Why Oatmeal Is Good For You

by Mira

Ever wondered why everybody is saying oatmeal is so healthy? Well, oatmeal does have a lot of health benefits. Here are some of them.

What most people know is that oatmeal is a rich source of fiber, some of which absorbs cholesterol away from your bloodstream. Eat oatmeal regularly, and your bad / "lousy" cholesterol level (LDL) will stay down. Besides the fiber, some of the compounds in oatmeal also help lower your cholesterol. So this is one reason: fiber, which keeps you regular and your arteries healthy. It also helps you lose weight.

Oatmeal also prevents sudden drops or spikes in your blood sugar, reduces high blood pressure, and decreases the risk of breast cancer. More research is done to see if it may prevent other types of cancer as well.

Oatmeal contains plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, you may not have realized this, but oats contain not only carbs, but also protein and fats. Some of those fats are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, the famous omega-3, albeit in a small amount. If you thought only cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, etc.), nuts (walnuts, butternuts, and to a lesser extent peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and other nuts) and certain seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.) were a source of omega-3 fatty acids, think again.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Why Are They Important?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. Your body can't produce them, so you have to get them from somewhere: food and/or supplements. They come in 3 forms:

- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

The first two are found in fish oils and the third in plant and nut oils.

Omega-3 fatty acids prevent heart and cardiovascular diseases by increasing the good cholesterol (HDL), reducing your triglyceride levels, and lowering high blood pressure.

They also help your memory and overall brain performance

They reduce the risk of arthritis and fight inflammation in the body.

They also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

They lower the incidence of colorectal cancer and may lower the risk of breast cancer as well.

Studies are undertaken to test other health benefits. Read about them on a Web page on omega-3 fatty acids put together by the University of Maryland Medical Center. They also include a list of precautions, as omega-3 fatty acids interact with certain medications (blood thinning medications, diabetes medications, and so on) and can have unwanted side effects.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Oatmeal has 173 mg omega-3 fatty acids and 3781 mg omega-6 fatty acids per serving. You can see that's quite a disproportion there. In fact, the typical American eats 14-25 more times omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids (meat is high in omega-6 fatty acids too). We should strive for something more balanced.

It turns out that some omega-6 is good for you, but too much of it can actually be harmful, increasing inflammation in the body (but there is such a thing as healthy inflammation too, such as the one that heals wounds). 

Omega-6 fatty acids are important in brain function, bone health, metabolism, reproductive system, and healthy skin and hair.

Omega-6 may help lower high blood pressure in combination with omega-3 fatty acids. It also helps fight osteoporosis. There may be other health benefits as well. Read about them and about precautions to taking omega-6 supplements (they may cause seizures, for one) on the Web site University of Maryland Medical Center. You'll also find there information on certain conditions that a high intake of omega-6 may alleviate.

Here's a Breakfast Idea: Oatmeal with Cranberries

This bowl of oatmeal takes 3 things (well, 4, if you add water): instant oatmeal, dried cranberries, and brown sugar. Boil the oatmeal with the cranberries for 3 minutes, adding sugar as well.Oatmeal with Cranberries. Health Benefits

Health Benefits of Cranberries

Cranberries are rich in antioxidants, and are also a good source of vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. They also contain trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

Antioxidants are crucially important in the body because they fight free radicals which may damage healthy cells. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and so are other phytonutrients in cranberries, such as proanthocyanidins, a kind of flavanols also found in grape seeds, for instance.

These flavanols may protect against heart disease, as well as atherosclerosis, cataracts and diabetes, among other conditions. They also protect against stomach ulcers by fighting the Helicobacter pylori bacteria which causes them.

Cranberries also may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Preliminary studies have shown that they also inhibit cancer cells from growing and fight certain viruses. More studies on humans are needed.

Enjoy your oatmeal!

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Don't Skimp on Your Workout

Take your carb-rich breakfast with some exercise! Well, not right away, but an hour after your breakfast would be perfect. If you don't have time to go for a run, there are great Pilates workouts that you can do at home. Oatmeal and fruit will give you the energy and stamina for a great workout.

