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4 ways oats keep you healthy

Oats and oat products have many health benefits, largely because of their soluble fiber beta-glucan. They also provide protein and key minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and zinc. Eating a healthy portion each day can help you lower your cholesterol, manage diabetes, prevent cancer, and cure constipation. Oats can even relieve itchy skin, which is why you’ll see oat extract listed on many bath products.

 

* BATTLES CHOLESTEROL - You’ve probably heard all the fuss about oat bran and its ability to lower cholesterol. Normally, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear - but in this case, it’s true. Oat bran does lower cholesterol.

That’s because oat bran, the outer husk of the oat grain, contains tons of bet-glucan. This sticky soluble fiber works by slowing down your food as it passes through your stomach and small intestine, explains Dr. Barbara Schneeman, a researcher at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and a professor at the University of California-Davis. This gives high-density lipoprotein (HDL) more time to pick up cholesterol and whisk it to the liver and out of the body. It also gives low-density lipoprotein (LDL) less chance to move cholesterol to your artery walls, where it can build up and cause problems.

Some studies have reported that oats slashed total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent and LDL, or bad cholesterol by 24 percent, but most experts are more cautious.

* MANAGES DIABETES - If you’re struggling with diabetes, you know you should watch your carbohydrates. One good way to do that is to eat more soluble fiber.

The viscosity, or stickiness, of the beta-glucan in oats bogs down your food as it travels through your stomach and small intestine. This not only helps lower cholesterol, it also slows absorption of carbohydrates. Your blood doesn’t get flooded with glucose all at once, so you don’t have an immediate and urgent demand for insulin.

Many experts have recommended a high-fiber diet, with anb emphasis on soluble and cereal fibers, as an effective way to deal with diabetes. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a diet with 50 grams of daily fiber (25 grams each of soluble and insoluble) helped keep blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol under control in people with type 2 diabetes. It also showed you could achieve this type of diet without taking fiber supplements or eating special fiber-fortified foods.

* PREVENTS CANCER - Wheat bran gets most of the attention when it comes to colon cancer, but oats may have some anti-cancer powers, too.

Again, the soluble fiber beta-glucan does the dirty work. Like the insoluble fiber of wheat bran, beta-glucan speeds food through the large intestine. It may also react with tiny organisms to form compounds that protect the colon wall and tame carcinogens. Wheat bran and other insoluble fibers help by adding bulk to the stool to dilute the cancer-causing substances.

* CURES CONSTIPATION - Fighting cancer and other diseases is only part of fiber’s job. Oats and other sources of fiber also help you day to day by keeping your digestive system running, smoothly and preventing constipation. When you eat enough fiber (and drink enough water), your colon forms stools that can pass easily out of your body. You need this stuff for a healthy gut. That’s where eating a diet high in fiber is a positive.

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