Did you know that January is national oatmeal month? This is a perfect time to focus on improving your overall health and increasing the whole grains in your diet, giving you a good reason to start the year off right. Though we will concentrate on oatmeal at this time, remember that all whole grains have many health benefits and can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
Health Benefits of Oats
Many studies have documented the health benefits of oats.
• Eating oats helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
• Oats help you feel fuller longer, which may help with weight control.
• Oatmeal and oats may help lower blood pressure.
• Oats may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, as the soluble fiber may help with blood sugar control.
• Oats can help decrease the use of laxatives, without the side effects associated with medications.
• Early introduction of oats in children’s diets may help reduce their risk of asthma.
• Oats are high in beta-glucans, a kind of starch that stimulates the immune system and inhibits tumors. This may help reduce your risk of some cancers.
• Oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-itching activity.
Interesting and Fun Oat Facts
Statistics experts have said that we buy more oats during the month of January than any other time of the year. Oats are a favorite for breakfast, partly due to their sweeter flavor.
Among the most widely-eaten grains, oats are unique in that they almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. When you see oats on the label, then, you are generally guaranteed you are getting whole grain.
In the U.S., most oats are steamed and flattened to produce rolled oats and are sold as “old-fashioned” or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. Steel-cut oats include the entire oat kernel (looks similar to a grain of rice) and are sliced once or twice into smaller pieces which helps water penetrate and cook the grain. This is sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats and is chewier and nuttier in texture.
Oatmeal is rated #1 among breakfast foods and #3 overall in a “Satiey Index” developed by Australian researchers who were searching to find foods that make people feel full and satisfied the longest.
Oats are being used in the food industry as a stabilizer in foods such as ice cream.
Because of their natural anti-itching properties, oats are also used in the cosmetic industry for a variety of products. Have you heard of Aveeno? That name comes from the botanical name “avena” which means oats.
Oats were originally considered a nuisance weed, needing to be pulled up and burned when they appeared in fields with wheat and barley.
Russia, Canada, the United States, Finland and Poland are the world’s leading producers of oats.
Whole grains are an important part of the five food groups. They are an important source of nutrients, such as fiber, B vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate and minerals – iron, magnesium and selenium. You can read more about the benefits of whole grains at www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.