Oats May Be the Most Underrated Ingredient in Your Pantry—Here's Why

You'll be rewarded with several nutrition benefits if you eat oats for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

We love a much-hyped, mega-exotic superfood trend just as much as the rest, but usually, the healthiest foods are pretty simple. Isn't that kind of the point? They're whole, unprocessed, unrefined, and probably a plant. And while we wouldn't dare deem these basic ingredients boring—like walnuts, sweet potatoes, strawberries, spinach, and so on—we can certainly say they're under-recognized.

So what is one of the most nutritious superfoods out there? Oats. Ask any RD or MD, and they'll tell you that you should be eating more of them. They're incredibly versatile, affordable, nutritious, and shelf-stable. We asked Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, from Street Smart Nutrition to share some quick oats nutrition facts and how you can incorporate more of them into your diet.

Health Benefits

Oats are a super source of fiber and can help support a healthy digestive system. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, and they're one of the most convenient ways to increase fiber intake (a shortfall nutrient most Americans don't consume enough of).

Oats are also super hearty and filling, so you won't be tempted to stop by the vending machine for candy 20 minutes after you eat them. These are some additional health benefits of oats.

Reduce Blood Cholesterol

According to Harbstreet, 3 grams of soluble fiber from oats, when part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can reduce blood cholesterol which may help reduce the risk for heart disease. A serving of Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats provides about 4 grams of fiber, so add another small serving—like a granola bar or yogurt topping—to help your cardiovascular system.

Lower Blood Sugar

Adding oats to your diet has been shown to lower blood sugar and help control glucose levels. This is great news for people with type 2 diabetes and a fantastic nutritional benefit for the general public.

Provide Antioxidants

Eating oats has another benefit—more antioxidants for your body. Oats contain antioxidants such as avenanthramide and phenolic compounds (known as AVAs), which studies have shown can help with inflammation.

Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria

Studies have shown that in addition to increasing fiber intake, oats help your overall gut health. A "...significant positive response of Firmicutes phylum following oatmeal consumption" was seen in a 2020 study. Firmicutes phylum are gut bacteria that act as probiotics and boost the body's overall health.

How to Eat More Oats

Oats are considered a healthy whole grain—another food group most Americans don't eat often enough. And they are delicious any time of day: They can be incorporated into hot, cold, sweet, or savory dishes. What's better is that they pair well with other nourishing foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and plant- and animal-based protein sources, enhancing your overall diet quality (which can help you lose weight and keep it off).

Recipe Ideas

Thanks to their mild flavor and ease of cooking, all varieties of oats provide a culinary blank canvas for creating nourishing and delicious meals and snacks. You can serve oatmeal sweet or savory and hot or cold (pardon, "overnight oats"). Stir in cinnamon, nut butter, and berries, or put an egg on it.

There are also several ways to eat oats that don't involve oatmeal. Bake oats into bars or make homemade granola. You also could incorporate them into a smoothie or bake some oat-infused muffins. Looking for a healthy dessert option? Try a berry-oat crumble.

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  2. Llanaj E, Dejanovic GM, Valido E, et al. Effect of oat supplementation interventions on cardiovascular disease risk markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Nutr. 2022;61(4):1749-1778. doi:10.1007/s00394-021-02763-1

  3. Hou Q, Li Y, Li L, et al. The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisNutrients. 2015;7(12):10369-10387. Published 2015 Dec 10. doi:10.3390/nu7125536

  4. Rasane P, Jha A, Sabikhi L, Kumar A, Unnikrishnan VS. Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods - a reviewJ Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(2):662-675. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1072-1

  5. Ye, M., Sun, J., Chen, Y. et al. Oatmeal induced gut microbiota alteration and its relationship with improved lipid profiles: a secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trialNutr Metab (Lond) 17, 85 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00505-4

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