In Good Taste

Oat-so-good: So many reasons to opt for oats

A colorful assortment of fruits and oats displayed in bowls, creating a vibrant and healthy snack option.

Oats and oatmeal have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, as overnight oats and granola bowls turned trendy seemingly out of nowhere. But Yin Cao, ScD, MPH, associate professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, points out that humans have been incorporating oats into their diets since the Paleolithic era.

“Packed with complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat,” she said. “The consumption of oats has been determined to be beneficial for human health by promoting immunomodulation and improving gut microbiota. In addition, oat consumption assists in preventing diseases such as atherosclerosis, dermatitis and some forms of cancer.”

Studies have suggested that the gut is the biggest benefactor of eating oats. For one thing, oats contain a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. “Beta-glucan partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in your gut, aiding in the reduction of blood glucose and insulin responses, increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract and the regulation of Type 2 diabetes,” Cao said. Further, it takes oats a long time to digest, and they’re full of fiber, meaning you’ll feel sated for longer and be less likely to eat excess calories throughout the day. Oats are also a good source of nutrients such as manganese and copper, and there’s evidence they help lower cholesterol.

If you hear “oats” but think “mush,” there are plenty of ways to add some texture and flavor to your morning bowl. Seeds and nuts will give a satisfying crunch, while fresh fruit and spices can conjure endless flavor combinations — not to mention extra vitamins.

It’s tempting to opt for instant oatmeal, but these store-bought varieties can be high in calories and use artificial flavors. Cao recommends taking a different tack: “Limited time in the morning? Oats can be prepared the evening before as a type of overnight oats. Simply place the prepared oats in a jar with your favorite toppings and leave them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to go the next morning,” she says. “Looking for an on-the-go snack? Oats make the perfect base. Simply add in your favorite fruit and you have a tasty treat to get you through the day.”

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