There are several benefits of oats, so if you’re an oat lover, you’re in luck! Not only are there health benefits of oats, but this underrated grain could also help you with weight loss.
Oats are good for you and they’re super versatile. Whether they’re heated up into porridge, added to smoothies or found in your bowl of healthy granola, there are lots of ways to incorporate oats into your diet.
Plus, buying a bag won’t set you back much. In fact a 1kg bag of oats can cost less than £1 depending on where you shop. So, if you’re trying to save money, oat recipes are a good, low cost but healthy option.
If you needed any more reasons to love oats, here the experts explain the top health benefits of oats and why they are so good for you:
Health benefits of oats
Sometimes, the simplest of foods possess the most health benefits. This is certainly the case with the humble oat. From providing protein, to aiding weight loss, some of the health benefits of oats might just surprise you!
1. High in protein
‘Oats are surprisingly high in protein, containing around 10.9g per 100g,’ says Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Emily Rollason. ‘Whilst oats do contain all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein that we are required to obtain from the diet), they don’t quite contain enough lysine to be classed as a ‘complete’ protein. In order to increase your chances of getting all of the essential amino acids when eating oats, try adding some seeds or nuts to boost your amino acid intake.’
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or don’t eat animal foods, oats could be a great addition to your diet as they will help you hit your recommended daily protein intake.
Registered Dietitian Juliette Kellow explains that you can also increase the protein content of a bowl of porridge by adding milk or fat free yogurt. Ensuring a diet with plenty of protein is helpful to look after muscles and tissues. In fact, there are plenty of high protein recipes to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential macronutrient!
2. Support digestion
Oats are high in fibre and contain both soluble and insoluble which impacts the body positively. This can also make oats good for weight loss.
‘The soluble fibre forms a gel in your gut, slowing digestion and making us feel full. Soluble fibre is called slows down digestion whereas insoluble fibre can add bulk to stools and aid with getting things moving through the digestive system normally,’ explains Emily.
3. Lower cholesterol
Ready for some science? Emily reveals that beta glucan in the oats bind with water to form a gelatinous substance which forms a layer in the digestive tract, particularly in the small intestine and is thought to bind to lipids. This inhibits the absorption of the cholesterol in the small intestine, decreasing LDL and reducing cholesterol.
‘This fibre helps to reduce cholesterol, which also reduces the risk of developing a heart problem,’ she adds.
4. Source of slow releasing energy
If you need something to power you through the whole morning, look no further than oats and a hearty bowl of porridge.
‘Whole oats are a complex carbohydrate. The body requires carbohydrates to convert into glucose as a source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are long molecules that take longer to digest in comparison to simple carbohydrates, meaning a much more sustained release of this energy,’ says Emily.
‘This makes it a great food to have early in the morning!’
Be careful when buying porridge sachets however. There are a few brands out there that have lots of sugar in their recipes. So make sure to check the labels first or take a look at our round-up of the best and worst porridge for your diet.
5. Help to fuel a workout
Nutritionist Cassandra Barnes add that these slow-releasing carbohydrates in oats are fantastic for powering a workout or for restoring muscles after training. ‘The magnesium in them is vital for muscle function too.’ Try chopped banana on a couple of Nairn’s Oatcakes before a workout for an energy boosting snack!
6. Full of important minerals and vitamins
Emily reveals that oats contain a range of many important vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
‘This includes vitamin B1 as well as minerals such as manganese, selenium and zinc. They also contain magnesium which is essential for transporting energy around the body and promoting normal muscle function.’
7. Oats are gluten free
Can’t eat gluten? Add oats to your diet!
Emily tells us that oats are naturally gluten-free. However they do contain avenin, a protein similar to gluten.
‘It’s important to check with the manufacturer as most oats are processed and packaged in environments which also produce other grains which do contain gluten such as wheat. A small fraction of people may not be able to tolerate even gluten free oats, so if you have coeliac disease, it’s important to check with your healthcare professional if you are looking to include oats, so you can monitor symptoms.’
8. Oats for weight loss
Hoorah! The news we’ve been waiting for.
Emily explains: ‘Oats are low in calories. Oats are also a good source of fibre. Because of this they may help you to feel fuller for longer, which can reduce your appetite and stop you from overeating. Replacing a higher calorie meal based around simple carbohydrates (such as sugary cereals or white bread and jam) at breakfast time, with a bowl of oats may aid with promoting satiety and reduce your caloric intake!’
There are also plenty of other high fibre foods that can help with weight loss.
9. Protect the skin
Oats can protect your skin too! Surprising, no?
