Contributed by Mirieta Selimovska
MHSc. (c), Nutritionist
September is Whole Grains Month and so what better time than now to take a deeper dive into one of the most popular whole grains around- oats! Small but mighty, oats are a quality source of carbohydrates that are packed with valuable nutrients and the ability to support our health in a variety of ways. Based on current research, we know that people who eat more whole grains, such as oats, are likely to have a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, digestive disorders and even some cancers (1,2,3). As part of a healthy eating plan, Canada’s Food Guide recommends to enjoy whole grains more often (4).
What Makes Oats So Special?
Oats have long been recognized as a whole grain with superior nutritional benefits. Some of these include that :
Consuming oats promotes digestive regularity: Oats contain fibre, which is a type of carbohydrate that actually passes through the body undigested. Instead, when consumed, some of the fibre in oats (called soluble fibre) works in supporting the absorption of water and easing the excretion of waste (5). Oats also contain another kind of fibre, called resistant starch, which similarly passes through the body undigested until it is used to feed the gut’s ‘good’ bacteria, thus further promoting digestive health (3).
Oat can help to lower your cholesterol levels: A regular consumption of soluble fibre has also been found to help decrease, and therefore improve, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels. While passing through the digestive tract, the soluble fibre in oats helps to prevent the absorption of cholesterol and mobilizes it for excretion (2,6).
- Oats are a source of antioxidants: Oats contain a particular antioxidant called avenanthramides. This is a kind of antioxidant that works to combat against inflammation, as well as improve blood and oxygen flow throughout the body. Pro tip: avenanthramides can be destroyed when exposed to heat (7). This is one of the many reasons why Yumi’s overnight oatmeal made with raw uncooked oats is an ideal, nutritious breakfast solution!
- Consuming oats promotes more consistent energy levels: Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates. Compared to other carbohydrates, these take longer to be digested, thus offering up slower-releasing energy as opposed to more immediate spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels (1).
- Oats are packed with important nutrients: Like many other whole grains, oats are rich in B vitamins, as well as iron, zinc and magnesium. These nutrients all play key roles in essential functions throughout our body, including hormone balance, bone strength and immunity (1).
Why We Need Carbohydrates
It’s with no doubt that consuming oats supports a multitude of functions throughout our body. Carbohydrates in general play a critical role in our diet and subsequent overall health. They are our body’s primary and preferred source of energy. We rely on carbohydrates for energy so significantly, that in fact, our brain exclusively uses energy from carbohydrates to function (8). For ideal nutrition and consistent energy levels, it is important to include carbohydrates at every meal.
From breakfast to dessert, there are so many different ways to enjoy the taste and health benefits of oats. They have an impressive nutritional profile and their consumption can contribute very positively to our health. Be sure to stock up your pantry with them ahead of this back to school and fall baking season, including your favourite flavour of Yumi overnight oats!
Kelly, S. A., Hartley, L., Loveman, E., Colquitt, J. L., Jones, H. M., Al-Khudairy, L., . . . Rees, K. (2017). Whole grain cereals for the primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd005051.pub3
Tiwari, U., & Cummins, E. (2011). Meta-analysis of the effect of β-glucan intake on blood cholesterol and glucose levels.Nutrition, 27(10), 1008-1016. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2010.11.006
Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435. doi:10.3390/nu5041417
- Health Canada. (2019, December 04). Healthy eating recommendations. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/make-it-a-habit-to-eat-vegetables-fruit-whole-grains-and-protein-foods/eat-whole-grain-foods/
Rebello, C. J., O’Neil, C. E., & Greenway, F. L. (2016). Dietary fiber and satiety: The effects of oats on satiety.Nutrition Reviews, 74(2), 131-147. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv063
Whitehead, A., Beck, E. J., Tosh, S., & Wolever, T. M. (2014). Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(6), 1413-1421. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.086108
Sang, S., & Chu, Y. (2017). Whole grain oats, more than just a fiber: Role of unique phytochemicals.Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(7), 1600715. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201600715
Dienel, G. A. (2019). Brain Glucose Metabolism: Integration of Energetics with Function.Physiological Reviews, 99(1), 949-1045.