If you are a fitness enthusiast or are in a company of one, you must be privy to the numerous nutritional benefits of oats. Be it in breakfast, lunch or dinner, a bowlful of oatmeal is your key to good health and healthy weight loss.
While everyone is aware of it as a power breakfast, what people don’t know is that it benefits your skin too. Oatmeal is naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lipids, which justifies it as a superfood.
What are Oats and Why are they a Superfood?
Grains from the cereal plant, Avena Sativa, are called oats. Once harvested, these grains are either used as animal feed, skin products or food. The dietary fiber and minerals present in oats help stave off the risk of numerous dangerous conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In addition to this, oatmeal can also come in handy for a host of your skin and beauty needs.
Types of Oats
- Oat bran –This is the first part of the oat grain that is processed. It is ground from the hull, which is packed with fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium. It is quite low in calories and very easy to cook.
- Oat groats –These are what reside inside the hull of the oat grain. Its texture is similar to a thicker rice grain.
- Steel-cut oats –These are nothing but oat groats chopped into pieces. Also called Irish oats, they take about 20 minutes to cook on the stove top. One-fourth cup of steel-cut oats has the same nutritional value as half a cup of uncooked rolled oats (we will discuss this).
- Rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats) –Though these are the most processed of all types, they still hold good nutritional value. This is the type of oatmeal you would usually find in store-bought packets (unless specified otherwise). They become less chewy after cooking because of how thinly they have been rolled out.
- Oat flour –This is the flour ground from whole oat groats, Scottish oats, or steel-cut oats. It is ground until totally soft.
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 difference between steel-cut oats and rolled oats (the two common types) is that the former is cut into pieces, take the longest to cook, and have a toothsome and chewy texture. The latter look flat and irregularly round and can be cooked faster.
Dry oatmeal contains higher concentrations of other minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
How to Reap the Most Benefits
Oatmeal can soak up the excess oil on your skin and help treat acne. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to treat dry skin and remove dead skin cells. Oats also contain compounds called saponins, which are natural cleansers. They remove the dirt and oil that clog the pores and exfoliate the skin.
Conditions like eczema, psoriasis, chickenpox or just the basic dry skin can benefit a lot from oatmeal baths. The kind you put in your bath water isn’t the same type that you eat for breakfast. It’s called colloidal oatmeal. You can make your own or buy over-the-counter products.
Colloidal oatmeal binds to your skin and forms a protective barrier. It also helps hold in moisture and ease inflammation. If that isn’t enough, it cleans your skin, too. Find more information on how to use it here.
A bowl of oatmeal may do wonders for your acne. Oatmeal contains zinc that is said to reduce inflammation and kill the acne-causing bacterial action. Oatmeal can soak up the excess oil on your skin and help treat acne.
What to do: You just need to boil half a cup of oatmeal in one-third cup of water and allow it to cool. Apply the thick paste on the affected areas on your face. Leave it on for about 20 minutes, post which you can rinse with warm water. You can also make this mask with tomatoes or egg whites or onions. This is nothing but an oatmeal face wash that you can prepare right at your home.
Oatmeal is packed with chemical compounds called saponins, which are known for their natural cleansing activity. Black heads are nothing but clogged pores on your skin. Oatmeal helps to unclog the pores and gives you a smooth and clear skin.
What To Do: Take two tablespoons of oatmeal, three tablespoons of plain yogurt and a half lemon juice. Mix it well until you get a fine paste. Apply this on to your nose and the most affected area. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water.
Now you know that oatmeal’s saponins have intense exfoliating properties. It helps in removal of the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface, and gives you a fresh, glowing and youthful skin.
What To Do: Prepare a simple scrub of oatmeal, lukewarm water, sugar and coconut oil. Apply this scrub on your face and let it stay for 20 minutes. Clean your face with soft wet tissues. For best results, use the scrub at least twice in a week.
Surprisingly, oats have benefits for your hair too. The nutrients in them make your hair stronger and scalp healthier. They also make it shinier and silkier. It has properties that can help treat dandruff and also help prevent hair loss.
To make an oatmeal hair mask, you need 1 tablespoon each of oatmeal, fresh milk, and almond milk. Mix all the ingredients to form a smooth paste. You just need to ensure your hair is free from tangles before using this mask. Apply gently to your hair and leave it on for about 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
This mask strengthens the hair follicles and makes your hair stronger. Oats are also rich in omega-6 fatty acids that help fix damaged hair
Improve Cardiac Health
Oats contain a powerful fiber called beta-glucan 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.
According to another Australian study, oat fiber is more effective in lowering cholesterol levels than wheat fiber. The study also states that oatmeal or bran can indeed reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Aid in Diabetes Treatment
Oats have a low glycemic index, and their high fiber content helps regulate blood sugar levels. Also, oats, being rich in fiber, are digested slowly. Foods that are digested quick can cause quick blood sugar spikes – making it difficult to manage blood sugar spikes. Oatmeal makes the contents of the stomach much thicker, thereby making them get digested slowly. As per one study, oatmeal can also reduce insulin dosages.
Also, not all kinds of oats are good. Stay away from flavored or instant varieties – these are loaded with sugar and offer the opposite of what you are looking for. You can use oats as a replacement for breadcrumbs in your recipes.
May Help Relieve Constipation
Since oatmeal is rich in fiber, it also 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.
Help Treat Hypertension
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. For this purpose, you can choose cooked (non-instant) and organic oatmeal.
Addition of oats to the normal diet of hypertensive patients produced beneficial effects. The study concluded that soluble fiber-rich oats could be an effective dietary therapy to prevent and treat hypertension. Another study suggests that a diet rich in oats can reduce the need for antihypertensive medications.
Can Aid Weight Loss
Oats offer weight loss benefits – more so if you purchase plain oats without any added flavorings. Because packaged oatmeal comes loaded with sugar. Oats, as we already saw, are full of fiber. It can make you feel satiated for longer periods and discourage you from binging. As per a Taiwanese study, oats prevent obesity and the distribution of abdominal fat.
Instant oatmeal was also found to increase satiety and energy intake when compared to an oat-based ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. Which is why you can replace foods in your diet with oatmeal and stay full for longer. Simply put, oats can fill you up.
Studies have also found that a diet rich in whole grains like oats can help regulate body weight. High consumption of whole grains is inversely associated with body mass index.
Enhance Sleep Quality
The amino acids and other nutrients in oats help produce melatonin, the chemical that induces sleep. And when mixed with milk or honey, oats become a wonderful bedtime snack.
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. Oats are also rich in vitamin B6, which helps reduce stress (one major cause of sleeplessness). Combining oats with milk and bananas can further help your body relax.
Though oats are safe for most people (pregnant and breastfeeding women included), they can cause gas and bloating in some people. Applying oats to the skin can also cause breakouts. A couple of other side effects include:
Might Block the Intestine
If you have difficulty in chewing, avoiding oats is best. Poorly chewed oats can block the intestine and cause issues.
Avoid consuming oat products if you have any digestive ailments. They might get aggravated in some people. Consult your doctor.