as they are often loaded with salt and sugar which can negatively affect your weight loss journey.
Oats can be topped with almonds and raspberries for enhanced flavor and benefits.
Avoid fatty toppings such as peanut butter.
(9) Relieves Menopausal Symptoms
The dietary fibers in oats relieve irritability in menopausal women.
However, oats also contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen.
Currently, there are no conclusive studies on how it benefits during menopause.
Consuming cooked oatmeal for over a week may also slow down metabolism and increase phlegm in some individuals, and they should switch to steamed vegetables or basmati rice.
(10) Improves sleep quality
Amino acids and other nutrients in oats enhance melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
Whole grain oats enhance insulin production, which assists the neural pathways to receive tryptophan, an amino acid that sedates the brain.
Vitamin B-6 in oats is a wonderful stress-buster that improves sleep quality.
Serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone released by carbs in oats reduces stress, makes us calm, and improves sleep quality.
So, if you have trouble sleeping, enjoy a bowl of oats mixed with milk and honey before bedtime.
(11) Wonderful Energy booster
Since oats contain carbohydrates(prime source of energy), enjoying a bowl of oats during breakfast can keep you energetic for a long time.
Moreover, there is no need to worry about increased blood sugar levels.
B vitamins like niacin, thiamine, and folate, etc in the oats enhance our body’s ability to utilize this energy.
Beauty Benefits of Oats For Skin
Oats are loaded with several nutrients that provide amazing benefits. These benefits are not just limited to health, and there are also some beauty benefits that we get from oats.
Following are some of the beauty benefits of oats for the skin.
(1) Treats Skin Itchiness And Skin Dryness
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidantal properties of the oatmeal aids in the treatment of skin itchiness and skin dryness.
Soak yourself in bathwater mixed with colloidal oatmeal ( oatmeal specifically made for the bathtub) for 15 minutes, and then pat dry. Apply moisturizer on the damp skin. This can provide quick relief from skin dryness and itching.
Add oatmeal powder or oat flour to hot water to form a thick paste, and apply it on the skin (make sure that it is not too hot). Let it air dry for 15 minutes, and then rinse off with normal water.
Oat milk prepared by steeping oatmeal in hot water also improves skin conditions.
(2) Aids In Acne Treatment
A prime reason that leads to skin problems like acne and pimples is the accumulation of toxins, pollutants, and other unwanted substances in our skin pores.
The detoxifying properties of oats aid in toxin elimination and reduce the risk of acne and pimples.
Dietary fibers in oats prevent acne from worsening by controlling the secretion of excess oil from skin glands.
Not just consuming oats, but topical Application of oatmeal also helps in this regard.
You can use either the oatmeal mask or oatmeal scrub.
To use an oatmeal mask, follow the below-mentioned steps.
- Boil half a cup of oatmeal in one-third cup of water.
- Once it gets cooled, apply the thick paste to the affected area.
- Let it air dry for 20 minutes, and then wash off with warm water.
- Oatmeal scrub softens our skin and aids in acne treatment by removing dead skin cells.
To prepare oatmeal scrub follows below-mentioned steps
- Mix one tablespoon each of finely ground oatmeal, finely ground brown sugar, raw honey, and organic jojoba oil together.
- Stir all the ingredients.
- Add a few drops of essential oil like lavender oil for fragrance.
- Massage a small amount of this scrub on your wet face in a circular motion.
- Let it air dry for about 10 minutes and then rinse with warm water.
- Pat dry.
Oatmeal soap exfoliates the skin, and also controls excess oil from the skin.
Zinc in oats kills acne-causing bacteria, reduces inflammation, and also aids in reducing acne lesions.
However, consult your dermatologist before using oats for acne treatment as some studies suggest oats can aggravate acne.
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(3) Improves skin tone
The exfoliating properties of oats help in lightening skin tone and is the reason oats are added to skin lightening products.
Regularly applying oat powder mixed with milk can improve skin tone.
(4) Wonderful Skin Moisturizer
Oats not only aids in the removal of dead skin cells but also acts as a wonderful skin moisturizer.
The beta-glucan in oats forms a thin film on the skin. It penetrates deep into the skin and moisturizes our skin.
To use oats for skin moisturization,
- Thoroughly mix one cup of finely ground powdered oats, half a cup of milk, and half a tablespoon of honey to form a paste.
- Apply this paste on your skin, and leave it for about 15 minutes.
- Finally, rinse with cold water.
(5) Natural Skin Cleanser
The saponins in oats are a wonderful skin cleanser that removes dirt and oil from skin pores without causing any irritation.
Gently applying oat milk(prepared by soaking oats in water) on the face using a cotton pad cleanses our skin, and improves skin tone.
(6) Aids In Treatment of Poison Ivy And Chickenpox Symptoms
For ages, oatmeal has been used for the treatment of poison ivy and chickenpox symptoms like itchiness.
For relieving poison ivy or chickenpox itchiness, clean the affected area with a cheesecloth soaked with oat flour water.
(7) Maintains Skin Health
Oats are beneficial for maintaining our overall skin health as they contain vital nutrients.
Antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds in oats protect our skin cells from free radical damage, and thus minimizes various symptoms of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, dark spots, and skin blemishes, etc.
They also protect from harmful UV rays of the sun, and as well as from the harsh chemicals and pollutants in the air.
As stated earlier, oats aids in skin exfoliation, moisturize our skin, and improves skin tone.
Other compounds like vitamins and minerals in oats also play a significant role in managing skin health.
Beauty Benefits of Oats For Hair
The beauty benefits of oats are not just limited to our skin, and they are also beneficial for keeping our hair follicles and scalp healthy. Some of the ways they can help our hair and scalp are as follows.
(1) Prevents Hair Loss
The nutrients in oats strengthen our hair follicles and reduce hair fall.
For this to work, follow the steps given below
- Take one tablespoon each of powdered oatmeal, fresh milk, and almond milk.
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly to make a smooth paste.
- Gently apply this mixture to your hair and massage. (Ensures that your hair are free from knots and tangles)
Omega-6 fatty acids in oats repairs damaged hair.
(2) Treats Dandruff
The nutrients in the oats improve scalp health and aids in the treatment of dandruff, a common scalp problem that affects people globally.
To use oats for dandruff treatment, follow the instructions mentioned below.
- Grind one cup of oatmeal till you get a fine paste.
- Mix the powder with 2 cups of boiling water and stir to completely dissolve the powder.
- Let this mixture settle for 10 minutes, and pour it in a medium-sized bowl through a sieve.
- Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of lemon juice (avoid lemon juice in case of color-treated hair) to the mixture, and stir well.
- Add a few drops of essential oil like lavender oil for fragrance.
- Pour this mixture into a bottle.
- Gently apply this oatmeal shampoo on your hair dampened with lukewarm water
- Leave it for 2-3 minutes, and then rinse with clean water.
It is effective against an itchy scalp and prevents excess oil and dirt.
(3) Great For Blond Hair
Rubbing ground oats over your scalp works wonders for improving the strength and appearance of blond hair.
The excess oats can easily be removed from the hair using a bristle brush.
Rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats) – Though these are the most processed of all types, they still hold good nutritional value. This is the type of oatmeal you would usually find in store-bought packets (unless specified otherwise). They become less chewy after cooking because of how thinly they have been rolled out.
(4) Improves Hair Appearance
Using oats not only strengthens hair but also improves its appearance.
To use this, mix 3 tablespoons of powdered plain oats,1 tablespoon each of coconut oil, and honey in ½ cup of milk.
Apply these mask to your hair and scalp.
Let them air dry for 30 minutes, and then shampoo as usual.
This mask makes your hair shine and also renders silkiness to your tresses. It moisturizes your hair as well.
This improves hair moisturization and also makes them strong and lustrous.
What Are Different Types of Oats
Oat Bran– It is the first part of the oat grain, and is obtained by processing ground from the hull. It is packed with fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium, etc. It is easy to cook and has fewer calories.
Oat groats– The texture of oats groats is similar to that of the thicker rice grain, and it is what resides inside the hull of the oat grain.
Steel-cut oats– Steel cut oats or Irish oats are nothing but chopped oat groats, and they take around 20 minutes to cook on the stovetop. For the given volume, steel-cut oats have twice the nutrition provided by uncooked rolled oats.
Scottish oats– Of the various types of oats, Scottish oats have the nuttiest flavor and natural sweetness to them. They are more finely ground steel-cut oats.
Oat flour- Oat flour has a soft texture and is the flour grounded from whole oat groats, Scottish oats, or steel-cut oats.
Steel-cut oats are cut into pieces, have a long cooking time, and have a toothsome and chewy texture.
However, rolled oats look flat and irregularly round, and can be cooked easily.
One cup of cooked oatmeal can provide 12 percent of the daily thiamine(vitamin B1) requirement, whereas one cup of dry oatmeal can provide about 25 percent of the daily thiamine requirement.
Oats vs Wheat vs Brown Rice
In early 12000 BC, oats were considered as a nuisance crop to wheat and barley. However, in 2000 BC, farmers in Scandinavia and Poland found that in their area, oats grew better than wheat. Around 1500 BC, farmers in northern Europe started growing oats on purpose. Slowly and steadily, oats spread to the rest of the world.
Whole oats contain endosperm, bran, and germ, but in the case of whole wheat, it only contains the wheat form of the whole grain. Both are loaded with nutrients.
1 cup of cooked oats and brown rice respectively provides 145 calories and 216 calories of energy.
For the given weight and volume, brown rice has higher levels of magnesium, manganese, niacin, and vitamin B6 in comparison to oats.
However, oats have double the iron provided by brown rice.
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Selection and Storage of Oats
Keep the following points in mind while selecting oats.
- Buy oats in small quantities as they rancid more quickly in comparison to other grains because of their high-fat content.
- Oats are easily available in prepackaged containers and bulk bins.
- While buying oatmeal, make sure that it doesn’t contain added salt, sugar, or other additives. Reading the ingredients list can help you in this.
