Although carbohydrates often get a bad rap, oats are one of the most underrated health foods. A diet rich in oats, which are full of vitamins and nutrients, can aid in the prevention of disease and even help you manage your weight. Oats are also incredibly versatile; they go equally well in sweet and savory dishes and can be enjoyed any time of day.
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Oats are a whole-grain food and are rich in fiber, manganese, the B vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, vitamin E and protein. They're also low in sodium and fat and free of sugar, cholesterol and saturated fats. One cup of rolled oats contains 160 calories, 3 grams fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 28 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber and 6 grams protein; it also provides 4 percent of the daily value for calcium and 12 percent of the daily value for iron.
Oats are particularly helpful for people who have high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. They contain a special kind of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan that can help lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, according to Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian. The fiber in oats can also help reduce blood pressure, keep bowel movements regular and aid in weight loss by keeping you full for longer periods of time.
Types of Oats
Several different types of oats are available in most markets. Steel-cut oats, the least processed, have a coarse and chewy texture. Rolled oats are what most Americans think of as oatmeal; these oats have been steamed, pressed and dried so they take less time than steel-cut oats to cook. Rolled oats are sold in old-fashioned, quick-cooking and instant varieties. If you prefer the convenience of instant oats for oatmeal, avoid buying varieties that contain added sugar and flavorings; instead, opt for plain oatmeal and use healthier ingredients at home to add flavor.
Tips and Ideas
Oatmeal is one of the most popular and convenient ways to enjoy oats. To make a bowl of oatmeal even healthier, try stirring in fresh or frozen fruit, a spoonful of peanut butter, fruit preserves, chopped nuts, applesauce or raisins. To fit oats into more meals, add them to baked goods like cookies, quick breads and muffins, and use them in place of bread crumbs in meatloaf and chicken or fish patties. You can make your own granola and granola bars using oats as a base and adding dried fruit, nuts, honey, chocolate chips, seeds and other ingredients of your choice.