How do you start off your day? Maybe it’s with a cup of coffee and a couple of pieces of toast, but you’re digging into the snack jar just a couple of hours later, and maybe your digestion isn’t that great. Good news. There’s an easy way to improve a variety of health issues and it’s as simple as a bowl of oatmeal. For example, it can actually treat some of the most common skin problems, like acne and eczema. How? Oatmeal has a wide variety of vitamins and trace elements in its composition like zinc, manganese, and magnesium, which all help to cleanse the skin and remove toxins and other harmful compounds. But that’s just the beginning.
You know that your muscles need protein, and most of the time when you hear the word “protein” you think of meat. That’s not always the case. One serving of oatmeal gives your body 15% of the recommended daily amount of protein. In addition to having good complex carbs and protein, oatmeal also contains nutrients that the body uses for building muscle. Pair it up with a hard-boiled egg and you’re well on your way to getting in adequate protein for the day. Or, as I do every morning, make it with cashew/almond milk, add in a cup of pumpkin and a TBSP of almond butter or tahini for increased protein. Delicious!
Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Specifically, there is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats. Why are they important? Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This gas molecule helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow. In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects. Win-win!
You know the feeling — it’s only 10am and you’re already starting to nod off at your desk and that extra cup of coffee (and maybe a sugary donut) will only give you a quick boost before you come crashing down again. If you had oatmeal for breakfast, you could avoid that whole situation. Oatmeal is rich in carbohydrates and provides more energy for the body, and because of the fiber, you’ll feel fuller longer. Who doesn’t want more energy?
Speaking of feeling full, eating oats could aid in your weight loss journey, if that’s your goal. Not only is oatmeal delicious, it’s also very filling. By delaying the time it takes your stomach to empty of food, the beta-glucan in oatmeal may increase your feeling of fullness. Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY, a hormone produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone has been shown to lead to reduced calorie intake and may decrease your risk of obesity. And that’s not all…
Oatmeal contains something called linoleic acid and soluble fiber, which helps to lower the level of triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood. These nutrients “clean” the remains of fat from the walls of the arteries and protect our body from the development of such serious diseases as atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Think of oatmeals as your medicine, and you could be well on your way to lowered cholesterol without the aid of medication.
Oats contain a powerful fiber called beta-glucan, mentioned above, that helps lower cholesterol levels. Beta-glucan is the main component of the soluble fiber in oats, and it reduces bad cholesterol without affecting the levels of good cholesterol. The antioxidants in oats (avenanthramides and phenolic acids) work along with vitamin C to prevent LDL oxidation, which can also cause heart disease. Oats — they do a heart good! And not just the heart…
About half of the fiber in oatmeal is soluble, which means it functions with the help of water. When soluble fiber merges with water, it creates a gel. This material is slow-moving, delaying digestion of food. As a result, vitamins, minerals and other nourishing elements get adequate time to be absorbed through intestinal walls. That slow-moving sludge even delays sugar absorption, keeping your blood glucose at a more stable level. In other words, your gut will be happy.
Oats have a low glycemic index, and their high fiber content helps regulate blood sugar levels. And because oats are rich in fiber, they’re digested slowly. Foods that are digested quick can cause quick blood sugar spikes – making it difficult to manage blood sugar spikes. The key here is that you have to eat your oats in the most natural way possible. Buying sugar-loaded pre-packaged varieties or adding in tons of brown sugar will have the opposite effect.
Look, it happens. Sometimes you just can’t go when you really want to go. Thankfully oatmeal can help get things moving thanks to the fiber. Since oatmeal is rich in fiber, it can help relieve constipation. Oats were also found to increase stool weight, thereby treating constipation. They can even play a protective role against colorectal cancer. Plus, the warm liquid you consume can help to move things along, much like a cup of hot tea or coffee.
Let’s talk about your blood pressure. Consuming oats was found to reduce systolic blood pressure by 7.5 points and diastolic blood pressure by 5.5 points. It not only reduces your blood pressure, but also cuts the risk of heart disease by 22 percent. In addition, oatmeal is also known as a comfort food. It naturally reduces the levels of stress hormones and boosts serotonin, which brings on a feeling of calm. Plus, it’s just delicious.
Is everyone around you sneezing and stuck curled up on the couch with the flu? I’m not saying that eating oatmeal every day makes you immune to these germs, but it sure as heck helps your chances of not getting sick. A majority of immune cells in your body have special receptors that are designed to absorb beta-glucan, which we know is contained in oatmeal. This increases the activity of the white blood cells and protects against disease. Oats are also rich in selenium and zinc that play a part in fighting infections. But what about your bones?
Given the fact that your bones literally make up the frame of your body, it stands to reason that bone health should be of the utmost importance to you. And if you haven’t already guessed, oats can help in that area, too. Oats offer a host of minerals essential for bone health, most notably silicon. This mineral has a role to play in bone formation and maintenance, and can also aid in the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
If you don’t sleep well, it’s hard to do anything else well. Enter oatmeal. The amino acids and other nutrients in oats help produce melatonin, the chemical that induces sleep. Whole grain oats also promote insulin production, which helps the neural pathways receive tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that acts as a sedative to the brain, one most people associate with turkey. Oats are also rich in vitamin B6, which helps reduce stress — something that can cause those sleepless nights. It’s the perfect bedtime snack.
And finally, we’re using oats ON the body instead of IN the body. For relieving the itchiness caused by poison ivy or chicken pox, cook a small amount of oatmeal and apply it directly to the skin as a paste. Make sure to cook it very thick so that the paste will stick to the skin. Put the oatmeal on the skin while it is very warm, as the heat from the oatmeal will eventually cool, leaving the skin dry and relieved. Is there anything oats CAN’T do?