Oatmeal is a go-to daily breakfast for young and old as it’s filling and nutritious. While it often gets a bad rap for being a little boring, there many ways to enjoy oats. Even if it’s not your favorite food staple, you may want to consider adding it to your daily diet just for the health benefits.
From lowering cholesterol to improving your skin, we will tell you everything you need to know about oats.
What Are Oats?
Oat cultivation has a long history that reportedly dates back to Ancient China, and the Greeks were known to eat porridge oats, which we know better, today, as oatmeal. The oat plant is a grain that thrives in Northern Europe, throughout the Midwest in the U.S., and parts of Canada.
Many people assume that the oats that make up a bowl of oatmeal are the only type of oats. While all oats come from the oat groat, which is the seed of the oat plant (with the hulls removed), there are many ways to buy and consume the hearty grain.
Whole Oat Groats
You might consider whole oat groats as the “rawest” form. As we mentioned above, a groat is the seed of the oat plant, and at first glance, they may look very similar to long grain rice. Groats may not be easy to find at your local grocery store, but you’re likely to find them at a health food store.
Harvesting oat groats is a pretty simple process as it consists of harvesting, cleaning, and removing the hulls. The cooking time and preparation involved varies among different types of oats; groats take the longest to cook due to their unprocessed state.
Although steel-cut oatmeal has been a morning staple for centuries, it has gained in popularity within the last decade or so. Sometimes referred to as Irish oatmeal, a steel cut oat is a groat cut into a few pieces with a sharp metal blade. Since the groat is cut into smaller pieces, it can absorb more quickly and the cook time is shorter.
A similar style of oatmeal is called Scottish oatmeal. Rather than cutting the groats with a steel blade, a stone-grind method is used. The groats end up a variety of sizes, which may attribute to a creamier consistency when cooked.
The Rolled Oat
If you eat oatmeal or use it in baking, there’s good chance that you use a type of rolled oat. Often known as old-fashioned oats, the groats are steamed and rolled into flakes. This process helps the oat cook faster and stay fresh for a more extended period.
A quick or instant rolled oat is essentially oat flakes. Quick or instant oatmeal is definitely convenient, but many people dislike oatmeal due to the texture of instant oatmeal. Many worry that nutrients are lost, but like other types, they remain whole grain oats with nutrition.
Wondering which ones are the best oats to eat? Due to minimal processing and more fiber, many experts encourage people to eat more steel oatmeal, but all types offer many of the same nutritional benefits.
Benefits Of Eating More Oats
Even if you rarely eat a bowl of oatmeal, you may know someone who eats a bowl every morning, year-round. Are they just creatures of habit or are they on to something? Here are some of the most common benefits associated with eating oat grain.
A Natural Food With No Preservatives
Look at the nutritional content on a box of “natural” cereal, and you may think twice about eating a bowl full every morning. Many cereals have added sugars and other ingredients that provide little nutritional value.
Eating a bowl of oatmeal is as natural and simple as you can get, but it all depends what type of oat you eat and if you add any extras to your bowl. Instant oatmeal often contains dried fruits and flavoring, so this option is less healthy than cooking up plain steel oatmeal.
Adding honey, fresh fruit, cinnamon, milk, nuts, or even a little maple syrup might make your bowl of oatmeal more enjoyable without sacrificing any of the nutritional value.
Packed With Nutrients
Fewer grains offer a full profile of nutrition than a bowl of oatmeal. In just one serving of oatmeal, which is one-half cup of uncooked oats, you get essential vitamins and minerals like manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamins B1 and B5, and folate. They are also a healthy source of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber.
Oatmeal is an excellent option for people who have busy schedules and don’t always have the chance to eat nutrient-rich meals throughout the day.
A Good Food For Heart Health
Look at any package of oatmeal, and you might notice a little red heart on the packaging. Eating a daily bowl of oatmeal might keep your heart healthier. Beta-glucan, a specific type of fiber found in oat grain, is effective at lowering LDL levels or your “bad” cholesterol.
Since high levels of LDL can cause inflammation in the arteries and damage tissues, the risk of heart disease increases. Eating a diet full of beta-glucan fiber can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A Healthy Option For Individuals With Diabetes
Eating oats may be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that eating oat grain may help decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, due to the healthy beta-glucan fiber.
Lowers Your Risk Of Certain Cancers
The antioxidants in a bowl of oatmeal may help fight cancer and reduce your risk of having breast, prostate, or ovarian cancer. While some research shows that antioxidant supplements may do more harm than good, a diet full of antioxidant-rich foods may help reduce your risk of cancer.
Many people, who want to lose weight, struggle with finding a low-calorie breakfast that is nutritious, not loaded with preservatives, provides enough energy and keeps one feeling fuller for a more extended period.
A bowl of oatmeal in the morning can help prevent hunger cravings and maintain a feeling of being full, which is essential when trying to limit caloric intake and losing weight. It’s important to note that if you are counting calories, you should choose any oatmeal add-ins wisely, as they can add a lot of unnecessary calories.
Maintain Digestive Health
While eating oatmeal every morning may not be as exciting as eating bacon, waffles, and other delectable breakfast foods, the fiber-rich food can help your digestive system efficiently and regularly.
Diet changes can cause constipation and irregular bowels, but foods that are rich in fiber can help maintain regular and healthy bowel movements without relying on laxatives or other OTC remedies.
Home Remedy For Skin Irritation
If you struggle with treating your eczema or other skin irritations, taking an oatmeal bath may help treat skin irritation. Just as oatmeal has a long history as a food staple, its use for treating irritated skin is not new either.
If you have itchy skin (and no other serious symptoms), try taking an oatmeal bath. Experts advise mixing one cup of finely powdered oatmeal (also known as colloidal oatmeal) in your lukewarm bath. Soak in the tub for about 20 to 30 minutes each day and try this remedy for one month.
You can also find a variety of natural recipes for DIY face masks and other skin care products that use oatmeal as an ingredient. If you aren’t interested in making your own, you can find many products in the skin care aisle that use colloidal oatmeal.
Oatmeal Is Inexpensive
While not much of a health benefit, the affordable price of eating oatmeal might be beneficial to you. Although steel oatmeal may cost more than instant oatmeal, you’re still saving money in the long-term if you compare the prices of boxed cereal or eating breakfast at a restaurant every day.
Incorporating Oat Grain Into Your Diet
While eating oatmeal is one of the best ways to reap the nutritional value and other health benefits of the hearty grain, oatmeal isn’t the only source of oats. Many people, as hard as they try, can’t get used to the texture of oatmeal. If you’ve “jazzed” up your morning bowl of oatmeal to no avail, don’t worry, you can still incorporate oat grain into your daily diet.
Browse the web, and you’ll find a ton of recipes that use some type of oat. Try eating an oat bread or using oat grain as a substitution for breadcrumbs. Make a batch of granola or make cookies. Get experimental and creative in the kitchen; oatmeal doesn’t need to be your only option.