Health

10 Health Benefits of Oats, According to Science (+10 Delicious Oat Recipes)

In the modern health and food climate of “clean eating” and “whole foods,” it is becoming increasingly difficult to find foods that are tasty, convenient, and versatile. For adherents to clean eating diets or the popular Whole30 diet, what you eat and - more importantly - how it has been prepared is of paramount importance (1, 2).

Fortunately, there is a sneaky superfood waiting to be discovered and enjoyed that is Whole 30-compliant, clean, and delicious: oats! Read on for some of the amazing (and surprising!) health benefits of oats, and some tasty oat recipes that are sure to leave you wanting more.

1. Oats Stabilize Cholesterol and Lower Your Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

Oats are a whole grain, and come in many forms. Commonly, people will buy steel cut oats, old-fashioned rolled oats, quick rolled oats, or instant rolled oats (3). Each of these types indicates oats that have been harvested and cut in different ways.

Steel cut oats are the entire oat grout cut with a steel blade and packaged. Old-fashioned oats are whole oat grouts that have been steamed, softened, and then rolled to form flat flakes. Similarly, quick rolled oats are steamed and rolled; they are, however, rolled thinner, making them easier and quicker to cook. Instant oats, like old-fashioned and quick oats, are steamed - but steamed longer, and then dehydrated. This means they only need the introduction of boiling water to be instantly prepared.

But no matter which oat you may prefer, they all provide the same, very important benefit: stabilizing your cholesterol and, ultimately, reducing the risk of heart disease (4, 5).

Recent medical studies have suggested that short-term consumption of whole grain products - especially whole grain oats - lowers low-density lipids (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) while raising high-density lipids (HDL, or “good” cholesterol”) (6). This two-pronged attack stabilizes cholesterol levels, which are a determining factor in heart health. Patients with lower overall cholesterol levels are less likely to develop coronary artery disease, a disease in which plaque lines the arteries leading to the heart.

Oats are an essential part of a “heart-healthy diet” that prevents such hardening of the arteries (7).

2. Oats Lower Your Risk of Colorectal Cancers

Colorectal cancers are insidious illnesses that do not always present with early symptoms, making them more difficult to identify and, therefore, defeat (8). Medical research suggests that eating a diet high in fiber - especially the fiber provided by whole grain cereals such as oats - can reduce the risk of colon cancers.

Several prominent British universities concluded in an in-depth study that for every 10 addition grams of fiber a person adds to his or her diet, the risk of colorectal cancers is reduced by 10% (9). Since one half cup of dry oats (approximately 1 cup, prepared) contains 4 grams of fiber, they are an ideal addition to a diet geared toward colon cancer prevention (10).

3. Oats Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Diets rich in whole grain fiber, especially that found in oat cereal, have also been linked to lower incidence of breast cancer in premenopausal women. In a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, it was discovered that women who ate more than 30 grams of fiber each day lessened their risk of breast cancer by more than 50% (11).

Similarly, the International Journal of Cancer reports that postmenopausal women who consume higher amounts of “cereal fiber” like that in oatmeal also reduced their risk of cancer by nearly 50% (12). Since a cup of prepared oatmeal or oatmeal-based granolas offer approximately 15% of the recommended daily value of whole grain fiber, oats are an ideal choice for both nutrients and cancer prevention.

4. Oats Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

A normal, stable blood pressure is essential for maintaining a healthy life. Without proper blood pressure, the blood cannot circulate efficiently through your body, which means nutrients, oxygen, and immune responses cannot be properly dispersed (13). Patients whose blood pressure is too high or too low are often put on medication to stabilize the pressure. But some studies have shown that eating oatmeal can be just as effective as medication for maintaining a healthy blood pressure (14).

Oatmeal contains high levels of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber which, when digested, forms a type of gel that coats the intestines and prevents the absorption of bad cholesterol. This, in turn, reduces the amount of plaque building up in a person’s arteries and consequently lowers blood pressure. Higher levels of LDL and arterial plaque force the heart to work harder and produce great pressure to move the heart through the restricted arteries. The unique and amazing nutritional and digestive properties of oatmeal mean that patients can efficiently, safely, and non-pharmaceutically reduce their blood pressure (15).

5. Oats Can Reduce the Risk of Obesity

Obesity is an American epidemic. Over 68% of American adults are classified as being medically overweight or obese (16). Obesity is often treated with a combination of behavioral therapy, diet and exercise, and, in some cases, weight loss medication or surgery. Eating clean, whole foods, therefore, is an essential element in the treatment of obesity.

Because of its high fiber content, oats keep you feeling full longer. This satiety, as well as the positive benefits oats have on digestion due to its high levels of beta-glucan, mean that consumers of oats tend to eat less and absorb fewer problematic compounds from their diet (14). Regular consumption of oats have been linked to lower weight, lower body mass index, and lower overall caloric intake (17). All of these are key elements in reducing obesity.

6. Oats Supplement and Boost Your Nutritional Intake

In addition to being a healthy source of fiber, whole grain oats are also chock-full of “good” (or complex) carbohydrates (18, 19).

