Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Food: Grains

Oats: Nutritional &
Dietary Health Benefits

Growing up you may have been told to “eat up your oats, they’re good for you”. You may even have children yourself and find you have started to say things like this to them. Oats have been considered beneficial for some time, and for good reason - these benefits are continually being understood, enhanced and confirmed by scientists today, leading to some people referring to oats as a “super food”. Although in general we dislike this style of hyped up terminology, in the case of whole grains and oats in particular, this may well be a very apt moniker.

Nutritional Content of Oats 

Oats are low in fat, sodium and calories while remaining high in protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. A half-cup serving typically provides:

Calories

150 - 160 (without any additions e.g. milk, sugar, fruit etc.).

Carbohydrates

26g (despite what some fad diets may promote, not all carbohydrates are bad. Oats contain complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) known as beta-glucans, giving a long slow release of sugar and are perfect for athletes, such as long distance runners, skiers, weight trainers etc.).

Fat

2.5g (Saturated: 0.5g, Monounsaturated: 1g and Polyunsaturated: 1g).

Fiber

4g (of which at least 1g is soluble fiber).

Protein 

6.5g (when compared with an egg that contains around 6g, this is a high level protein grain).

Minerals and Vitamins

Vitamin E (6% of recommended daily intake).

Vitamin B1 - Thiamin (26% of recommended daily intake).

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid (7% of recommended daily intake).

Iron: (11% of recommended daily intake).

Magnesium (21% of recommended daily intake).

Potassium 170mg

Selenium (25% of recommended daily intake).

Sodium: Traces (e.g. 1 - 2mg).

Zinc: (10% of recommended daily intake).

Other Beneficial Contents

Tocotriencols – help to produce vitamin E.

Phytoestrogen Compounds and Lignans – possibly reduce the risk of hormonal diseases (e.g. Breast Cancer)

Phenolic acid - works as an antioxidant helping to prevent cellular damage.

Polyphenols – oats contain around 20 unique phytochemicals which are thought to provide cardiovascular benefits including lowering cholesterol and preventing arteries from thickening.

Gluten Free

Oats are naturally gluten free and thus for people with gluten sensitivity (or even possessing Celiac disease) they make a more than ideal diet addition. However, ensure you purchase clearly labeled and certified “gluten free oats” because they may become contaminated while growing in a field or when being processed in a factory (that processes other grains too).

Weight Control

Oats are high in fiber and possess complex carbohydrates, which are slowly digested when consumed. As a result this creates the feeling of being full and satisfied for a longer timeframe then usually gained with many other food choices. This is a useful attribute when seeking to curb one’s appetite, especially if pursuing a diet for weight loss and prone to snacking.

Low in calories oats when incorporated into a healthy diet, are capable of helping with weight control. It is thought consistently eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast is a habit that helps to maintain a regular weight across long periods of time.

Peptide Y-Y (PYY) is a hormone believed to play a role in appetite control, with temporary higher levels appearing in people who are experiencing low levels of hunger, and vice versa. In 2009 a study found people who consumed beta-glucans from oats had high levels of Peptide Y-Y (PYY) in their blood for up to 4 hours later. It would seem this confirms what many people experience after eating oats i.e. they feel full and satisfied for many hours after.

Time & Ease

Lack of time and complexity are some of the most common reasons people have difficulty in following a healthy diet. Fortunately most types of oats (except Steel-cut) can be cooked in a microwave to make a quick breakfast bowl of oatmeal. Simply put a quarter cup of oats into a bowl, cover with milk or water and cook on full power for as little as a minute and perhaps up to a maximum of 5 minutes. This is just as easy as the instant type, yet is more nutritious especially when you use your own additions. If you must use instant oats it is far better to use an original “plain” one with your own additional flavors e.g. honey, fruit etc.

If you’re in a rush, you can take your oatmeal with you and heat or reheat it in a microwave later (or simply put in a thermos). Alternatively use a blender and make a smoothie with oats, milk and fruits/nuts etc. It’s a good idea to make this overnight to allow the oats to really soak and expand to create a “thick” oat milk smoothie. If you wish to use steel-cut oats these can be cooked in a Crockpot overnight, ready to welcome you to a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Any way you look at this, it’s very hard to avoid getting your oats in the morning!

So, from a nutritional perspective, what is the difference between the various types of oats? Well, not too much – instant oats tend to have salt and sugar added (but not always). Where they differ is in the speed of digestion and thus the speed of sugar intake into the blood stream. This is measured by the glycemic index: the less processed the oats, the slower the digestion and the lower the food stands in the glycemic index. Starting from the least processed, the order of the difference types of oats on the glycemic index is: Steel-cut, Old-fashioned, Quick Cooking and Instant. If you’re not sure what these are different types are, read our article: Know your Oats.

Financial Cost

Expensive ingredients are sometimes a barrier to healthy eating but, oats are an incredible food source and an inexpensive delight too. Depending upon the brand purchased, oatmeal costs between 15 to 40 cents a bowl before any additions. Even if you were extremely extravagant with adding milk, cream, nuts, fruits etc. it would be possible but difficult to go beyond $1 a bowl. Anyway you look at it, this is a cheap meal.



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