Oats (Avena sativa) are a cereal commonly eaten in the form of oatmeal or rolled oats. According to some research, they may have a range of potential health benefits.
Fiber describes the portion of plant materials in the diet which humans cannot digest. It is an important component in maintaining gastrointestinal (GI) health by regulating transit time through the GI tract and adding bulk, increasing a feeling of fullness and preventing constipation.
There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes a viscous gel as it moves through the GI tract and is fermented by bacteria. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, acts as a bulking agent, and is not fermented by bacteria. Oatmeal contains both types and has the largest proportion of soluble fiber of any grain in the form of beta-glucan.
Oats contain a form of soluble fibre called oat beta-glucan which is particularly concentrated in the outer layers of the grain. Oat beta glucan have been research extensively and some of the health benefits include: reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases feelings of fullness.
Oat beta glucan is a form of soluble fiber which stays in the stomach longer and helps you feel fuller, longer. This can prevent overeating, which may help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid the health problems associated with being overweight.
The beta glucan in oatmeal has been shown to decrease low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or “bad cholesterol” by 10-15%, particularly when consumed as part of a low-fat diet. Studies show fiber can also decrease risk of high blood pressure and reduces risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
The water soluble properties of beta-glucan help control blood sugar by slowing down digestion time, which can help diabetics achieve better glycemic control and prevent insulin resistance.
A high fiber diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. One cup (81 grams) of dry oats contains 7.5 grams of fiber, the recommended daily intake of fiber is 18 grams for women and 25 grams for men in SIngapore.
Types of Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a ground porridge made from oats. Steel-cut oats still contain the whole oat grain, including the oat bran. They are passed through steel cutters, which chop them into pieces.
Rolled oats are de-hulled then steamed, which partially cooks the oat, and then flattened between two rollers. They are sometimes referred to as old fashioned oats.
Instant oats are produced the same way as rolled oats, but they are steamed for a longer period of time to completely cook them before the drying process. Instant oats often have sweeteners or flavors added to them.
As a general rule, the less processed the oats are, the more fiber they contain and the more health benefits can be gained from eating them.
Oats don't contain gluten, however, they are often grown in the same fields as wheat or barley, and these crops can sometimes contaminate oats with gluten. Therefore, those who have celiac disease may have to exercise caution when eating oats, and eat gluten free oats that have been harvested in dedicated gluten free oat farms and production lines.