Health Benefits of Oatmeal
Pretty much universally, oatmeal is accepted as a powerful health food. In fact, a 2008 survey of over 4,000 Americans reported that people place oatmeal as the fourth healthiest food out there – led by whole grains, broccoli, and bananas.
So, the fact that oatmeal is extremely good for you really isn't a secret. And yet, not many people realize just how healthful humble oatmeal is for you. Perhaps that's why it's still not all that popular.
To help you better appreciate what it can do for you and why you should be eating more, let's take a look at just some of the many health benefits of oatmeal.
1) Improved Digestive Health
As we work our way down this list, you'll likely notice a trend: Most of the benefits of oatmeal are closely connected with its remarkably high fiber content. Considering the fact that fiber is actually the part of the plant that the human body cannot digest, this might seem a touch strange.
The truth, however, is that its indigestibility is exactly why fiber is so useful. For starters, the tougher fibers – those that are classified as insoluble – have a mild laxative effect, preventing constipation.
At the same time, this improved passage of waste through your digestive tract greatly reduces strain on your colon. In fact, this impact was so strong that a 2011 study directly linked increased fiber intake with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
2) Improved Heart Health
While the insoluble fiber is at work in the digestive system, the smaller soluble fibers found in oatmeal are able to work on the rest of your body. By lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and preventing the associated hardening of your arteries, fiber can greatly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Compared with other high-fiber, heart-healthy foods, though, oatmeal has some other added benefits. Specifically, oatmeal contains high levels of both calcium and potassium – nutrients that can significantly lower your blood pressure.
3) Weight Control
Oatmeal helps to keep your weight down in at least two ways. First, there's the all-powerful fiber. Because it sits in your stomach and takes longer to process, the fiber found in oatmeal helps you to feel fuller longer, with fewer calories.
But oatmeal also contains a little-recognized substance called beta-glucan. By increasing levels of hormones that reduce hunger, beta-glucan containing foods can also help you to cut back on just how much you eat.
4) Normalize Blood Sugar
Again, we need to turn our attention to the fiber in oatmeal. By slowing your digestion of carbohydrates, fiber gives oatmeal a fairly low glycemic index – meaning that it has a less-dramatic impact on your blood sugar levels.
In the short-term, this means that your body will continue to benefit from the carbohydrates found in oatmeal for several hours, instead of experiencing a harsh crash.
But the low glycemic index of oatmeal can also help to reduce the risk of type II diabetes, while reducing symptoms if you already have the condition.