A bowl of piping hot oatmeal is perhaps a healthy way of starting your day. Oats, known as “Jaei” in Hindi contain the right mix of proteins to carbohydrates that keep you fueled up. Recent studies indicate that just one bowl of oatmeal a day can keep the doctor away.
Oats are full of fiber, and just one cup contains more than 10 grams of protein. This keeps you feeling full and reduces snacking. Savory or sweet oats are the right way to start your day. Though Oats are a nutritional powerhouse, they can also be applied topically for many DIY treatments.
Let’s look at the benefits of oats and how we can incorporate them into our daily health regime
What are Oats?
Oat (Avena sativa), is basically a cereal whose seeds are edible and are known by the same name. This cereal originated in Scotland and was a staple diet of the Scottish whose meals comprised of cooked oats. Apart from consumption by humans in the form of oatmeal and rolled oats, this cereal is also used as livestock feed. Oats are mostly purchased in January which has been declared as the National Oatmeal month.
Oats are different from wheat as oats are largely grown for their seeds while wheat is a type of grass. Most of the cereal grains contain gluten and oats are no exception. However, the gluten in oats, known as Avenin, is different from that in wheat as it can be tolerated by some people with celiac disease.
Oats have many benefits and uses. Let’s look at them.
Health Benefits Of Oats
1. General Health
Rolled oats contain a higher count of well-balanced protein compared to other types of cereals. They also contain phytochemicals that provide protection against various chronic diseases (1). A healthy balance of fatty acids provides longevity and good health.
Adding further, rolled oats are packed with essential minerals and vitamins, like folic acid, vitamin E and thiamin.
Studies have revealed beta glucan contained in rolled oats has the capability to control bacterial infections in the body and prevent them from growing. Putting it simply, rolled oats increase the immunity, thus facilitating good general health and longevity.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Similar to other vegetables and grains, oats carry a good amount of phytochemicals. These phytochemicals are believed to prevent the occurrence of cancer, especially breast cancer (2). Studies and research have proven that dietary fiber controls the circulation of estrogens in females, thus reducing the risk of breast cancer.
3. Blood Sugar
Rolled oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that transforms to gel during the digestion process. This gel increases the viscosity of food in the stomach and small intestine. As a result, it slows down the digestion period, thus resulting in a prolonged absorption of carbohydrates. This way rolled oats help to avoid the dramatic changes in the levels of blood sugar (3).
4. Blood Pressure
Eating a serving of rolled oats every day can facilitate controlled levels of blood pressure. This also helps reduce the need of hypertensive medication in certain cases. High blood pressure can pose serious health risks. Therefore, make rolled oats an essential part of your daily diet to maintain your blood pressure levels.
As mentioned above, the soluble fiber present in rolled oats facilitates slow digestion and prolonged absorption of nutrients. This helps you stay full for longer periods, thus preventing the risk of overeating and obesity.
[ Read: Eat Oats Daily For Weight Loss ]
6. Healthy Digestion
Rolled oats aid healthy digestion through the insoluble fibers contained in them. These fibers work by scrubbing through the intestines to move food along to help treat constipation. Moreover, people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can benefit greatly from rolled oats. Rolled oats, being low in total fat, help to control GERD symptoms like heartburn.
7. Smooth Bowel Function
The high fiber count of rolled oats facilitates regular and healthy bowel functioning. Oats contain a good amount of soluble as well as insoluble fiber. Since insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, its juices are absorbed from the spongy texture. This way, it makes the stool heavier and increases the pace of their passage through the gut, thus relieving constipation.
[ Read: Is Oatmeal Good For Constipation ]
8. Reduced Cholesterol
Among the wide variety of cereal grains, oats carry the highest amount of soluble fiber (4). The gel-like structure of this fiber transits the intestinal tract. This way, it traps the substances causing a rise in blood cholesterol levels.
9. Athletic Performance
Akin to other cereal grains, rolled oats are a rich source of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates give the body the calories to meet the energy needs of the body. Specific studies have revealed that rolled oats alter the metabolism in a favorable way. Eating them 45 minutes to an hour before exercise provides enhanced performance.
10. Balances Blood Sugar Level
People trying to improve or lower their glycemic index should eat steel cut oats daily (5). Diabetics, especially those constantly looking for ways to control their blood sugar levels should consume steel cut oats daily for positive results. The glycemic index, put very simply, measures to what extent carbohydrates increase the blood-glucose levels in the body. Food items with a high glycemic index result in abrupt spikes in a person’s blood glucose levels. Whereas foods such as steel cut oats help maintain a more balanced level of blood glucose in the body.
Skin Benefits Of Oats
Apart from consumption, wild oats have an important role to play in skin care. They were used as early as 2000 BC by the Egyptians and Arabs to beautify their skins. Oat baths were largely used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for healing skin ailments. Some of the benefits of oats for skin are as follows.
