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The Health Benefits of Oats

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

March 1, 2021

March is the colorectal (CRC) cancer awareness month. CRC is the third most commonly occurring cancer among both men and women in the United States and it is also one of the most preventable. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) research shows that Americans can prevent nearly half of colorectal cancer cases every year through eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, staying a healthy weight, avoiding processed meats, limiting alcohol, and enjoying plenty of garlic. 

The most recent report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that foods containing dietary fiber, especially whole grains, decrease the risk of CRC.  Some examples of whole grains are barley, brown rice, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, or whole-wheat crackers. In this bulleting will discuss some of the health benefits of eating oats. 

Oats are a whole grain food, rich in fiber and other nutrients. The oats that are available on the market have many different flavors and cooking times, which make them perfect for different lifestyles and personal preferences. One cup of cooked oatmeal in water provides, on average, 154 calories, 27 grams (g) of carbs, 4 g of fiber, and 2 g of beta-glucans according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oats contain many essential amino acids. Oats are a natural source of fiber, vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, phenolic compounds and beta-glucans. In addition, oats possess significant levels of antioxidants, mainly due to the presence of tocopherols, tocotrienols, phytic acid, lignins, and phenolic compounds, including avenanthramides.

Oats and Cardiovascular Diseases

Among cereals, only barley and oats contain Avenanthramides (Avn), a unique group of approximately 40 different types of phenolic compounds. Avn have antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-atherosclerotic effects, which may aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. 

Oats are also a natural source of B-glucans. B-glucans are a viscous soluble fiber that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL; known as bad cholesterol), and improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL; known as good cholesterol). They also improve the function of blood vessels. Some studies have shown that in patients with high cholesterol, these positive effects may be achieved from 3 grams of B-glucans per day, but more studies are needed to confirm this. One interesting fact is that raw oats provide more B-glucans than cooked oats. Have you heard about overnight oats 

Oats and Diabetes

B-glucans may have a moderately beneficial effect on blood glucose control by decelerating starch digestion and absorption of glucose in the intestine, while simultaneously delaying gastric emptying. Some studies have found a small reduction in glucose levels after consuming a meal with 4 g of B-glucans, from barley or oats, for every 30 g of available carbohydrates, per meal.

Oats and Satiety 

Chewing foods high in dietary fiber requires time and effort, which gives enough time for the brain to start receiving signals of satiety – or, feeling full. Fiber rich foods delay gastric emptying. Delayed gastric emptying increases satiety and reduces the absorption rate of nutrients. Intestinal contents with increased viscosity (such as oatmeal) prolong the intestinal transit time, which may cause more satiety. Dietary fiber allows the formation of short-chain fatty acids in the large intestine. These acids influence hormones that regulate satiety, gut health, inflammation, and blood sugar levels.

No matter if you eat oatmeal because you like it or because you are looking to improve your health, whole-grain oats are a healthy addition to your diet and a great source of fiber. According to the American Heart Association, half of the average American adult’s daily grain intake should consist of whole grains to improve general health, reduce cardiovascular risk, and reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer, among other conditions.

In lieu of a recipe this week, we would like to recommend you try the RXBAR oats. It comes in four flavors: Maple, Apple Cinnamon, Vanilla Almond, and Chocolate. This product is high in fiber (>20% daily needs), low in sodium, has 12 grams of proteins (equivalent to eating two eggs), and has zero added sugars, as they use dates as a natural sweetener. It also has a great taste! 

Due to its particular ingredients and characteristics (high fiber, complex carbs, protein content), this product will keep you full until lunch time and shouldn’t spike your blood sugar, therefore you should not feel sluggish after eating it. In summary…it could be a fantastic addition to your day!

References:

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/112/3/603/5867027 

https://www.aicr.org/news/6-steps-to-protect-yourself-from-colorectal-cancer/#:~:text=AICR,-Email%20Twitter%20Facebook&text=Here%20in%20the%20US%2C%20colorectal,and%20staying%20a%20healthy%20weight.

http://www.historyofcereals.com/cereal-history/history-of-oatmeal/

https://www.semissourian.com/story/1805569.html

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228332079_Oats_and_health_benefits

https://www.nestle.com.au/asset-library/documents/cpw017%20oats%20for%20health%20booklet%20spreads.pdf

https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2017/10_17/EU10_2017_WuF_Glei_englisch.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5752969/

http://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/162321.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757923/pdf/nuv063.pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2012.00189.x/pdf

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/785462/nutrients 

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