What do you think of when you think of oats?
Do you think of that old man with long white hair from Quaker Oats smiling back at you as you enjoy your morning oatmeal? Do you think about them sprinkled in a cinnamon-flavored cookie with raisins? Stuck onto the crusts of your favorite whole-grain bread?
Whether you think about them in the context of food or not, oats, scientifically known as Avena sativa, can be nutritious supplements to your diet because of their many health benefits. Considered a secondary crop, oats are a cereal grain grown for their seeds and are unique because they retain most of their nutrients despite being hulled.
So, sure, you know they’re a grain so they must be good for you, but do you know why?
Among their many nutritional components, oats contain soluble fibers made up of beta glucans, complex carbohydrates that play a major role in the digestive process of oats. Thinking about beta glucans and digestion is easy: think slow. When beta glucans break down, they create a gel-like material that decelerates the process of digestion. While slow digestion may seem like a negative thing, in the case of oats it leads to several positive paybacks and makes them an attractive choice for a healthy diet. So in case the word "grain" isn’t enough for you when deciding whether to eat oats or not, here are five reasons why you should incorporate them into your daily diet:
- Cholesterol. One of beta glucans' many effects is the slowing down of fatty acids entering the blood stream, therefore reducing the risk of high "bad" cholesterol.
- Immune system. Beta glucans also support the development of white blood cells in your bloodstream, which help your immune system fight bacteria and viruses.
- Weight Loss. What better way to keep your diet in check then by lessening your hunger? Because the beta glucans' gel-like component slows down the digestion, eating oats makes you feel fuller, longer.
- Blood Sugars. As well as keeping your hunger at bay, the slow digestion of oats results in a slow rise of blood sugars, therefore leading to a controlled level of blood sugars over time.
- Energy. Last but not least, the lingering carbohydrates of oats are also in the form of calories, leaving you with a large amount of energy to use throughout the day.
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce