Oatmeal is one of the healthiest grains on the planet. They are gluten-free whole grains and a great source of important vitamins minerals fiber and antioxidants.
Studies have shown that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include losing weight lowering blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Here are 9 evidence-based health benefits of eating oats and oatmeal.
What are oats and oatmeal?
Oatmeal is a whole grain food scientifically known as oats.
Oatmeal Hulled The most intact and whole oats take a long time to cook. For this reason most people prefer ground or steel cut oats.
Instant (instant) oats are the most processed variety. Although they take minimal time to cook the texture can be mushy.
Oatmeal is usually eaten for breakfast as oatmeal which is made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is often called porridge.
They are also often included in muffin granola bars and other baked goods.
Summary Oatmeal is a whole grain usually eaten as oatmeal (porridge) for breakfast.
1. Oats are incredibly nutritious
The nutritional content of oats is well balanced. They are a good source of carbohydrates and fiber including the powerful fiber beta-glucan.
They are also a good source of high-quality protein with a good balance of essential amino acids.
Oats are rich in important vitamins minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. Half a cup (78 grams) of dry oats contains:
- Manganese: 63.91% of the daily value (DV)
- Phosphorus: 13.3% of the DV
- Magnesium: 13.3% of the DV
- Copper: 17.6% of the DV
- Iron: 9.4% of the DV
- Zinc: 13.4% of the DV
- Folate: 3.24% of the DV
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 15.5% of the DV
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 9.07% of the DV
- Small amounts of calcium potassium vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
1 cup of oats contains 51 grams of carbohydrates 13 grams of protein 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber. The same serving has only 303 calories.
This means that oats are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.
Summary Oats are high in carbohydrates and fiber but also higher in protein and fat than most other grains. They are rich in many vitamins and minerals.
2. Whole oats are rich in antioxidants including avenamides
Whole oats are rich in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenamides which are found almost exclusively in oats.
Both old and new studies have found that oats can help lower blood pressure levels by increasing nitric oxide production. This gas molecule helps dilate (widen) blood vessels and lead to better blood flow.
Additionally avenamide has anti-inflammatory and antipruritic properties.
Summary Oats contain many powerful antioxidants including avenamide. These compounds may help lower blood pressure and provide other benefits.
3. Oats contain a powerful soluble fiber called beta-glucan
Oats contain high amounts of beta-glucan a type of soluble fiber. Beta-glucans partially dissolve in water and form a thick gel-like solution in your intestines.
The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include:
- Lower LDL and total cholesterol levels
- Reduce blood sugar and insulin response
- Increase satiety
- Increases the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract
Summary Oats are rich in soluble fiber beta-glucan which has many benefits. It helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases satiety.
4. They lower cholesterol levels and protect LDL cholesterol from damage
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. A major risk factor is high blood cholesterol.
Numerous studies have shown that the beta-glucan fiber in oats is effective in lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Beta-glucan may increase the release of cholesterol-rich bile thereby reducing circulating levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Oatmeal also protects LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation.
Oxidation occurs when LDL (bad) cholesterol reacts with free radicals. This is another critical step in the progression of heart disease. It creates inflammation in the arteries damages tissue and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Summary Oatmeal may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as protecting LDL from oxidation.
5. Oats can improve blood sugar control
Type 2 diabetes is a common health condition characterized by markedly elevated blood sugar. It is usually due to decreased sensitivity to the hormone insulin.
Oats may help lower blood sugar levels especially in people who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes. Beta-glucans in oats and barley may also improve insulin sensitivity.
However a randomized clinical trial in 2016 found no improvement in insulin sensitivity so further research is needed.
These effects are primarily attributable to the ability of beta-glucans to form thick gels that delay gastric emptying and glucose absorption into the bloodstream.
Summary Oatmeal can improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels due to the soluble fiber beta-glucan.
6. Oatmeal is filling and can help you lose weight
Oatmeal (porridge) is not only a delicious breakfast food it’s also very filling.
Eating filling foods can help you reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.
The beta-glucans in oatmeal may increase your feeling of fullness by delaying the time your stomach empties out of food.
Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY (PYY) a hormone produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone has been shown to reduce calorie intake and may reduce your risk of obesity.
Summary Oatmeal can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller. It does this by slowing gastric emptying and increasing the production of the satiety hormone PYY.
7. Ground Oatmeal Helps Skin Care
It’s no coincidence that oats can be found in many skin care products. Manufacturers of these products often label ground oats as “colloidal oatmeal.”
Back in 2003 the FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant. But in fact oatmeal has a long history of treating itching and irritation in a variety of skin conditions.
For example oatmeal-based skin products can improve the discomfort of eczema.
Note that skin care benefits only apply to oatmeal applied to the skin not oatmeal consumed.
Summary Colloidal oatmeal (ground oats) has long been used to help treat dry and itchy skin. It may help relieve symptoms of various skin conditions including eczema.
8. They may lower the risk of asthma in children
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children.
It is an inflammatory disease of the airways — the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs.
Although not all children have the same symptoms many children have recurrent coughing wheezing and shortness of breath.
Earlier research has shown that early introduction of oats for example can actually protect children from asthma.
One study reported that feeding infants oatmeal before 6 months of age was associated with a lower risk of childhood asthma
Summary Some research suggests that oats may help prevent childhood asthma when fed to small babies.
9. Oats may help relieve constipation
People of all ages and groups experience constipation. This refers to rare irregular bowel movements that are difficult to pass.
Constipation affects nearly 16 out of 100 adults and about 33 out of 100 adults 60 and older.
Research suggests that oat bran the fiber-rich outer layer of grains may help relieve constipation in older adults.
One trial found improved well-being among 30 older adults who drank a soup or dessert containing oat bran daily for 12 weeks.
What’s more 59 percent of these people were able to stop using laxatives after the 3-month study compared with an 8 percent increase in overall laxative use in the control group.
Oat bran has also been shown to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and aid digestion in people with ulcerative colitis.
However while the soluble fiber in oats is generally effective for constipation it has been found to be less effective for opioid-induced constipation because it does not affect colonic motility that the drug may suppress.
Summary Studies have shown that oat bran can help reduce constipation in older adults significantly reducing the need for laxatives.