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10 Benefits of Oatmeal You Probably Never Knew

10 Benefits of Oatmeal You Probably Never Knew

I was first introduced to Oatmeal as a kid. My mother would always rave about its health benefits, while we ate our sugar-filled cereal. Years later while doing a lot of competitive swimming, I found that I needed something that was more “substantial” and less “sugary,” and when I started eating oatmeal before morning practices, it was literally a night and day difference in my performance in the pool and energy levels. I just felt great overall! Also, oatmeal is a warm meal, so it’s much more inviting than cold cereal in the morning.

Years later, after getting a degree in food chemistry did I realize WHY oatmeal was so great for you. Some benefits I probably never would have known. The best part about all this, is you most likely have oats in your cupboard right now. Indeed, it is estimated that eighty percent of people have oats in their cupboard on a regular basis!

1. Helps control weight.

Let’s face it, we could all use some help at times, but did you ever think oatmeal could help control your weight? It’s true! According to a research study published in the October 2009 issue of “Molecular Nutrition & Food Research” a compound in oatmeal known as β-glucan reduces appetite by increasing the hunger-fighting hormone cholecystokinin.

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2. Reduces blood pressure.

We all know that heart disease is a major problem in North America and throughout the world. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet which includes plenty of whole-grains (such as oats or wholemeal bread) is just as effective as taking anti-hypertensive medication to lower blood pressure!

3. Reduces cholesterol.

Have you ever heard of soluble fiber? Well, compared to other grains, oats actually have the highest portion of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps your intestinal tract trap substances associated with blood cholesterol.  Studies show that people with high blood cholesterol who eat just 3 g of soluble fiber per day can reduce their total cholesterol by 8% to 23% (remember that one cup of oats yields 4 g)!

4. Shields your skin.

If you look closely on the labels of some of your lotions or face creams, you probably will see oatmeal in there. At some point in history, someone discovered how great oatmeal is for dry, itchy, irritated skin. The starchiness of oats creates a barrier that allows the skin to hold its moisture, while the rougher fibrous husk of the oat acts as a gentle exfoliant.

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5. Lowers risk of colon cancer.

Cancer of the colon is horrible and can be very painful. One study, pooled by researchers in Britain and the Netherlands, published evidence that there was a link between people who ate a high fiber diet (mainly from whole grains and cereals like oats) to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. This study also covered nearly 2 million people and specifically found that for every additional 10 grams of fiber in someone’s diet, there is a 10% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer!

6. Stabilizes blood sugar.

What does this mean? We have all experienced a “sugar crash”/ “mid morning slump” after a big meal or sugary breakfast; well, with oatmeal, this doesn’t happen as much. As a result of oatmeal’s high soluble fiber content, its sugar is released more slowly into the blood stream (aka, it has a low glycemic index). It’s important to note that steel cut oats will have more of an effect on stabilizing your blood sugar than instant oats, because they are less processed and thus have more soluble fiber. Another added bonus, is because it takes longer to digest, you will feel full longer—wahoo!

In my opinion, oatmeal’s low glycemic index is one of the best benefits. In fact, one study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition mentioned that diet producing a low glycemic response is associated with significantly less insulin resistance and significantly lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, risk of type 2 diabetes, and risk of coronary artery disease, than with a diet producing a high glycemic response.

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7. Athletic performance.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how beneficial oatmeal was in giving me energy before my swimming practices while on the National Team for my town. Oatmeal, is a great carbohydrate and protein source, providing calories and energy for energy needs. Oats have been shown in scientific studies to favorably alter metabolism and enhance performance when ingested 45 minutes to 1 hour before exercise of moderate intensity.

8. Enhances immune response to disease. 

Oatmeal has been heavily studied in relation to the immune system’s response to disease and infection. Essentially, because of oatmeal’s unique fiber called beta-glucan, it helps neutrophils travel to the site of an infection more quickly and enhances their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.

9. Helps you sleep.

Our society has ingrained in us that oatmeal is a breakfast food, although it is also a wise choice before bedtime. In fact, the Scottish recommend a bowl of oatmeal in the evening to get you feeling nice and sleepy.

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Why is oatmeal good before bed? Well, oats actually contain melatonin and complex carbohydrates that can help more tryptophan get into the brain and help you sleep, according to Dr.Oz. Furthermore, oatmeal contains many vitamins, including B6, which is a co-factor that also aids in the production of more serotonin in the brain.

10. Promotes antioxidant activity.

Oatmeal is loaded with antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are unique to oats. Antioxidants are important because they protect your cells from free radicals, which are molecules you produce through metabolism and exposure to environmental toxins. Free radicals increase your risk for cancer and heart disease because they are unstable.

Avenanthramides antioxidants inhibit inflammation and boost your production of nitric oxide, which prevents hardening of your arteries. In fact, a study published in 2010 in “Nutrition and Cancer” showed the avenanthramides in oats decreased the spread of colon cancer cells.

Lastly, it is important to know that there are many different types of oatmeal. Instant oatmeal, Oat Bran, Rolled Oats, Steel Cut Oats, Oat Groats, and so on. I find they all taste quite different and also have different nutritional value and cooking times. Often, steel cut oats are the most recommend for health benefits because they are loaded with more protein, iron and fiber, thus taking longer to digest—hence making you feel full for longer. However, if you are short on time in the morning, perhaps go with quick oats.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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