- Health shops are a perfect location for buying rolled oats or oatmeals
- If you decide to buy oats in bulk, make sure that bulk bins are well covered, and are free from debris and moisture.
Different varieties of oats are stored differently, and storing them in the right manner maintains their flavor and freshness. Keep the following points in mind while storing oats
- Like all other grains, rolled oats should be stored in an airtight container to prevent moisture and vermin intrusion.
- It is best kept in a cool and dark cupboard for up to 3 months, and in a refrigerator for up to six months.
- Refrigerate oat brans as they have high-fat content.
- The natural antioxidant in the oat flour discourages rancidity and gives it a longer shelf life in comparison to wheat flour.
- Refrigeration is a good way to store oat flour. It should be used within 3 months of production.
- Use oatmeal within the expiry date mentioned on the package.
How to Cook Oats? What are the Uses of Oats?
Oats are versatile and can be consumed both in raw forms and cooked form. Cooked oats are soft and easier to chew than uncooked oats. You can also soften the uncooked oats with water. For this, soak one cup of raw oatmeal in two cups of water, and leave it for 2 hours. This will soften the oats, and it can be consumed by blending them with water.
Depending on the variety of the oats, they can be cooked and consumed in various ways as follows
- Steel-cut oats– Steel-cut oats are the whole oat groats that have been steamed and cut into pieces and are most suitable for breakfast. These are non-flattened and coarse. To cook them, soak them overnight in hot water, and then cook in the morning to make a pearly, chewy, whole-grain breakfast.
- Instant Oats– These are the oats that we find in stores in small packets. They are generally loaded with sugar, salt, and additives, and are least nutritious among other varieties of oats. They have a flour-like consistency and can be cooked in a minute or two because they tend to blend easily. They are heavily processed, steamed, rolled, dehydrated and toasted, and all these processes deprive them of their natural nutrients.
- Oatmeal Bread– This extremely nutritious bread can be easily prepared at home using oat flour.
- Oatmeal cookies– Oatmeal cookies are a unique combination of taste and nutrition. They are loved by kids when served with peanut butter or chocolate bits. They make up for a filling snack.
- Oat Bran– Oat bran is the ground oats with the husk still attached. These are fibrous and nutritious and are generally added to smoothies. They are difficult to digest and should be soaked in water for a couple of hours before consuming them.
In comparison to uncooked oats, cooked oats are relatively sweeter. Depending on the variety of oats, they may require different methods and duration of cooking.
Rolled oats can be cooked in approximately 15 minutes, but steel-cut oats take about 30 minutes to cook.
Oat groats are harder and need more water and around 50 minutes to cook.
- Filing meal or Snack– Add oats to your smoothies or green smoothies to prepare a filling meal or snack.
- Nutritious Breakfast– A hot bowl of oatmeal added with nuts and fruits is a nutritious and delicious breakfast one can consume.
- As A Soup Thickening Agent– Oat flour can be used as an alternative to cornflour for thickening soups and sauces. You can also replace breadcrumbs in soup with oats.
- For Tofu Coating– Oatmeal can be used for tofu coating. All you need to do is dip tofu in milk, then in oatmeal, and then fry them to make them crispy.
- For Pancakes or Porridge– Oats can be used to make pancakes or porridge.
- As A Sprinkling Agents on Cereals– Oat bran can be sprinkled on hot or cold cereal to make them delicious.
- For Making Bread, Pasta, or Muffin– oat flour or whole oats can be used for making bread or muffins. As they are highly flexible, they can be used for making pasta, muffins, and croissants. Oat flour is a good replacement for all-purpose flour which is commonly used for making fast and processed foods.
Facts About Oats
- LLike wheat, oat is an annual grass.
- As a food product, the two main uses of oats are in the form of cereals and oat biscuits respectively.
- In the USA, October 29th is celebrated as the national Oatmeal day.
- Milk, sugar, and fruits are popular oatmeal toppings.
Side Effects of Oats
Oats are loaded with essential nutrients and are generally safe for most people (including pregnant and breastfeeding women). However, there are a few points to keep in mind, while consuming or using them.
(1) May Cause Intestinal Blockage
People with difficulty in chewing oats should avoid oats completely as poorly chewed oats can block intestines and cause issues.
(2) May Cause Digestive Issues
In general, oats are good for the digestive system. However, in some individuals, oats may aggravate digestive ailments. They should consult their doctor before adding oats.
Frequently Asked Questions
(1) Is oatmeal gluten-free?
Oats are generally safe for people with gluten intolerance. However, if it is packed oats, then it might contain gluten as they are heavily processed, and contaminated.
(2) Can you eat raw oats?
Dry oats should not be eaten as the dietary fibers in them may cause intestinal problems. If you decide to eat raw oats, then consume them after soaking in water or milk.
(3) Is there an Ideal Time To Eat Oats?
You can enjoy them whenever you want, but most people prefer to have oats as breakfast.
(4) How Microwaving Affect the Glycemic index of oats?
Microwaving doesn’t cause any effect on the glycemic index of oats.
Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.