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It is quite impossible to be living in this day and age and not hear of, use or eat oats. Oats, though originating in Northern Europe, North America and Russia, have now become globally popular as a healthy food that most homes are ready to adopt - if they haven’t already taken to it. Oats are a type of cereal grain that have been consumed not only by humans for centuries but have also been fed to domesticated animals, both recreational and livestock.

Oats recently gained global popularity because their nutritional value is now recognized and celebrated the world over. Rich in dietary fiber, minerals and phytonutrients, oats can be safely consumed by people with a variety of nutritional needs. Being naturally gluten-free, oats can also be eaten by people with celiac disease, wheat allergy and may also be an important part of an elimination diet for allergies. Unfortunately, manufacturers of oats and oat products often add other grains while processing oats, which may add gluten to the final product. This is the reason why most nutritionists avoid recommending oats to people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

(Read more: Fiber-rich foods)

Moreover, since oats are rich in fiber, they may be unsuitable for people with some digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). People with such problems like stomach pain, diarrhea and dysentery should consult a doctor before consuming oats and foods with oats.

(Read more: Diet for irritable bowel syndrome)

Did you know?

Oats are one of the best breakfast foods out there and are used to make other healthy breakfasts and snacks like granola, muesli, bread, porridge and homemade energy bars. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, the Swiss doctor, included oats in his diet food invention of 1900, which later became known globally as muesli. 

Some basic facts about oats:

  • Botanical name: Avena sativa L.
  • Family: Poaceae
  • Common name: Oats, Rolled oats
  • Sanskrit name: Jaii, Yavaka
  • Parts used: Flattened or rolled grains, ground oats or oatmeal
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Russia, Canada, United States of America, Finland and Poland are the top five countries that produce oats.
  1. Oats nutrition facts
  2. Types of oats
  3. Benefits of oats
  4. Side effects of oats
  5. Takeaways
Doctors for Oats: Nutrition facts, benefits, side effects

Oats are known to be extremely nutritious and beneficial for your health. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the following are the nutritional facts for rolled oats.

Nutrient Value per 100g
Energy 350 kcal
Protein 12.5 g
Total lipid (fat) 6.25 g
Carbohydrate 67.5 g
Fiber, total dietary 10 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 2.5 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 2.5 g
Minerals  
Calcium 50 mg
Iron 4.25 mg
Potassium 350 mg

Oats are a type of whole grain but are available in many forms in the market. These forms or types of oats depend on the method used to process the grain. While the nutritional value of oats does not change much depending on these processing methods, their effects on postprandial or post-meal blood glucose levels may differ. This is because the less processed the oat whole grain, the more difficult it is to digest, meaning that such varieties of oats will take longer to digest and not lead to a high blood sugar rise after consumption. The following are the key types of oats.

(Read more: Whole wheat or multigrain bread, which is healthier?)

  • Oat groats: Oat groats are whole oat kernels which have been cleaned and their hard, inedible hulls have been removed. Groats are the least processed types of oats and they have their germ, endosperm and bran intact. Sometimes, just the bran of oat groats are removed and eaten individually. This oat bran is eaten as a separate cereal grain as it is packed with dietary fiber. 
  • Steel-cut oats: Also known as Irish oats, steel-cut oats are basically oat groats that are cut into smaller pieces using a steel-bladed machine. The groat grains are usually cut into two or three smaller parts. The longer the size of the parts, the longer these oats take to cook.
  • Scottish oats: These oats have been consumed in Scotland for centuries. Scottish oats basically refer to stone-ground oat groats, which are coarse in texture. Scottish oats are used to make porridge. This oatmeal porridge is creamy and smooth if properly cooked.
  • Rolled oats: Also known as old-fashioned oats, rolled oats are steamed, rolled and flattened into flakes. These oat flakes are then dried to remove the moisture and increase the shelf life at the same time. Rolled oats are one of the two most popular types of oats that are widely used all over the world.
  • Instant oats: Instant oats are the other most popular type of oats used across the world, primarily because they are quick and easy to make. Instant oats are processed from oat groats like all other types of oats. However, instant oats are steamed for a longer period of time and rolled so thinly that they absorb water and cook very quickly. However, many instant oat brands tend to add artificial flavours and added sugars which may not be the healthiest option for you. So, make sure you check the labels of instant oats before buying them.

