When most people think of oats, they may first picture something less than appetizing: instant oatmeal, flavorless granola, or bland “diet” food. If this all you think of, you are definitely doing it wrong. With the right recipe, oats are not only delicious and easy to prepare, but they also provide incredible health benefits. Check out five proven health benefits of oats that will convince you to give this classic ingredient another chance.
1. Oats lower your levels of bad cholesterol.
Oats have about a 5% concentration of beta-glucans, a naturally occurring type of dietary fiber. Scientific studies about foods with high beta-glucans have shown that they keep your intestines from absorbing too much LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, promote healthy liver function, and turn your gut bacteria into fatty acids that contribute to a healthy cholesterol level. Most people don’t know that steel-cut oats are the best kind of oats to eat to get these LDL cholesterol-lowering effects.
2. Oats reduce heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.
Oats contain a high amount of magnesium, an important mineral in hundreds of processes in the body. Magnesium can lower instances of heart attack and stroke by promoting normal blood flow and a healthy blood pressure level. A 2002 study indicates that eating whole oat cereals every day reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and improves the body’s insulin response in just six weeks.
3. Oats provide a healthy, plant-based source of protein.
Compared to other grains, oats provide the healthiest balance of proteins, fatty acids, and amino acids. In fact, just one half-cup serving of oats can provide almost 15% of your daily protein needs. Oats are a wonderful way to be sure you get enough protein, particularly for vegetarians and vegans. With 2015 research indicating that red meat causes cancer, oats are the perfect protein alternative for anyone who wants to be healthier.
4. Oats can help you lose weight.
Did you know that oats have more fiber than any other grain? The high soluble fiber content of oats aids in the digestion process and helps you feel more full. A recent study on satiety—the feeling of being full—reveals that oats, specifically in the form of oatmeal, make people feel significantly fuller than other types of foods. This longer-lasting feeling of fullness helps dieters consume fewer calories overall. And the best part? You get all the other health benefits of oats, too!
5. Oats lower the risk for certain types of cancer.
Several studies have connected diets high in natural fiber with lower rates of colorectal cancer. Researchers have found that people who regularly eat fiber-rich foods have a lower rate of developing colorectal tumors. Though science has not yet definitively proven that fibrous foods prevent colorectal cancer, it is clear that foods like oats contribute to a healthier colon. Because they help with weight maintenance and loss, high-fiber foods like oats lower the risk of cancers that are associated with obesity.
Easy Ways to Incorporate the Benefits of Oats into Your Diet
Now that you know the proven health benefits of oats, you may be wondering how you can add them into your diet. With the five recipes below, you can easily add a healthy serving of oats into your daily routine. Adjust the ingredient amounts as necessary, or make extra to share with friends and family.
Required ingredients: oat bran, brown sugar, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, applesauce, vegetable oil
These muffins are effortless to make, and the applesauce adds a hint of natural sweetness. Blend all of the ingredients together and bake in a muffin pan for 15 minutes. Mix in cinnamon or nutmeg, or add them to the top right before baking, for a spiced twist.
Required ingredients: rolled oats, oat bran, dried fruit and nuts of your choice, cinnamon, yogurt, milk
For those who may not like to bake, here’s an easy and healthful recipe for breakfast. Mix together the yogurt, oats, oat bran, dried fruits, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Place in the fridge overnight. Before eating, pour a small amount of milk over your bowl, and add any nuts or seeds you like.
Required ingredients: rolled oats, bananas, dates, vegetable oil, vanilla extract
This recipe takes less than an hour, and the cookies are a healthy alternative to a sugar-rich dessert. While the oven is heating, mash the bananas with the other ingredients. Use a spoon to place drops on a cookie sheet, and bake for 20 minutes.
Required ingredients: water, margarine or butter, salt, flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, active dry yeast
If you have a bread machine, this recipe is a breeze. Simply add the ingredients to your machine’s bread pan according to the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. Cook the bread on the light setting, and enjoy!
This is an incredibly easy recipe, so it’s great for people on the go. Just throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for six to eight hours. For extra nutrition, add your favorite fruit right before eating. The steel-cut oats make this recipe especially heart-healthy.
Craving more healthy recipes? Add some oats to these five smoothie recipes for an extra health boost!
Featured photo credit: Vladislav Nosik via shutterstock.com