Avena sativa, commonly known as oats, is a species of cereal grain widely known to be a health food loaded with nutritious properties and the ability to lower the harmful effects of cholesterol. Oats are packed with dietary fibre -- they contain more fibre than any other grain -- and contain vitamins of the B-family like B-1, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B-6 and folate. These vitamins play a vital role in metabolising carbohydrates, proteins, fats and nucleic acids from your food.
Oats are a hardy crop that when harvested can be stored for long periods of time, making them available throughout the year. Commercially they are sold as oatmeal, rolled oats, steel cut oats or oat bran (which is the outer casing of the oats intact). Their distinctive nutty, grain-like texture and taste comes from being roasted post-harvest. The great thing about oats is that despite being hulled, they withstand the process and retain their bran and germ, which accounts for most of the fibre and nutrient content remaining intact.
Here are four compelling reasons why you should include oats in your everyday diet.
1. Lower cholesterol
Consuming oatmeal for breakfast, either in the form of a sweet or savoury porridge or even in a smoothie, is an excellent way to kick-start your day. Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain beta-glucan, a type of fibre that has been proved to have tremendous benefits. Consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fibre per day is seen to lower cholesterol significantly, making it great way to fight plaque build-up in your blood vessels and thus help protect yourself from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
2. Additional antioxidants
Avenanthramides are a unique antioxidant compound in oats and are known to prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). This further reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Stabilise blood sugar
Beta-glucan is also seen to positively affect patients fighting diabetes. Type 2 diabetes patients who consumed oats in the form of oatmeal and oat bran-rich foods tend to present lower spikes in blood sugar compared to those who subsist on white rice and wheat. Note that consuming a blood sugar-stabilising food such as oats at the start of the day helps keep blood sugar levels under control for the rest of the day.
4. A great alternative to wheat
Oats contain more soluble fibre than any other grain, slowing down digestion and break up of sugars. This contributes to a feeling of satiety, making it a great alternative for gluten-intolerant individuals. It is known to stay in the stomach longer, which eventually lessens hunger and cravings too. Oatmeal is not only great for people unable to digest gluten, but also those who are looking to reduce the amount of complex carbs in their diet, without going hungry.
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