The benefits of morning exercise are great and many. First of all, you're more likely to exercise if you do it early in the day. Second, it's a great way to wake up -- much better than waiting for a second coffee at the office. If you don't have time, 20 minutes are enough, provided you do the right exercises. Also, a morning workout increases your metabolism for the rest of the day. You'll feel your body differently and will make healthier food choices later in the day. You'll be able to even think better. So what are you waiting for?

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Updated: 02/09/2014, Mira
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Mira on 11/25/2013

Abby and Frank: I also get hungry soon after eating my oatmeal, but that's because I eat very little. I often combine it with both sugars and fats. Fruit is wonderful, and then you can add coconut milk, ground flaxseed, etc. for very good fats. You can also add cinnamon, or, as I have been doing lately, instant chicory, which is made from the root of a chicory plant. Chicory is very healthy. It was used as a substitute for coffee in Romania before 1989, and elsewhere during WWII. It doesn't contain caffeine but it does taste similar to coffee. For a sweet taste without the sugars you can try stevia, and so on.

frankbeswick on 11/25/2013

Abby, that is an important point. I do feel hungry sometime after eating oatmeal products. I think, though, that the portions recommended on products are often too small. I think that we need to add sweeteners to the oatmeal to provide the necessary calories. When I was a child my mother gave us porridge, but she also supplied golden syrup, and we ate our porridge quite sweet, which for a little boys who were keen to run around was a necessity. I think that adding fruit to the oatmeal, such as bananas or dried apple, can provide the necessary sugars.

AbbyFitz on 11/24/2013

I like oatmeal, but I get hungry again an hour after I eat it. I guess I would get more vitamins if I ate more!

Mira on 11/24/2013

Not a lot, but some. I love oatmeal. Also love that it's cheap and easy to prepare :)

ologsinquito on 11/24/2013

I didn't know all these things about oatmeal and I had no idea it contained good fats.

Mira on 09/28/2013

Oatmeal is still very uncommon here. My father laughed the first time I tried to feed him some. We had and still have a saying, that goes something like "Would you, horse, eat your oats." It was used about things that people liked very much, but it still connected oats with horses. As younger people quip nowadays, we should change the saying, since a lot of us eat oatmeal :). We also adopted some 15-20 years ago German Müsli. It's now far more common for people to eat that for breakfast rather than plain oats. I, for one, prefer to make my own oats or oat combos. I had to eat oatmeal plain several times, whether in a hurry or for lack of other ingredients, and loved it. I now eat it plain, or with one other ingredient, quite often.

frankbeswick on 09/28/2013

I did take some soya lecithin, as lecithin is a cholesterol reducer, but I have not taken it recently as my cholesterol is now fine. It's a pity that you don't live near me, as you could have had some of my surplus apples, but Manchester is some way from Bucharest.

I grew up eating oatmeal porridge for breakfast, as my mother was very much a foodie. She believed in eating home cooked food made with natural, healthy ingredients.

Mira on 09/28/2013

Hi Frank, your combo sounds good, not relying exclusively on statins. I'm still trying to figure out a way to lower cholesterol significantly with food. It seems to be rather difficult, although oatmeal does help. So far I've had great results with avocados lowering triglycerides. They do an amazing job.

When I did the apple article I read about a study which found an apple a day lowered cholesterol up to 40%. I find it hard to believe, but it's a scientific study. Maybe I should start eating an apple a day for 4 weeks, and do my cholesterol before and after. :)

Mira on 09/28/2013

Hi Sally, yes, oatmeal is so comforting, too. I just had some, made just with some prunes and a little milk. I had forgotten about raisins :). Thanks!

frankbeswick on 09/28/2013

The reason that I went back onto oatmeal porridge [and found that I really liked it] was a talk with the doctor, who told me that I had the very beginnings of small vessel disease [some thickening of small blood vessels.] Besides statins and aspirin, which I must take daily, oats are good for keeping down cholesterol.

Don't get too worried about my health, they nabbed the ailment at the very beginning and my cholesterol is now at very safe levels.

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