‘A lot of creams and lotions contain oats in certain forms due to its antioxidant properties. Oats have often been used to prevent dry skin and relieve itchiness and irritation. It also creates a barrier and allows the skin to hold moisture, softening and hydrating the skin,’ says Emily.
What are the benefits of oat milk instead of dairy milk?
Plant based milks, such as oat milk, have risen in popularity over recent years. But are there benefits to drinking oat milk instead of dairy milk?
‘Oat milk does contain healthy beta glucan fibre which lowers cholesterol and helps keep our blood sugar levels stable,’ says Juliette. This can help us avoid sugar crashes, and give us a nice slow release of energy.
Calorie-wise, oat milk is on a par with semi-skimmed milk, however it’s lower in calories than full fat dairy milk.
Juliette recommends that you look for the oat milks that are fortified with calcium, as dairy is one of the main calcium sources in our diet.
‘If you use oat milk as you’re following a vegan diet, make sure it’s fortified with vitamin b12 as well. Oat milk can vary in nutrition dependent on the brand, so do check labels to see what’s in your oat milk. Look out for any fortified in vitamin D too!’
As well as this, opt for unsweetened oat milk to ensure that you are not taking in more sugar than your realise when making a cup of tea or eating cereal. (This applies to any plant-based or non-dairy milk substitute).
Why are oats so good for you?
The health benefits of oats are staggeringly high. In fact, Rob Hobson Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, says they’re a really great addition to your daily diet: ‘Oats are a simple wholegrain with a myriad of proven health benefits,’ says Rob.
Unlike highly refined carbohydrate foods, oats have less impact on blood sugar levels offering a steady supply of energy to help keep you feeling full between meals while helping to prevent snacking.
Plus, oats make for a good post-training snack as they contain a source of carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores as well as protein to help with muscle repair and growth.
‘A 40g serving of oats provides 5g of protein. If you combine them with milk or yoghurt then this increases to around 14g,’ explains Rob.
‘Oats are also a good way to get a little more fibre in your diet. In the UK only 4% of women and 11% of men meet the recommended 30g per day,’ reveals Rob who also adds that oats are a good source of iron; a mineral lacking in many women’s diets causing tiredness and fatigue.
Other exciting benefits of oats, include the fact that they contain the soluble fibre, beta glucan, which research shows may reduce total and LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10%. A 40g serving of oats provides 1.4g of beta glucan.
‘An oat based breakfast followed by an oat based snack bar or smoothie across the day can help you to reach 3g per day,’ says Rob.
Added to this, research by the World Cancer Research fund has shown that there is strong evidence to support the fact that wholegrains decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.
Are oats good for weight loss?
Juliette reveals that one of the benefits of oats is that they can help fill us up. This stops us snacking between meals, which can help aid weight loss.
‘Anything which makes you fuller for longer is good for weight loss,’ she says. ‘Oats can fight the hunger pangs we get later on in the day, so we are less likely to go out seeking food to fill us up. This is usually the biscuits, cakes, chocolate bars and crisps which provide us with a ‘quick fix’.’
Plus, oats are rich in a type of fibre called beta glucan, a soluble fibre which has many healthy effects on the body.
‘Beta glucan helps lower cholesterol. It forms a gel and slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood, so that’s why they say porridge provides slow, steady release of energy. You don’t get the sharp drop in energy after either, as you would with sugary foods. Essentially, oats help even out blood sugar levels which is important to help prevent hunger.’
Juliette also adds that oats are relatively low in fat.
‘Being a low fat food means that calorie wise they can be a good choice if you’re looking to manage your waist line. Porridge is the classic oat dish. Watch the toppings though, as you can add a lot of calories to your porridge by squeezing jam, honey, chocolate spread and other sauces on top. Measure these out with a teaspoon rather than just pouring liberally.’
What are the potential side effects of eating oats?
Like with any food, you can have too much of a good thing.
Juliette explains that unlike many other cereals, oats aren’t fortified with any extra nutrients such as vitamin B, so it’s a good idea to add extra nuts, fruits or yogurt to ensure you provide your body with extra vitamins and minerals.
‘Oats do have a great health status but if you are using large amounts, such as in a smoothie, then you may be eating too many calories. Toasted oats mixed with maple syrup for example can add on a lot of calories.’
Then there’s the potential side effects of too much fibre. ‘If you’re adding a lot of oats suddenly into your diet, then, like any other high fibre foods, it’s a good idea to go slow and steady, and increase the amount you have bit by bit,’ says Juliette.
She adds that most of us are eating less fibre than we need, so it is important to increase our fibre intakes. However, too much too soon can lead to gas and bloating.
‘You’re body will get used to the increase in fibre though in time.’
It’s also worth noting that for those who suffer from celiac disease, it’s a good idea to check with your GP before eating oats.