11. Treatment of Acne
Cooked oatmeal is a great natural remedy for treating acne.
How To Use
Boil some oatmeal till it softens and let it cool for 15 minutes. Apply it on the affected area and rinse off after 10 minutes.
This will absorb and remove excess oil and bacteria from your skin and exfoliate dead skin cells, thus helping to combat acne.
12. Removes Dryness
Oats are effective in fighting dull, flaky dryness as they contain polysaccharides, which become gelatinous in water. They form a fine protective film when applied on the skin. The cereal is effective in addressing dry skin symptoms like itching, rashes, scales, peeling etc.
How To Use
To get rid of dryness you can make a facial mask by mixing a mashed banana with a cup of ground oatmeal and adding some lukewarm milk. Stir it properly to make it smooth and apply it all over your face for 10-15 minutes.
Rinse off with cold water. This will help in replenishing the skin moisture, keeping it soft and hydrated.
13. Skin Moisturizer
It acts as a natural moisturizer by removing the dead skin cells. It contains beta-glucan that forms a fine film on your skin as well as penetrates deep into the skin to provide much needed deep moisturizing to your skin. It enhances wound healing and shallow abrasions and improves collagen deposition and activation of immune cells within the skin.
How To Use
You can add a cup of milk, two cups of oats and a tablespoon of honey to moisturize your skin as well as relax your body.
14. Relieves Itchiness
Oats have anti-inflammatory properties and are suitable for all skin types. They are clinically effective in healing dry and itchy skin.
How To Use
- Oats ground into powder is known as colloidal oatmeal. This powder can be mixed with warm water to form a thick paste and applied over itchy skin to get immediate relief from intense itching.
- An oatmeal bath is also effective in healing a number of skin conditions including dry itchy skin. Oatmeal can be used in curing neurodermatitis, a skin disease characterized by an itchy or inflamed skin.
15. Skin Lightening
Oats are known for their skin lightening effects as well as improving the skin tone and texture and smoothing out blotchy areas. It is increasingly used in cosmetology in various skin care products such as body scrubs, soaps, exfoliating creams and general body lotions of reputed brands.
16. Treatment Of Poison Ivy Or Chicken Pox
Oatmeal has been used for thousands of years for treating eczema, poison ivy, insect bites and skin infections due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-itch properties.
How To Use
- For relieving the itchiness caused by poison ivy or chicken pox or even sunburn, grind oats or oat flour into a fine powder and pour it into a cheesecloth.
- Tie it around the bathtub faucet and squeeze out water periodically to have a tepid bath. You can also rub the pouch on the itchy skin.
17. Natural Cleanser
Oats contain natural cleansers called saponins that can remove dirt and oil from the pores without causing irritation. It leaves behind soft and silky skin and reduces pore size. Oatmeal can form part of your skin care regimen as it is effective in getting rid of dead skin cells that build up in the pores.
How To Use
- Oats can be soaked in water to prepare oat milk which is a natural toner and cleanser. You can store this milk in a bottle in your fridge and apply it on your face with a cotton pad after face wash to smoothen and soften your skin.
- Oat bran bath is also effective in cleansing your skin and pores. Place ½ cup of oat groans or rolled oats in some cloth and tie it to make a small bag. Place it in your bathtub and press the bag until the oatmeal milk comes out. This can be used on your body or face instead of soap for mild scrubbing.
[ Read: Evening Primrose Oil Uses ]
18. Skin Protection
The proteins in oatmeal help in maintaining the skin’s natural barrier and protect your skin from harsh chemicals. It also protects against skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and rashes. The lubricating fats in oats are a great moisturizer that provides a protective layer over the skin to fight UV rays.
Hair Benefits Of Oats
Oats are good for hair as well. When applied topically, they can make your hair soft and strong. Some of the ways in which oats can be beneficial for your hair are as follows.
19. Treatment Of Dry And Itchy Scalp
It is a natural moisturizer and can be applied on hair to get rid of dryness and itchiness. It makes hair soft and shiny. It is often used as an ingredient in shampoos.
20. Treatment Of Dandruff
Oatmeal can be combined with other ingredients and applied on your hair before shampooing to get rid of dandruff.
21. Removes Excess Oil And Dirt
Clears the scalp by removing excess sebum, oil and dirt accumulated in the scalp.
22. Combats Hair Loss
Hair loss can occur due to a number of reasons such as alopecia, harsh chemical treatments, hormonal imbalance or unhealthy lifestyle. Malnutrition, which is the deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals, is the most common cause of hair loss. Oats contain high amounts of zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium that promote hair growth. A meal comprising of oats, berries and pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A as well as other nutrients. Vitamin C prevents scurvy, a disease that can also cause hair loss. Vitamin A, on the other hand, promotes hair development and maintenance.