Oats are replete with protein and healthy fats, as well as a laundry list of other essential vitamins and minerals. Oats contain more than a complete day’s worth of manganese (essential for healthy bones), as well as significant amounts of phosphorous (necessary for proper bone and tooth development), magnesium (used in the maintenance of nerves and muscles; also useful for combating diabetes and constipation), copper (essential to the health of your connective tissues, hair and eyes), iron (needed for health of the red blood cells), zinc (used to boost your immune system, digestion, energy, and metabolism), folate (crucial for the proper development of fetal neural tubes), and vitamin B (beneficial for metabolic processes) (20).

Because oats are also relatively low-calorie (approximately 300 calories for one prepared serving of oatmeal), they are considered to be extremely nutrient-dense, meaning you get a lot of nutrients in one very small - very tasty - package (18).

7. Oats Control Blood Sugar and Reduce the Risks Associated with Diabetes

Blood sugar levels are an important consideration in a person’s overall health and wellness. Sugar (or glucose) levels give us energy. Foods that are rich in processed sugar give people an immediate sugar rush, a feeling of energy or jitteriness, but are often closely followed by a crash - the period during which the sugar has been processed and eliminated from the body. Clean, whole, unprocessed forms of sugar and carbohydrates - including whole grain oats and fruits - release sugar into the body more slowly, meting out prolonged and appropriate cellular energy (21).

Prolonged levels of high blood sugar, or blood sugar that cannot be maintained naturally by the body, can cause damage to the organs. Diabetes sufferers, who have an imbalance in the hormone insulin, cannot control their blood sugar levels or process them on their own (22). For both diabetics and nondiabetics, it is healthier to maintain moderate and consistent sugar levels in the blood (23). Oats can help with this.

Because of the beta-glucan in oats, which, when digested, creates a gel barrier on the intestines, oats can help slow the absorption of excess processed sugars and carbs. In addition, because oats are a whole, unprocessed source of fiber and complex carbohydrates, as they break down, they release stable amounts of sugar into the body (21).

Furthermore, because oats are linked to decreases in obesity, and obesity is one risk factor for developing diabetes, oats may also help prevent the development of diabetes in pre-diabetic patients.

8. Oats Reduce the Risk of Childhood Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood illness, impacting at least 334 million children worldwide (24). Asthmatics suffer recurrent, often unpredictable swelling in their airways, making breathing difficult and sometimes leading to life-threatening situations. Research from the British Journal of Nutrition, however, indicates that early introduction of oats into a child’s diet may decrease the risk or impact of asthma (25).

The causes for this reduction are as yet uncertain, and research into the link between asthma reduction and oat introduction is still in its earliest stages. However, the decrease is clear and researchers continue to study the correlation while encouraging parents to add oats to their child’s diet beginning around the age of six months (26).

9. Oats Provide Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage from the environment or age. Some types of cell damage lead to cancer, so antioxidant protection is a serious consideration (27). Oats contain many types of antioxidants, including vitamin E , phytic acid, phenolic compounds, and avenanthramides (28).

These antioxidants offer a vast array of protection. Avenanthramides in particular are associated with anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and anti-irritation, offering relief for allergy sufferers. Avenanthramides also promote the production of nitric oxide in the body, a gas that dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, thereby further reducing high blood pressure.

10. Oats Soothe Skin

Because of the nutritional components of oatmeal - especially the natural fats and unprocessed sugars - it is an ideal and natural reliever for skin ailments. Running a hot bath and adding uncooked, powdered oatmeal to it soothes your skin. (Powdered oatmeal is recommended so that the oatmeal will dissolve instead of simply sinking to the bottom of the bath). Use approximately one cup of oatmeal in your bath.

As the oats dissolve, they release a gelatinous residue that rests on and protects your skin. The proteins in oatmeal also bolster and protect your skin from a variety of issues, including chicken pox, poison ivy, and even pregnancy-related skin conditions (29).

The antioxidants present in oats, especially avenanthramides, often provide anti-itch and anti-inflammatory relief for persistent and irritating skin problems.

Considering all the health benefits available in oats, it is important to find creative, delicious, and varied ways to incorporate oats into a well-balanced diet. Here are ten amazing oat recipes!

1. Buttermilk Oatmeal Pancakes

Start your morning with a hearty stack of heart-healthy pancakes, using this recipe inspired by All Recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (this equates to 16 grams of fiber!)

  • 2 cups buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup flour (for added whole grain benefit, use whole wheat flour)

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 beaten eggs (or, for a heart-healthier option, use ½ cup applesauce)

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mix buttermilk and oats in a large bowl; allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then, stir flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt into oat mixture. Do not over blend the ingredients; batter should be slightly lumpy. Add eggs/applesauce and oil.

  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium-high heat. Melt a tablespoon or less of butter on the pan to give your pancakes a crispy finish. Drop ¼ cup of batter on the pan and cook until bubbles form and the edges are dry. Flip and cook until browned on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

2. Slow Cooker Breakfast Oats

If you aren’t an early riser, but still want a delicious, nutritious breakfast, try this recipe for slow cooker oats!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steel cut oats

  • 3 1/2 cups water

  • 1 cup peeled fruit (fresh or frozen) of your choice. Heartier fruits, like apples, will retain their shape and texture much better than more malleable fruits like berries or peaches.

