Oat, scientifically known as Avena sativa, is a species of cereal grain. It is grown for its seeds, which are popularly used to treat various ailments. Oats in the form of oatmeal and rolled oats are used for human consumption. With its mild and pleasant taste, oat grains are traditionally used as flakes in baked goods and porridges. Oats contain high amount of soluble fibers known as beta-glucan, which is effective in lowering cholesterol and postprandial glycemic response. Thus, oats minimize the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, oats contain rich amount of antioxidants.
The basic components of oats are the same to that of other cereals. However, oats are loaded with more amounts of proteins, soluble fibers and fats. Due to its content of B-glucan, oat grain can be a significant part of gluten-free diet. Oats are rich in minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, manganese and copper. Oats also consist of vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin A and retinol. Additionally, oats are the good sources of essential amino acids like tryptophan, threonine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, cystine, methionine, valine, tyrosine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, serine and proline.
Health Benefits of Oats
Regular intake of oats in your diet offers a wide range of health benefits. Oats help to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Consumption of oats controls appetite by giving feeling of fullness. Oat bran helps to prevent absorption of substances that are responsible for high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Oats are found to be effective in treating various health problems like high cholesterol, increased blood sugar, obesity, cancer and digestive disorders.
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High Cholesterol and Heart Diseases: Oat bran and oatmeal are the rich sources of dietary fibers. This fiber is a combination of soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. Beta-glucans, soluble fiber in oats, is known to lower blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibers, when pass through the digestive tract, break down and form a gel which traps the substances like cholesterol-rich bile acids. This results in reduced absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. LDL (bad) cholesterol is trapped without reducing HDL (good) cholesterol. Oats are also rich in tocotrienols. These antioxidants, with the help of tocopherols, produce vitamin E. Tocotrienols are able to inhibit cholesterol synthesis and thus, reduce blood cholesterol levels. Accumulation of cholesterol increases the risk of various cardiovascular diseases. You will get extra benefits from oats, if it is supported by low-fat and high-fiber diet along with vigorous exercises. According to recent research studies, antioxidants present in oats can help prevent atherosclerosis, thus reducing the risk of heart diseases.
Blood Sugar : Beta-glucan present in oats causes increase in blood sugar levels after meals and delays declining of sugar to pre-meal levels. Beta-glucan, a soluble fiber in oats, when digested, forms a gel, which increases the viscosity of contents in small intestine and stomach. It slows down the process of digestion and delays the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. Due to this process, drastic changes in blood sugar levels are prevented, which may cause many complications in diabetics.
Cancer : Oats are loaded with plant chemicals, phytochemicals, which are known to reduce the risk of cancer. Phytoestrogen compounds, known as lignans, present in oats are considered to lower the risk of hormone-related diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrium cancer and prostate cancer. The insoluble fibers in oats are considered to decrease the amount of carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract.
Blood Pressure : A daily consumption of whole oats can help to lower hypertension or high blood pressure. Constantly high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems related to blood vessels and heart. So, regular intake of oats is preferable for people with high blood pressure.
Bowel Function : Due to their high fiber content, oats help to maintain regular bowel movements. The insoluble fibers in oats are water-insoluble and absorb plenty of liquid. It facilitates passage of stool through the gut, making it heavier and thus relieves constipation.
Weight Loss : Due to content of soluble fibers, consumption of oats makes you feel fuller for longer time. It increases the viscosity of contents in the stomach and small intestine and delays emptying of stomach. Thus, intake of oats prevents an urge to frequent eating and reduces the risk of obesity.
Digestive Health : Oat bran and whole oats are beneficial to improve digestive health. They help to relieve various digestive disorders like indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Oats can also help to prevent stomach cancer and colon cancer.
General Health : Oats contain high amount of well-balanced proteins and phytochemicals, which can effectively protect you from chronic diseases like cancer. Oats are loaded with essential fatty acids, which are known to offer general good health and longevity. Beta-glucan in oats can enhance the functioning of immune cells, preventing bacterial infections. Oats can be used to treat fatigue, neurasthenia syndrome, joint pain (rheumatism), gout, kidney diseases, anxiety and stress.
Loaded with all the essential nutrients, oats can be considered as the complete food. Regular intake of oats can help to protect you from several different ailments.
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