Oats fill the bill when it comes to reducing hunger and keeping you on your diet plan. The soluble fiber in oats fills you up by creating gels. The gels delay stomach emptying, so you feel full longer, which helps with weight loss.
Whether horse feed or muffins come to mind when you think of oats, you're probably underestimating this truly healthful grain. A whole grain full of fiber, oats pack plenty of punch.
Eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning can easily help you increase your intake of whole grains and help you meet the Dietary Guidelines' recommendation to make half of the grains you eat whole grains. Whole grains are beneficial not just because of their fiber, but also because they contain a variety of minerals and phytonutrients. Some of the phytonutrients include lignans, which may help protect your heart; plant sterols and stanols, which help normalize blood cholesterol levels; and antioxidants such as phenolic and phytic acids.
Since the mid 1960s, many studies have highlighted the effect of oats' soluble fiber (the same beta-glucans found in barley) on blood-cholesterol levels. On average, eating three grams of soluble (not total) fiber a day (the amount in two bowls of oatmeal or one cup of cooked oat bran) reduced cholesterol by six points in three months. Participants with the highest cholesterol levels saw the best response; those whose blood-cholesterol levels were over 220 mg/dL saw their levels drop by 8 to 23 percent. Those who ate the most oat bran benefited the most. Another study showed that in certain individuals, oat bran can be as effective as, and certainly much less expensive as, medication in curbing elevated blood-cholesterol levels.
Similarly exciting results have been seen in people with diabetes and those with high-normal blood-sugar levels. The soluble fiber in oats means slower digestion, spreading the rise in blood sugar over a longer time period. Some people with diabetes who followed a diet high in soluble fiber from sources like oats and beans have been able to reduce their medication. Oats have more to offer everyone. They are tops in protein and manganese, providing 50 percent of the recommended intake for this mineral. In addition, they offer an unusual amount of iron, thiamin, and magnesium.