  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute

  • Ground cinnamon to taste (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place the steel cut oats, water, fruit, raisins, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla extract into a slow cooker. Stir the ingredients thoroughly. Cover the cooker, cook 6 to 7 hours on low for firmer, crunchier oats or 8 hours on low for softer, chewier oats.

3. Oatmeal Snack or Breakfast Bars

This delicious recipe will be a pleasing snack or wholesome breakfast - and it’s tasty enough to satisfy even your kids’ sweet teeth!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple butter

  • 1 cup flour (use whole wheat flour for added fiber and nutrition)

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 8 tablespoons melted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two sides to facilitate removal of bars from pan. Coat the foil with cooking spray, or rub lightly with butter.

  2. Mix flour, oatmeal, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Fold in butter with a fork until well mixed and clumpy, and then spread half the mixture over foiled pan.

  3. Press firmly to form a thin crust.

  4. Spread apple butter over crust and then sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture on top.

  5. Bake 30-40 min.

  6. Cool to room temperature. Pull up foil to remove bars from pan. Cut into squares and serve.

3. Delicious Breakfast Smoothie

This quick, delicious smoothie recipe will keep you full for a busy morning!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk of your choice (cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk)

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 3 cups of fruit or fruit combination of your choice (bananas + strawberries, peaches + berries, mixed berries, apples + cinnamon, peanut butter + bananas)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine milk, oats, and fruit. Add vanilla and sugar if desired. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass(es).

4. Banana Oat Muffins

Who says muffins are only for breakfast? These banana oat muffins are great for any meal of the day or a snack!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat flour adds addition fiber and nutrition)

  • 1 cup rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 egg (or, for a healthier option, use ¼ cup applesauce)

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup mashed bananas

Directions

  1. Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a mixing bowl

  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly, or, alternately, pour out the applesauce. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and stir until smooth and combined. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Batter may be slightly lumpy. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake cups, and divide the batter among them.

  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.

5. S’mores Overnight Oats

This sweet yet nutritious overnight oat recipe will bring an early-morning smile to any face!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (cow’s, soy, almond)

  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

  • 1 tablespoon mini marshmallows

  • 1 graham cracker

Directions

  1. Add oats to a container of your choice.

  2. Pour in the milk. Layer mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and top with a graham cracker.

  3. Put lid on container, refrigerate overnight. Ready to eat in the morning!

6. Oats Granola

Eating on the run? No time for lunch? This granola recipe has you covered at any time of day! It’s easy to eat on the go.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups rolled oats

  • 1 1/2 cups flax seed or bread crumbs

  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds

  • 1 cup chopped almonds

  • 1 cup chopped pecans

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or (for a more bitter taste) molasses

  • 3/4 cup honey

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

  • dash of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice, to taste

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups raisins or sweetened dried cranberries or other dried fruit

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.

  2. Combine the oats, flax seed, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl.

  3. Meanwhile, combine the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle rolling boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients. Toss to coat. Spread the mixture on the baking sheets.

  4. Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing or serving.

7. Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

A non-traditional take on overnight oats with the added nutrition of carrots!

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt

  • ½ cup rolled oats

  • ⅔ cup milk of choice (if using soy or almond milk, choose unsweetened)

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch of salt

  • Up to 2 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup for a slightly muskier flavor), to taste

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

  • 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese

  • ¼ cup raisins or other dried fruit of choice

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

  2. Close and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

8. Delectable Apple Crisp

This delicious dessert was inspired by a user recipe on All Recipe. It’s the perfect dessert for a cold winter day.

Ingredients

  • 6 tart apples - peeled, cored, and sliced. Granny Smith are recommended.

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat flour recommended)

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided

  • Additional 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Place apples in a 9x13 inch baking dish.

  3. In a bowl, mix melted butter, flour, sugar, oats, and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon to form a lumpy and crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over the cut apples. Dot mixture with remaining 1/4 cup butter, and then sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

  4. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the apples are soft.

9. The Gift of Oats

Try this cookie-in-a-jar recipe! It’s perfect for showers, gifts, or fundraisers...plus, it’s delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nut of your preference (almonds or walnuts substitute well)

  • 1 cup chocolate chips

  • 1 1/3 cups flour (whole wheat flour is recommended)

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Layer the ingredients in a Mason jar in the order listed above. Be sure to press each layer firmly in place before adding another.

  2. Attach a card to the jar with baking instructions:

    1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (to be supplied on your own). Stir in the entire contents of the jar. Shape into one-to-two-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. 3. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven.

10. Tropical Overnight Oats

If you’re yearning for an exotic getaway that’s just not on the horizon, try giving yourself a reprieve with this fruity and light overnight oat recipe!

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt

  • ½ cup rolled oats

  • ⅔ cup canned coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch of salt

  • 0-2 tablespoons honey

  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh or canned pineapple

  • ⅓ cup chopped ripe mango

  • ½ ripe banana, in pieces

  • 2 tablespoons flaked or shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon into a Mason jar.

  2. Close and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

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