(NaturalHealth365) Oats have a very humble origin and may not be getting the acclaim they deserve. They were the last of the major cereal grains to be domesticated and originated as weeds – which grew within cultivated fields of other crops. Oats were a “lowly” horse food and even today less than 5% of the oats grown are for human consumption.
As of today, oats are mainly used as horse feed despite the fact that studies have linked oat bran (the outer hard layer of the oat kernel) to lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
Heart healthy scientific news
In the late 1990’s, the FDA approved the first heart-healthy claim for all products made from whole oats, by stating that soluble fiber from whole oats as part of a diet low in fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain.
Oats, oat bran and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Since the early 1960’s, studies have proven the beneficial effects of this fiber on cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that in individuals with high cholesterol levels, consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day – typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. Imagine what one bowl of oatmeal per day could do for you.
Reduce oxidative stress (naturally) with a healthy diet
A study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition is another example of how natural foods prevent disease. Did you know that the antioxidant compounds unique to oats called avenanthramides can prevent free radicals from ruining your health? The less free radical damage within your body – the better!
In another study conducted at Tufts and published in Atherosclerosis, researchers exposed human arterial wall cells to purified avenanthramides from oats for 24 hours and found that these phenols suppressed the production of molecules involved with certain immune cells called monocytes – the first step toward developing atherosclerosis.
A healthy diet is found to boost immunity
It has been found that a bowl of oatmeal boosts immune response and morning energy levels. In laboratory studies reported in Surgery, beta-glucan significantly enhances the human immune system response to bacterial infection.
Other studies have shown that beta-glucan has beneficial effects on diabetes. Oats contain insoluble and soluble fiber, which helps make you feel satisfied longer. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose, which keeps sugar spikes and dips at bay.
Variety is the key to a healthy diet
To get the full spectrum of benefits from eating oats it helps to mix and match the different types of oats. Oat grains have an outer covering of bran that is located at the bottom of the grain. The bran is the source of fiber and the vitamins (B and E) and protein, the starchy inner part is the source of the energy.
The whole grain oats are known as groats. Steel-oats, called Irish or Scottish oats, are natural, unrefined oat groats – which have been sliced into smaller pieces. Since very little heat is used in this process, they retain more of the cholesterol lowering bran.
The best way to use oats is to incorporate all the varieties into your diet – this includes: oat groats, oat brain, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats and oat flour. Each of these offer some of the goodness of the whole oats, as you progress down the list the oats become more processed and take less time to cook. To ensure that you are the recipient of all the grains heart healthy properties, it pays to mix it up a little.
From a bowl of McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal, to Bob’s Red Mill “Scottish” oatmeal for breakfast to adding oats and oat flour to baked goods – there are so many ways to discover the wonderful nutty flavor of oats. And remember, always choose organic whenever possible. Do you have a favorite way of enjoying oats? Post your comments below.
About the author: Blanche Levine has been a student of natural healing modalities for the last 25 years. She had the privilege of working with some of the greatest minds in Natural Healing including Naturopaths, Scientist, and Energy Healers. Having seen people miraculously heal from all kinds of dis-ease through non-invasive methods, her passion now is to help people become aware of what it takes to be healthy.