There are so many health benefits of eating high-fiber oats. Here are some important ones.
- Oats help reduce the risk of heart disease in part by helping to lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol
- Oats can slow the build-up of plaque, basically the gunk that lines the blood vessels, narrowing the passageways. These narrow passageways can lead to high blood pressure and heart attacks, so reducing or slowing the accumulation of plaque can help prevent heart attacks.
- An oatmeal breakfast can help strengthen your immune system, making you more resistant to colds and flu.
- Oats help stabilize blood sugar, especially important for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. In fact, eating oats six times a week can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place.
- Pre-menopausal women who eat diets high in fiber from whole grains such as oats benefit from a lower incidence of breast cancer.
- Consuming whole grain oats helps protect children from developing childhood asthma.
Oats come in different forms, depending on how much processing the original oat kernels (called groats) undergo. It can be confusing because the some types can be called by different names.
The general rule is that the more the oats are processed, the shorter the cooking time. Processing also affects texture and flavor.
Whole oat groats are unprocessed and take quite a long time to cook. Combine ¼ cup of oat groats and ¾ of a cup of water per serving in a small sauce pan and simmer on low for about 50 minutes. The cooked oat groats can be used for breakfast or as part of a stuffing mix.
Steel-cut oats are produced when the whole grain is sliced by thin by steel blades. Rolled oats are oat grouts that are pressed into flat flakes by industrial strength rollers. Rolled oats are sometimes called old-fashioned oats and are the kind most commonly used in baking. To cook, mix one part oats with two parts cold water and simmer 30 minutes for steel-cut oats and 15 minutes for rolled oats.
A time-saving alternative to rolled or steel-cut oats are quick-cooking oats which are made much like rolled oats, except they are cut into smaller pieces, which cuts down on the cooking time. The final product will be smoother (some say mushier) than rolled or steel-cut oats.
You might be most familiar with instant oatmeal, which is the most heavily processed. With instant oatmeal, the grains are partially cooked (which reduces cooking time in your kitchen) and then rolled extra thin. Packaged instant oatmeal is often flavored with salt, sugar and other ingredients, making it the least healthy option.
You might also see oat bran and oat flour sold separately. Oat bran is retained in rolled and steel-cut oats. When it’s sold separately, it can be added to other foods for a fiber boost. Oat flour that hasn’t come into contact with other flours is gluten-free.
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Author: Rebeca Espinoza
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.