(Read more: Best breakfast foods)

Oats may be low on vitamins, but they are packed with plant proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and antioxidants. Oats are particularly packed with a type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, which has been shown to be a very important type of micronutrient. This apart, oats also contain various types of phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens, which can help fight off diseases. The following are some of the benefits you can gain by including oats in your diet.

Oats improve heart health

Studies have shown that including whole grains like oats into your diet can improve your heart health in a number of ways. The beta-glucans in oats can help control blood cholesterol levels, while the other phytonutrients in oats can help keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels in check. These benefits can combine to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and even heart failure, especially in at-risk groups of people.

Oats help control cholesterol

As mentioned before, the beta-glucans - a type of soluble fiber - found in oats can help directly in controlling your blood cholesterol levels and therefore keep metabolic syndrome and heart disease away too. What’s more, oats also contain healthy fatty acids called PUFAs and MUFAs, which your body needs more of to function properly and exercise better cholesterol control.

(Read more: Foods to reduce cholesterol)

Oats aid weight loss

Oats are packed with carbohydrates but these are the right kind of carbs, which can be filling and add bulk to your digestive system. This is likely to keep you satiated for longer periods of time and help fight off cravings when you are on a weight loss diet. Moreover, oats are packed with healthy plant proteins which can also help you build more muscles while you are losing weight the healthy way.

Oats aid diabetes management

A decreased sensitivity to the hormone insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you have this condition then controlling your blood glucose levels is a key necessity for you and oats can help you with that. Research suggests that oats can not only help keep your blood sugar levels in check after a meal but also improve insulin sensitivity. One of the main reasons why oats have such an effect is thanks to the beta-glucans present.

(Read more: Diet for diabetes)

Oats improve digestive health

There is perhaps nothing your gut and its diverse microbiome needs more than fiber to stay fit and in great working order. And this is one macronutrient oats can provide loads of, that too in the best varieties. Oats are packed with soluble and insoluble fibers, which means they can help relieve all sorts of digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea. Some studies also suggest that oats may be beneficial for people with IBS, but more concrete evidence is required to support this claim.

(Read more: Home remedies for constipation)

Oats are good for the skin

Check the labels and ingredients that go into the making of modern skin care products, especially for conditions such as eczema, and you are likely to find colloidal oatmeal listed. Oats, because of their high antioxidant content, are known to improve your skin health. They can even be used to treat acne as they contain saponins and other compounds with anti-inflammatory and deep-cleansing properties. However, you must consult a dermatologist before you use oatmeal on your skin in case of skin rashes or an allergic reaction.

(Read more: Anti-acne diet)

Oats improve immunity

Antioxidant-rich foods are known to be great for your immune system. Oats are packed with antioxidants like avenanthramides and ferulic acid, which not only have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties but can also bolster a weak immune system against infections of all types. This apart, eating oats can also improve blood circulation and haemoglobin production, which can help you stay disease-free and fit.

(Read more: Immune system-related diseases)

Consuming oats is associated with a number of health benefits, which is primarily why it has gained immense popularity over the last decade. However, like all things good in this world, oats have some side effects too. The following are some cases in which consuming oats can cause disadvantages to your health.

Oats may cause bloating

While oats are considered to be great for your digestive health, in some cases it may cause bloating. Oats are packed with fiber and if your gut microbiota is unable to break down fibers completely then it can cause an accumulation of stomach gas - and thereby cause bloating - in the stomach and abdominal areas. This type of reaction may also cause stomach pain.

