Oats gained a special distinction as a super food back in 1997 when the Food and Drug Administration made the claim that there is an association between a diet high in oats and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. With that announcement, oats, oatmeal, oat bran, and oat flour skyrocketed in popularity amount the whole grains, placing it right up there in the top 10 super foods. Let’s take a look at what else this well known, but not totally understood, grain has to offer.
We know that oats, along with other whole grains, provide protection against heart disease, potentially extending the lifespan of people who include this food regularly in their diets. That would seem to be enough of a reason to add oats to your diet, but there’s more. This is a high fiber, high protein food that’s low in calories and rich in important vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, and selenium.
Beta glucan is the main ingredient responsible for lowering serum cholesterol levels. Oats also contain special antioxidants called avenanthramides. Together these two elements have been shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels when oats are consumed on a regular basis.
Oats have a low glycemic index which means the energy from this food burns slowly and stays with you to satisfy your hunger for a longer period of time. Having nutrients released slowly into the bloodstream and throughout the body helps stabilize blood sugar levels, eliminating the spikes which can cause many health problems, concentration problems, and dieting problems. In addition, the B vitamins contribute to strong healthy skin, nails, and hair.
Along with other whole grains, studies have found that consuming oats can aid in the battle against breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and asthma in children. With this sort of super food on your side, why wouldn’t you eat it?
Oats are an inexpensive and widely available grain that can be easily incorporated into meals at any time of day. Oats are easy to store in containers or airtight bags, and have a very long shelf life.
A bowl of hot cereal in the morning is the most familiar way oats are served. Whether you buy raw oatmeal or quick cooking, you are starting off with a good basis for nutrition. Vary the toppings and you vary the recipe enough to eat servings of oatmeal a number of times each week without getting bored. Add berries, nuts, stevia, or protein powders to boost the flavor and superpowers of your oatmeal.
Besides breakfast cereal, there are a number of other ways to incorporate oats into your daily diet. Oats can provide a toasty coating for baked or broiled fish, and are often used to make hearty muffins, cookies, and other desserts. Don’t forget about convenient trail mixes or granola bars. Oats are often the central ingredient in those tasty treats.
Mixing oatmeal in as a binder in ground meat for burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs is another way to ‘sneak’ more nutrition into your diet. Oats also play center stage in a number of bread recipes, whether as a main ingredient or to add just a bit of heartiness and crunch.
As part of your healthy diet, incorporating up to three servings of whole grains a day is recommended by many nutritionists and health experts. Oats provide enough significant benefits for healthy living to make them a vital part of your good diet.
Image: flickr user Matt Lavin, licensed by Creative Commons