Oats: Eat to your heart’s content

It’s easy to cook, light on the stomach and packed with health benefits. Do you need more reasons to eat oats everyday?


If you have wondered whether that bowl of porridge is really as good for the heart as it is made out to be, take heart—it’s true.

Known as ‘jai’ in Hindi, ‘jav’ in Gujarati and ‘thoke godhi’ in Kannada, oats is lately been enjoying a cult status among whole grains. This new found prominence is mainly due to the discovery of cholesterol lowering properties in oats. Oats have been credited with the highest levels of soluble fibre [the type that dissolves in water] among whole grains. The soluble fibre in oats combines with the fat in food and prevents it from being absorbed by the body. This helps the cholesterol levels from rising. The other reason for oats getting the ‘heart friendly’ reputation is due to the presence of an antioxidant [avenanthramides], which, say researchers, can prevent not just heart diseases but cancer too.

Besides the heart healthy properties, oats is known to help the following conditions:

Diabetes Being rich in soluble fibre, oats are a good choice for diabetics as they tend to slow down digestion, and therefore the release of glucose into the blood. Choose the traditional variety of oats that need to be cooked for a long time as they have a low Glycemic Index [GI] rather than the instant variety, which happens to have a higher GI and therefore may not release the glucose into the blood stream gradually.

Weaning foods Oats make wonderful first foods for babies. This is something I learnt the hard way when my second born suffered from constipation. What happened was that I started her on solid foods, namely rice. Now traditionally, rice is the first food introduced to a baby’s diet in India. So, I didn’t suspect that rice could be the cause of the constipation. When I was told to stop it and start feeding her oats instead, my interest in oats as a baby food began. Surprisingly, my baby thrived on it and slowly her problem with constipation was solved too.

Overweight Again, the fibre in oats tends to slow down digestion, which means that the food you eat stays longer in the stomach, keeping you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. This makes it oats a wonderful food for someone trying to lose weight.

Constipation If you suffer from constipation, have a bowl of oats everyday and see the difference.

Insomnia Being a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps to relax the muscles and nerves, eating oats at night may help insomniacs sleep better.

Skincare For centuries, oats has been used as a beauty aid. It has been used externally to treat pimples, dry itchy skin and sunburns. Ground oats mixed with raw milk and honey make for an excellent face pack. Due to its ability to hydrate, nourish and fortify the skin and hair, oat extracts are also being used in cosmetics—as a part of shampoos, bath gels and other skin care products.

While buying oats, look for the ones that have low sugar and sodium. You can eat oats as a sweet or savoury dish. Use it to make porridge, upma, dosa idli, cookies or even khichdi. To make your bowl of oats porridge more delicious and appealing to the eyes, garnish it with chopped nuts like almonds, pistachios and walnuts. You could also add a few strands of saffron to give it a royal touch.

This was first published in the July 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Sweta Uchil-Purohit
Sweta Uchil-Purohit is a certified dietician with more than 15 years of experience in the areas of clinical nutrition, weight loss, corporate nutrition and preventive nutrition. A wife and mother of two, she is also an avid blogger who believes in practising what she preaches.


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