(Read more: Home remedies for stomach gas)

Oats may worsen anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a serious health condition and a proper iron-rich anemia diet is recommended to patients to help overcome it. However, consuming oats when you have this condition may actually worsen it. This is because oat groats, steel-cut oats, oat bran and rolled oats are too fiber rich and may block the absorption of iron from all kinds of foods in the intestinal tract and their delivery to the bloodstream. This absorption of iron is critical in managing anemia, so avoiding oats may be recommended if you have this condition.

(Read more: Home remedies for anemia)

Oats may worsen digestive disorders

Consuming oats, especially oat bran, may irritate the intestinal tract and cause digestive problems. This is especially true for people who already have digestive disorders like IBS, IBD, Crohn’s disease, enterocolitis, etc. It is therefore crucial to observe your digestive health after eating oats for the first time. If you have a diagnosed digestive disorder, then it’s best to consult your doctor before even buying your first bag of oats.

Oats may cause allergy

While oats themselves are gluten-free, there are many oats products - like instant oats or baked goods prepared with oats - that may include wheat, rye and barley, which do have gluten. Consuming these products may cause an allergy and if left uncontrolled it can even lead to anaphylactic shock. Some people may also have a specific allergy to oat proteins, in which case allergy symptoms are likely to show up too.

Oats may cause weight gain

As a whole grain, oats are quite beneficial where weight loss is concerned. However, many oats products available in the market may have added sugars, artificial sweeteners and flavours, excess salt and a variety of sweetened toppings. Eating too much of these oats or consuming overly sweetened fruits, dry fruits, nuts and seeds with these oats can cause weight gain. It is therefore very important to check the label and buy only oats which don’t have these unhealthy additives.

Including oats in your diet is a healthy choice to make, especially if you keep a check on the type of oats you are consuming. Oats are a type of whole grain that have been used for their nutritional value and benefits for ages now, especially in European countries. Now, however, oats consumption is gaining immense popularity all over the globe. In India, oats have not only been adopted as a healthy breakfast option but have also been adapted into many Indian recipes with a very local flavour profile. 

(Read more: Healthy recipes)

Consuming oats every day may provide you with a plethora of health benefits, from preventing unnecessary weight gain to improving your heart and skin health. However, if you have any underlying digestive disorders, gluten intolerance or high risk of allergies, then it may be best to consume oats only after consulting your doctor or a nutritionist. It may also be advisable to consult a nutritionist regarding the exact amount of oats you should consume on a daily basis, especially if you also take dietary supplements. Being smart about how you cook the oats and the toppings you use is also recommended.

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience


Medicines / Products that contain Oats

References

  1. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [internet]; ROLLED OATS
  2. Harvard T.H Chan. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Oats.
  3. Rasane, Prasad. et al. Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods - a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Feb; 52(2): 662–675. PMID: 25694675
  4. Sang, Shengmin and Chu, YiFang. Whole grain oats, more than just a fiber: Role of unique phytochemicals. Mol Nutr Food Res . 2017 Jul;61(7). PMID: 28067025
  5. Li, Xue. et al. Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial. Nutrients. 2016 Sep; 8(9): 549. PMID: 27618090
  6. Clemens, Roger. et al. Oats, more than just a whole grain: an introduction. Br J Nutr . 2014 Oct;112 Suppl 2:S1-3. PMID: 25405254
  7. Welch, RW. Can dietary oats promote health?. Br J Biomed Sci . 1994 Sep;51(3):260-70. PMID: 7881325
  8. Grundy, Miriam ML. et al. Processing of oat: the impact on oat's cholesterol lowering effect. Food Funct. 2018 Mar 1; 9(3): 1328–1343. PMID: 29431835
  9. Thies, Frank. et al. Oats and CVD risk markers: a systematic literature review. Br J Nutr . 2014 Oct;112 Suppl 2:S19-30. PMID: 25267241
  10. Hou, Qingtao. et al. The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015 Dec; 7(12): 10369–10387. PMID: 26690472
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