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The Health Benefits of Oats
The ancient Romans regarded oats as a weed fit only for horses and Barbarians. Scottish settlers introduced oats to the US in the 1600’s, and today Russia is the largest producer of oats. A mere 5% of the oats grown worldwide is used for human consumption, and is most commonly used as feed for horses.
Nutrients in Oats
Oats are a good source of magnesium, selenium, manganese and phosphorous. Oats are also a good source of vitamin B1 and dietary fiber. The protein in oats is almost equivalent to the quality of soy protein, and combined with the dietary fiber, makes it the ideal food to start the day with.
The more processed the oats are, the less nutritious. Different stages of processing oats:
- Oat groats. This is the whole oat grain, with only the outer hull removed. Oat groats are extremely nutritious, but they need to be soaked and cooked a long time. Oat groats are usually processed into one of the other forms below.
- Steel-cut oats. Produced by running groats through steel cutters, chopping the groats into smaller pieces and creating a chewy texture. Steel-cut oats still contain the whole grain and oat bran, and are also very nutritious.
- Rolled oats or old-fashioned oats. Steaming groats and then flattening them with a roller make rolled oats.
- Quick-cooking oats. Steaming and flattening steel-cut oats make quick-cooking oats.
- Instant oatmeal. Produced by rolling more thinly and steaming longer or partially cooking the oats. Instant oatmeal will also have salt, sugar, and in some cases artificial sweeteners added to it.
|Oats||Nutritional value per
100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy||1,628 kJ (389 kcal)|
|* Carbohydrates||66 g|
|Dietary fiber||11 g|
|* Fat||7 g|
|* Protein||17 g|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||1.3 mg|
|* Folate (Vit. B9)||56 ?g|
|* Iron||5 mg|
|* Magnesium||177 mg|
A comprehensive breakdown of nutrients can be found in the Nutrition Database where this food can also be added to a meal planner.
Over recent years it has been demonstrated that consumption of rolled oats (in amounts of about 125-150 g per day), or oat bran in smaller amounts, will lower blood cholesterol levels, especially in people who have high initial levels.
Oats has become popular as healthy food due to its dietary fiber being high in beta-glucan, which helps to lower cholesterol. In individuals with high cholesterol levels, consumption of the equivalent of 3gr of soluble oat fiber per day lowers cholesterol by 8 – 23 percent.
Foods high in soluble gums and pectins appear to lower the amount of cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the particles that carry cholesterol into your arteries, in your blood, a task beta-glucans performs more effectively than any other soluble fiber. There are currently two theories to explain how soluble fibers work. The first is that the pectins in the oats may form a gel in your stomach that sops up fats keep them from being absorbed by your body. The second is that bacteria in the gut may feed on the fiber in the oats and produce short chain fatty acids that inhibit the production of cholesterol in your liver.
Cereal grains are digested very slowly, producing only a gradual rise in the level of sugar in the blood. As a result, the body needs less insulin to control blood sugar after eating plain, unadorned cereal grains than after eating some other high-carbohydrate foods such as bread or potato. In studies at the University of Kentucky, a whole-grain, bean, vegetable, and fruit-rich diet developed at the University of Toronto and recommended by the American Diabetes Association enabled patients with type 1 diabetes (who do not produce any insulin themselves), to cut their daily insulin intake by 38 percent.
A study of adults with type 2 diabetes who consumed foods high in oat fiber, experienced a much lower rise in blood sugar than other participants who ate rice or bread. The beta-glucan in oats increases the viscosity of the contents of the stomach, thereby slowing down digestion and prolonging the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
A reduction in serum cholesterol levels decreases the risk of developing heart disease.
A 1990 study at the University of Kentucky showed that adding 1/2 cup oat bran (measured when dry) to your daily diet can reduce levels of LDLs by as much as 25 percent. A second study, with 220 healthy people, at the Medical School of Northwestern University, showed that people with cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL could reduce total cholesterol an average 9.3 percent by following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet supplemented by two ounces of oats or oat bran. The oats were given credit for about one-third of the drop in cholesterol levels; the rest went to the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
In the USA the Food and Drug Administration have allowed a health claim to this effect; a sample claim would be: Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3g of soluble fiber from whole oats per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2004 the JHCI in the UK allowed a similar claim: The inclusion of oats as part of a diet low in saturated fat and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce blood cholesterol.
A study at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, supported previous reports that a diet rich in whole grains such as oats is beneficial in the prevention of heart disease.
In another study at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, it was determined that consumption of whole grains may contribute to favorable metabolic alterations that may reduce long-term weight gain.
Avenanthramides are phenolic antioxidants, which are present in oats, and have the potential to reduce plaque build in the artery walls, and may contribute to the prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
Oats contain small amounts of gliadin. Celiac disease is an intestinal allergic disorder whose victims are sensitive to gluten and gliadin, proteins in wheat and rye . People with celiac disease cannot digest the nutrients in these grains.
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