The humble oat is more rightly a ‘superfood’ than any bitter berry or leafy green, but its low profile leads many to ignore the numerous health benefits it offers. Oats are good for everything from lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar and digestion to boosting the immune system, and even lowering the risk of asthma attacks in kids.
Even better, oats are an excellent source of both carbs and protein (especially if you have them with milk) while being low in fat and containing high concentrations of essential minerals lost during workouts, like magnesium. If they’re not part of your weight loss or bodybuilding diet, they should be.
In this article, we’re going to look at all the way oats can benefit you and how to make the most out of their truly impressive properties.
Natural appetite suppressants
Perhaps the most impressive property of oats is that because they’re high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, they act as a natural appetite suppressant. Oats are also what’s known as high satiety, which means that after you eat them, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your meal, and less likely to snack.
On top of this, oats are low GI and relatively calorie-light by weight–that is, a handful of oats has less calories than the same weight of, say, corn flakes. They also stabilise your blood sugar levels, so again, you avoid the energy crash and you don’t snack when you shouldn’t.
Getting the appetite suppressant qualities of oats is incredibly straightforward. Your morning oatmeal, however you like it, will keep you full long into the day without either making you feel bloated or leaving you hungry. Uncontrolled snacking is one of the major causes of weight gain, so if you can cut it out without leaving yourself miserable, you’re far more likely to succeed in your weight loss goals.
Because of the unique properties of oats, they actually go a long way to repairing a lot of diet mishaps, so you can actually actively fight damage you may have done to your body through excessive sugar and fat consumption by consuming them. If you’re just starting on a weight loss program, oats are practically magic.
Perfect for carb loading
Oatmeal made up with milk and a little sweetener is basically the perfect pre-workout meal (or snack), because it’s got the ideal balance of complex and simple carbs, fat, and protein. While oats aren’t a complete protein by themselves, the addition of milk makes them whole, and the addition of your preferred sweetener–honey, maple syrup, or raw sugar–gives you the immediate boost you need.
Thanks to the unique insulin-controlling properties of oats, you won’t experience the dreaded sugar crash halfway through your workout. This is because oats are high in a substance called beta glucan, a kind of dietary fibre which is uncommon in normal diets, but can be found in high concentrations in oats. It also, as an added benefit, lowers your bad cholesterol while maintaining your levels of good cholesterol.
This means that you get the big energy boost you need to sail through your workout, and at the end of it you won’t be worn out or starving, but can control your post-workout intake more carefully and get the maximum benefit out of your nutrition without the risk of overdoing it.
Overnight oats are an extremely convenient way of having a pre-workout meal in the fridge and ready to go when you need it. The process is fairly simple–instead of cooking your oats like you normally would, you just let them soak in milk and whatever other ingredients you like for at least a couple of hours, but ideally overnight. This saves time and effort in the morning and makes you more likely to actually eat a pre-workout meal, which can be hard to do.
For some inspiration, start with these 8 Classic Overnight Oats Recipes to start experiencing the full benefits of oats as a workout fuel.
Valuable source of protein
At 17% protein, oats aren’t a source to be sneezed at–for comparison, that’s twice as much protein as tofu, or if you want to compare breakfast cereals, more than twice as much as cornflakes. This high protein content makes oats a valuable addition to your diet, especially as most other plant sources of protein (excluding nuts) aren’t nearly as densely packed with it.
One 25g serve of oats gives you 13% of your recommended daily intake of protein–though that assumes a maintenance diet, not one aimed at gaining muscle or losing weight. However, for one small serving, that’s a decent protein hit.
Like all plant-based proteins, oat protein isn’t strictly complete–it’s missing a key ingredient, lysine, which is the final amino acid that makes up a complete protein. So to get the maximum benefit out of your oats, combine them with cow’s milk for the added protein boost. You can even add protein powder to your oatmeal to really turn it into a high-protein workout fuel.
Oats can also be used to thicken your smoothies, and provide a pleasant texture and a more filling result than if they were absent. This is especially handy if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel like eating after a workout, because this is much easier to consume than a steak.
The thing that makes oats such a valuable source of protein is that breakfast foods like cereals and toast tend to be low protein, and breakfast foods that do contain significant amounts of protein, like eggs, can be heavy and time-consuming to prepare. Oats provide the best of both worlds by being light, but also quick and easy to prepare–not to mention delicious.
Oats have the potential to be your secret protein weapon when you can’t face yet another omelette or piece of salmon. People have been eating them non-stop for thousands of years for a reason, and we’re only starting to rediscover those reasons now.
Boost your essential micronutrient intake
It’s easy to ignore your micronutrient intake, but doing so can have health consequences that aren’t easily pinned down, but will make you feel terrible after a very short amount of time. Oats are a great way of keeping your micronutrient intake up–they contain manganese, copper, magnesium, and zinc in high concentrations, up to 96% of your recommended daily intake.
If you’re working out regularly, minerals get lost in much higher volume than normal through your sweat. Oats are a great way to replace these valuable nutrients, many of which are essential to muscle recovery and growth. This way, you don’t need to keep as close an eye on them in order to make sure you don’t end up with a deficiency. Add a banana to your oats and you’ll be getting just about everything you need from them in one meal!
Oats also contain essential muscle building ingredients like niacin (vitamin B3), which helps to convert carbs into energy your body can use, and iron, which aids in the transport of oxygen to your muscles so they can work harder, longer, and help you get the most out of your workouts.
Other micros in oats can help your body fight disease–no missed gym days while you’re at home with a cold or an ear infection–and improve your metabolic rate, so you’ll build muscle faster and more easily because the energy you consume via your food will be converted and able to be used more quickly.
Oh, and did we mention they also boost your healing and recovery times? Consuming oats means getting the maximum benefit from every workout, including the post-workout phase.
Oats: is there anything they can’t do?
How to add more oats to your diet
Okay, so, you’re sold on the benefits of oats, but how do you get more of them? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Oatmeal doesn’t have to be plain porridge. Overnight oats and fancy gourmet recipes can change up the usual oat-based dish and make it something that even the fussiest eater will enjoy. Even just adding a favourite fruit (try blueberries for a ton of health benefits) can make all the difference.
- As mentioned briefly above–add them to smoothies! You’ll want to use soaked oats for this unless you’ve got a really powerful blender, but oats add texture and body to your smoothies and make them seem more substantial.
- Use them as a breadcrumb substitute–blitzing oats in the blender turns them into a breadcrumb-like substance that can be used in place of the traditional variety in a whole host of dishes.
Make protein power cookies–oats are a common ingredient in many popular kinds of cookie, from chocolate chip to florentines. This way, you can have a treat while still getting all the benefits of oats. This probably shouldn’t make your everyday menu, but it’s still a good way of giving your diet a boost without it seeming like a chore.
- Try oatcakes instead of rice crackers or crispbreads. They’re deliciously savory, but made with oats instead of other, less nutritionally beneficial grains. Besides, if you have company over, they’ll think they’re fancy.
Whatever way you choose to add more oats to your diet, you will see benefits quickly–your cholesterol drops after just one serving, and you’ll notice yourself feeling fuller and more energised straight away. You have nothing to lose by trying them out, and everything to gain. Musclefood regularly have offers on their KG bag of natural fine oats. Why not check out their offers and get yourself the best deal.
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