Oats (Avena sativa) are a cereal commonly eaten in the form of oatmeal or rolled oats.
They are mainly eaten as porridge, as an ingredient in breakfast cereals and in baked goods (oatcakes, oat cookies and oat bread). Over the past few decades oats have become a very popular "health food".
Oats are loaded in dietary fiber (containing more than any other grain) and have a range of healthy cholesterol-lowering properties.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.
Nutritional breakdown of oats
Dietary fiber - oats are rich in a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan. This particular type of fiber is known to help lower levels of bad cholesterol. One cup (81g) of dry oats contains 8.2 grams of fiber1, the recommended daily intake of fiber is 25g for women and 38g for men.2
Minerals - oats contain manganese, selenium, phosphorus, fiber, magnesium, and zinc. Oats are also rich in carotenoids, tocols (Vitamin E), flavonoids and avenanthramides - a class of polyphenols.
Calories - one cup of dry oats (81g) contains approximately 307 calories.
The health benefits of oats
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that oats, as part of an overall heart healthy diet, could lower the risk of heart disease. The potential health benefits of oats include: reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, lowering levels of cholesterol, and reducing one's risk of colorectal cancer.
Oats may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease
A study titled "Oats at 10 Years", published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, found that eating foods rich in whole-oat sources of soluble fiber (oats, oat bran, and oat flour) may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.3
The Editor of the journal, Dr. James M. Rippe, said:
"This is an extremely important study. It tracked the value of oat-based products and showed the correlation between consumption and a healthier lifestyle. It is an outstanding benchmark."
Oats may help lower the risk of colorectal cancer
Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands pooled published evidence that covered nearly 2 million people to evaluate whether a high fiber diet (mainly from whole grains and cereals like oats) is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
The study found that for every additional 10g of fiber in someone's diet there is a 10% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer.4
Oats may help lower blood pressure
An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a diet which includes plenty of whole-grains (such as oats or wholemeal bread) is just as effective as taking anti-hypertensive medication in lowering blood pressure.5
Risks and precautions
Although oats don't contain gluten, in rare cases they are grown in the same fields as wheat or barley and these crops can sometimes contaminate oats with gluten. Therefore, those who suffer from gluten intolerance may have to exercise caution when eating oats.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist