Our Heart's Ally: Oats

Oatmeal, a breakfast classic. This whole grain bundle of yum has numerous benefits to our health. Our heart benefits from it in more ways then one. Since February is Heart Health Month and it's Valentine's Day, what better topic then our heart?

Oats are a complex carbohydrate, meaning their sugar molecules are strung in longer strands. Most complex carbs are found in items like whole grains, beans and some vegetables. The molecules get broken down into glucose, which our bodies use as energy. Any unused glucose gets stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen to be used for energy later.

These complex carbs make for an excellent source of fiber. The fiber found in oats is called beta-glucan. This type of soluble fiber fights back against cholesterol. You've probably heard of "good" and "bad" cholesterol. These are known as HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels. HDL cholesterol levels are known to fight against coronary heart disease. These are the levels you want to keep high, just as in the name. LDL levels are the ones we work hard to keep low, as they increase chances of heart disease. The fiber found in oats fights against those LDL levels, lowering the "bad" cholesterol levels, decreases chances of developing heart disease.

Not only is fiber important for our heart health, but it is critical for our digestive system. One serving of oats has 4g of dietary fiber, two of which are that soluble fiber I mentioned above. Fiber not only helps move things along in the intestinal tract, but also helps us feel fuller, longer. A bowl of oats in the morning can go a long way! Add a dash of brown sugar and some sliced fruit, and you'll be tied over close to lunch time.

Lastly, not only do oats have a powerful effect on our hearts and digestive system, they give us killer energy. As mentioned before, oats are complex carbs. And anyone who says they have cut carbs because their bad for you have been seriously mistaken. Carbs are what provide us with energy. Not only energy, but also aid in the fat metabolism process. The lasting energy we get from carbs helps us tackle the day of work, home-life and exercise.

Oats sometimes get a bad rap of being too plain. They don't have to be boring; there are never ending combinations to spice things up! You can have a hot cup of it, cold overnight oats, make muffins, like my Toasted Coconut Banana Muffins, or even add them to smoothies! They make mornings easy to prepare a balanced breakfast, or as an afternoon snack for an energy pick-me-up.

On top of these benefits, oats are also a great source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Do your heart, body and soul a favor; reinvent your breakfast routine with the never ending possibilities of oats!


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