23. Great For Blond Hair
Ground oats can be an excellent dry shampoo for blond beauties. All you need to do is rub some ground oats over your scalp and brush out excess oats with a boar bristle brush.
How to Select and Store?
Proper selection is essential to ensure that you get the maximum benefits from this cereal.
- It is advisable to buy oats in small quantities because this grain has a higher fat content than other grains and hence, goes rancid more quickly.
- Nowadays, oats are available in pre-packaged containers as well as in bulk bins.
- While purchasing oatmeal, always look at the ingredients list on the packet to ensure that the product does not contain salt, sugar or other additives.
- Always prefer to buy rolled oats or oatmeal from health shops. When purchasing from bulk bins, ensure that the bins are covered and free from debris and moisture. The store should have a good product turnover to ensure that the product is fresh.
- Proper storage is also a vital factor to ensure that the product retains its freshness and flavor till it is used.
- Rolled oatmeal like all other grains, should be kept in an airtight container to prevent moisture and vermin intrusion
- It should be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to three months or refrigerated for up to six months.
- Oat bran has high oil content and therefore, should be refrigerated.
- Oat flour has a slightly longer shelf life in comparison to wheat flour as oats contain a natural antioxidant that discourages rancidity
- Oat flour should be refrigerated and used within three months. Ensure usage of your oatmeal within the expiry date stamped on the package.
[ Read: Pomegranate Peel Uses ]
Tips For Usage (Eating/Cooking)
Oats are quite versatile and can be eaten both in cooked or raw form. Uncooked oats are rather difficult to chew and cooking softens them. Alternatively, you can achieve a softer texture by soaking a cup of raw oatmeal in two cups of water and leaving it for 2 hours. This raw oatmeal can be blended in a blender along with water and consumed. Given below are other tips for eating and cooking oats.
Steel-cut Oats: Considered most suitable for breakfast, these are basically whole oat groats that have been steamed and cut into pieces. These non-flattened, steel cut oats are coarse and so they can be soaked overnight in hot water and cooked in the morning to make a pearly, chewy whole-grain breakfast. They can also be blended in a blender and are the most nutritious of oats.
Instant Oats: These are widely available in stores in small packets and are considered the least nutritious due to sugar and additives. They have a flour-like consistency and have been heavily processed, steamed, rolled, dehydrated and toasted. Being easy to blend, they can be cooked in a minute or two. Always prefer plain instant oats as the flavored ones have a high content of sugar. Plain oats have added nutrients as they have been stripped of their original nutrients.
Oatmeal Bread: Prepared from oat flour, oatmeal bread is extremely nutritious and as good as regular toast. You can try making oatmeal bread at home.
Oatmeal Cookies: These yummy cookies are a perfect combination of taste and nutrition. They can be consumed with peanut butter or chocolate bits and make for a filling snack. They are a favorite of kids.
Oat Bran: This is basically ground oats with the husk still attached. It is difficult to digest and should be soaked before use. These are generally added to smoothies and are very fibrous and nutritious.
Cooked oats are relatively sweeter than the uncooked ones. Different varieties of oats require different cooking methods and take different duration to cook.
- Rolled oats take approximately 15 minutes whereas steel cut oats can be cooked in about 30 minutes.
- Oat groats, being harder, require more time and water and can be cooked in 50 minutes. The best way is to add oats to cold water and simmer. They can be included in many dishes.
- Filling Meal or Snack: Oats can be added to your smoothies or green smoothie to make a filling meal or snack.
Nutritious Breakfast: A piping hot bowl of oatmeal with fruits and nuts can be a tasty and nutritious breakfast.
- As a Soup Thickening Agent: Oat flour can be used instead of corn flour to thicken sauces and soups. It can be added while the soup is being heated so that it becomes thick. Breadcrumbs can be replaced with oats.
- Coating for Tofu: It can be used as a coating for tofu. Tofu can be dipped in milk and then in oatmeal and fried to make it more crispy.
- Making of Pancakes or Porridge: Oatmeal can be used to make pancakes or porridge. For this purpose, you can soak your porridge oats in the fridge overnight and eat your porridge the next day straightaway.
- As a Sprinkling Agent on Cereals: Oat bran can be sprinkled on your hot or cold cereal.
- Making of Bread, Pastas or Muffins: You can use whole oats or oat flour to make bread or muffins. Being extremely flexible, oats can replace fast and processed food and can be easily used in making pastas, muffins, and croissants.
Hence, oatmeal is a superfood and can be a nutritious choice for all meals as well as snacks. So let us try and include oats in our daily routine and say goodbye to our afflictions. Stay fit, stay healthy!