Get your day started on the right foot by enjoying a warm, delicious bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals that protect your health and give you the energy you need for your busy day. Cook your oatmeal with milk and add fresh fruit or nuts to your breakfast dish for added nutrients.
Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
Oats have the highest amount of soluble fiber than any other grain. There is no dietary reference intake for soluble fiber, but the University of California San Francisco Medical Center recommends that you have 6 to 8 grams a day. A one-half cup serving of dry oatmeal contains 2 grams of soluble fiber, which is one-quarter to one-third of that recommendation. Soluble fiber reduces your bad cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease when it is part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, according to the American Heart Association. Soluble fiber may also lower your blood pressure. A study published in 2002 in the “The Journal of Family Practice” found lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals who ate oat cereal for 6 weeks, compared to those who ate a low-fiber cereal.
Promotes Antioxidant Activity
Avenanthramides are an antioxidant unique to oats. Antioxidants protect your cells from free radicals -- which are molecules you produce through metabolism and exposure to environmental toxins and which increase your risk for cancer and heart disease. Avenanthramides inhibit inflammation and boost your production of nitric oxide, which prevents hardening of your arteries. These antioxidants also help control cell division, which can reduce your risk for cancer, especially colon cancer. A study published in 2010 in "Nutrition and Cancer" showed the avenanthramides in oats decreased the spread of colon cancer cells.
Controls Blood Sugar Levels and Weight
The soluble fiber in oats is in the form of beta-glucan. Beta-glucan causes you to digest foods more slowly, which controls blood sugar and prevents insulin resistance. This helps stave off diabetes and helps keep blood sugar levels on par, for those with diabetes. Oats also contain insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber keeps you satiated so you’re less likely to overeat and more likely to maintain a healthy weight. It also helps you digest food better and prevent constipation.
Boosts Your Energy
Aside from dietary fiber, oatmeal is a good source of protein, iron and thiamin and an excellent source of magnesium. A one-half cup serving of dry, quick oats contains 5 grams of protein, which is 11 percent of the daily reference value; 1.9 milligrams of iron, which is 10 percent of the DV; 0.22 milligrams of thiamin, which is 14 percent the DV; and 108 milligrams of magnesium or 27 percent of the DV. Protein gives you energy to start your day and wards off hunger. You need thiamin to convert food into energy and iron to carry oxygen throughout your blood. Your body uses magnesium to release energy from your muscles.
Choosing the Right Oatmeal
When you purchase oatmeal from the grocery store, check the nutrition label to ensure that the only ingredient is whole-grain oats. Avoid instant oatmeal because it often contains artificial sweeteners and flavors. Your healthiest choice is steel-cut oats, which maintain the whole oat grain. Old-fashioned oats are still a wise choice, but they are partially cooked and go through more processing. The more processing the oats endure, the more fiber they lose and the more health benefits you lose.
- Dairy Council of California: Health Benefits of Oatmeal
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- The Journal of Family Practice: Oat Ingestion Reduces Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure in Patients with Mild or Borderline Hypertension: A Pilot Trial
- Medline Plus: Fiber
- USDA Choose My Plate: Why Is it Important to Make Lean or Low-Fat Protein Choices From the Protein Foods Group?
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report: 08402, Cereals, Quaker, Quick Oats, Dry
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center: Increasing Fiber Intake
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Metabolism and Analysis of Cereal Phytochemicals
- Nutrition and Cancer: Avenanthramides Inhibit Proliferation of Human Colon Cancer Cells In Vitro