There are literally hundreds of diet around the world that promise to help people melt away the extra pounds. Some work; many don’t. If you are overweight and plan on getting slimmer and trimmer, there is one food that can help you reach your weight loss goal regardless of which diet plan you undertake: ‘Oats’.
The Cost of Obesity
A wealth of scientific and clinical evidence has been published which links obesity to an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
Excess weight over an individual’s lifespan has also been linked to the development of knee osteoarthritis. In addition, adipose (fat) tissues produce biochemical compounds that contribute to systemic or body-wide inflammation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 39.8% of US adults, which translates to about 93.3 million people, were found to be obese in 2015–2016.
The CDC also reported that the estimated medical care costs of obesity in the USA (in 2008) was $147 billion. Thus, the gravity and magnitude of this health issue can quite easily be gauged by these staggering figures.
If you are overweight and looking to safely shed unwanted pounds overnight, you are in for a disappointment. Sensible weight loss is a gradual process that requires sticking to a nutritionally balanced diet plan.
You may, in fact, need to consult a qualified nutritionist or dietician as well as a fitness instructor or coach to help you in designing a personalized weight management plan.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to wait around for all these elements to fall into place to actually get on with your fat-burning mission.
One favorable diet choice that you can start with right away to kick-start your weight loss is to dig into a bowl of healthy wholesome oats.
Eating Oats for Healthy Weight Management
Here are some reasons why oats are a perfect addition to your weight-loss diet.
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains digest slowly and as a result release sugar gradually into the bloodstream, thereby helping people especially dieters maintain a consistent energy level.
In addition, they have not been processed in ways that strip them of their nutrient-rich components, as is the case with refined grains.
This is demonstrated in a controlled study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017), wherein scientists put one group of healthy men and postmenopausal women on a diet that included whole grains and another group on a diet that was heavy on refined grains.
The study revealed that the group that consumed whole grains enjoyed an energy shift that previous population studies had linked to reduced weight and body fat, whereas the group that ate refined grains did not do as well.
Not surprisingly, many popular diets include oats as a source of fiber and complex carbohydrates.
2. Contains Fiber
Oats are rich in water-soluble fiber, which soaks up liquid. During cooking, the water-soluble fiber transforms oats into a gel-like mass, which acts like a sponge as it travels through the gastrointestinal tract, mopping up fats and other compounds.
Additionally, because oats digest very slowly, people tend to feel satiated for longer, helping prevent hunger pangs that might tempt them to grab fatty or sugar-rich “pick me up” snacks between meals.
According to a 2000 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, dietary fiber tends to prevent obesity and satiate by slowing sugar and fat absorption from ingested food.
In a 2015 paper published in Food and Nutrition Research, researchers described a study in which they gleaned data from 14,690 children (aged 2 to 18) who took the ‘National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’ during 2001-2010 to assess cooked oatmeal consumption and its effects.
Their results indicate that oatmeal intake resulted in better nutrient consumption and quality of diet and decreased the risk of obesity and abdominal fat buildup.
3. Contains Beta-Glucan
Beta-glucans are a class of compounds that occur in the cell walls of plants such as barley and oats. The particular form of beta-glucan in oat bran is of particular interest to scientists, dieticians, and physicians due to its ability to lower serum cholesterol.
The evidence of this from various studies was so compelling that, in 1997, the FDA approved a claim that a dietary intake of at least 3.0 grams of β-glucan from oats each day decreased absorption of dietary cholesterol and thereby reduced the risk of coronary heart disease.
In the same vein, a 2013 study which appeared in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition showed that adult participants with body mass indexes (BMIs) higher than 27 who ate beta-glucan-rich oats experienced a significant decrease in their BMI, body fat, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio.
Also, many people who are overweight tend to consume a lot of carbohydrate-rich foods and soft drinks. This results in an increased level of glucose in the bloodstream, which the body uses to meet its energy requirements; any “leftover” or excess are stored in the form of fat.
Beta-glucan-rich oats can help offset the fat-generating consequences of these dietary “splurges” as oats have been shown to reduce post-eating blood glucose levels.
This is effect was underscored in a study that appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Medicine (2008) in which oat-rich muesli containing 4 grams of beta-glucans significantly lowered glucose levels in the study participants.
4. Contains Protein
One cup of uncooked steel-cut oats (160 grams) contains about 28 grams of protein.
According to a 2015 review of studies assessing the impact of protein on weight loss and maintenance published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, protein-rich diets that contain 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal improve satiety and weight management and thus reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes.
Moreover, high-protein diets have also been shown to boost thermogenesis or the rate at which the body burns calories.
5. Contains Complex Carbohydrates
When sugar is released into the bloodstream all at once, what happens with the simple carbohydrates such as table sugar, is that some are converted to energy whereas the rest is stored as fat. The complex carbohydrates in oats are converted to sugar at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates; this results in a gradual release of energy.
The blood glucose level raising power of carbohydrate-containing foods corresponds to their positioning on the glycemic index (GI), which has 3 categories: low, medium, and high. Oatmeal has a low GI.
In 2007, two researchers in Australia compared the outcomes from published controlled studies involving overweight or obese people who had gone on a low-GI diet versus those who had adhered to a high-GI or high-glycemic-load diet or other controlled trials (202 participants total). These studies ran for a period of five weeks to six months followed by up to a six-month follow-up.
Their findings clearly showed that the study participants on a low-GI diet enjoyed a significant reduction in body mass, total fat mass, body mass index, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol compared with those on other diets. This study was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR), whose publications are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care.
Therefore, incorporating oats along with other low-GI foods in your daily diet is very likely to help induce weight loss.
6. Low in Calories and Fat
It takes about 2000 calories per day for the average healthy adult woman to maintain her weight and dietary intake of 1500 calories per day to lose one pound of weight per week. For the average healthy adult man, it takes 2500 calories per day to maintain his weight and 2000 calories per day to lose one pound of weight per week.
For those seeking to lose weight, the inclusion of low-GI oatmeal, which has about 150 calories per half a cup, is a logical choice. The fact that half a cup of oatmeal contains about 2 grams of fat and is incredibly low in saturated fat underscores it as a healthy dietary choice.
You can do the math yourself by using this nifty online calorie-intake calculator.
7. Aids in Workout Sessions
The protein (6 grams per 1 cup of cooked oats) and complex carbohydrates in oats make this food a preferred choice for athletes and people who engage in regular workouts. This is because oats are loaded with complex carbohydrates that are metabolized and released slowly into the bloodstream and thereby help maintain a steady flow of energy over time.
Not surprisingly, many fitness trainers and coaches recommend the pre-exercise consumption of a low-GI meal, oats being a prime example
The case for eating oats as an energy-sustaining snack is made stronger by scientific studies that prove that there’s more to this claim than just hearsay and anecdotal merit.
One such study was published in Nutrition Reviews in 2017, wherein a group of scientists in Hong Kong compared the effects of low-GI and high-GI pre-exercise carbohydrate meals on the subsequent exercise performance of healthy individuals. They found sufficient evidence to suggest that endurance performance following a pre-exercise low-GI meal is superior to that following a pre-exercise high-GI meal.
Furthermore, much like other whole grains, oats contain antioxidants that help protect the energy-producing mitochondria in cells from free radicals, which can interfere with and hamper your sustainable energy levels.
Oatmeal is also rich in vitamins (especially B vitamins such as folic acid and thiamine), minerals (particularly manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous), and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are an added boon to improved energy production.
8. Low to No Sugar
Foods containing high-sugar can hamper your weight-loss efforts significantly. Because some instant oatmeal products contain added sugar, it’s well advised that such varieties be avoided.
Regular oats, however, are not a problem as they contain little to no sugar; for example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of rolled oats contain 0.99 grams of sugar.
This should make oats particularly attractive to those who are trying to lose weight, especially if they have diabetes.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Marci Clow (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist)
Can regular consumption of oatmeal lead to faster weight loss?
Regular consumption of whole grains, including oats, can contribute to better weight control when compared to a diet that is lacking in whole grains.
Oats contain soluble fiber which has been shown in scientific research to help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite, all of which are factors that could potentially lead to improved weight management.
Is oatmeal healthier with milk or water?
Whether prepared with milk or water, oatmeal has health benefits. However, preparation with milk contributes added minerals, protein, and a good carbohydrate source for energy production.
Can oats be consumed every day without any side-effects?
Yes, consuming oats on a daily basis is beneficial to your health without causing any adverse side effects. However, if your body is not used to consuming high fiber foods, gas and bloating can occur initially.
It is recommended to introduce them slowly and in small portions so your body can adjust. It may also help to drink plenty of water to assist the fiber in moving through the digestive tract.
Can eating oats make one feel bloated?
Whole grains, like oats, are an essential part of a healthy diet. But, as mentioned above, they can sometimes cause gas and bloating if your body is not used to the fiber content.
Can oats help relieve constipation?
The inclusion of high-fiber foods, like oats, in your diet can contribute to bowel regularity and prevention of constipation. Fiber increases the water content and weight of the stool, making them easier to pass.
Additionally, fermentation of beta-glucan (a fiber in oats) may contribute to an increase in the diversity of gut microbes which has been linked to improvement of digestive issues.
Which type of oats is the healthiest?
All types of oats come with certain health benefits but might lose out on some nutritional value when being processed. The less processed the variety, the more nutrients it will retain.
By that logic, oat groats are considered to be the healthiest since they are the least processed. These are simply toasted after removal of the hard-outer husk, and they take the longest time to prepare.
Next, in line are steel-cut oats (also called Irish or Scotch) which have had the oat kernel sliced into smaller pieces to help them cook. Rolled or old-fashioned oats are next, followed by quick-cooking oats, then instant.
Does instant oatmeal provide the same benefits as homecooked oatmeal?
Instant oats are cut, pre-cooked, dried, steamed and flattened so they are super-quick to cook. However, the processing causes a loss of nutrients and increases their glycemic index. Plus, they typically contain added sugar, flavorings, and salt.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs regarding the dietary inclusion of oats for speedy weight loss.
Including oats as part of an overall healthy diet can contribute to healthy weight management. However, there is no such thing as a quick fix or miracle food that supports speedy weight loss.
That being said dietary inclusion of oats will contribute to satiety and healthy digestion which are both key factors for achieving and maintaining your ideal weight.
About Marci Clow MS, RDN: She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and founder of Clowt Content, a provider of evidence-based content related to a wide range of food and nutrition topics.
Marci is an advocate for yummy food, an active lifestyle, kids, dogs, and making a difference in your health and wellness through optimum nutrition.
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