Whole Grain Oats Can Improve Insulin Sensitivity and Cholesterol

The benefits of oats on blood sugar and cholesterol are well known, but new research suggests that the gut might also be involved. In a small study in Utah, 24 mice were fed a diet of either whole grain oat flour or refined (low bran) oat flour for eight weeks. The whole grain group had vastly different gut microbiota (the friendly bacteria in the gut) than the refined oat group, including twice as many beneficial Lactobacillacea. Those fed the whole grain oats also had significantly improved insulin sensitivity (a measure of how well a body is able to regulate its own blood sugar), 9.9% lower total cholesterol and 11% lower non-HDL (a combination of LDL and VLDL or “bad cholesterol”). The researchers speculate that the changes in gut microbiota could be a mechanism for improved insulin sensitivity and cholesterol, and conclude that these findings “further confirm the beneficial effect of whole grain oats.”
Journal of Nutrition. 2014 Dec 10. (Zhou A et al.)


While fruits and vegetables are known as sources of healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds, research increasingly shows that whole grains contain them too. In this review, researchers analyzed the total phenolic contents, phenolic acid profile and antioxidant activity of several whole grains, including wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, rye, oat and millet. The review shows that whole grains contain a number of phytochemicals (including antioxidants) and significantly exhibit antioxidant activity. Researchers conclude that the consumption of whole grains is considered to have significant health benefits including prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer because of the contribution of phenolic compounds. 
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Van Hung P et al.)


Inflammation has been linked to many diseases, so understanding how to reduce inflammation is important. In a small study in Scotland, 22 people with type 2 diabetes participated in a randomized cross-over study, which consisted of two 8-week interventions with either an oat-enriched diet (their normal diet with oats replacing some of the carbohydrates; average intake of oats was 131g/day, or the equivalent of more than 1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats) or a diet based on the standard dietary advice from Diabetes UK (average intake of oats was only 5g/day). Researchers then assessed the microparticle concentrations (a marker of inflammation) of patients after each diet and found that the oat-enriched diet significantly improved these risk factors for inflammation.  
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2014 June;58(6):1322-32. (Zhang X et al.) 

Oatmeal Risotto

This recipe is a great way to make use of leftover oatmeal. Quick oats cooked in broth and cherry tomatoes and fresh basil sautéed in garlic oil add complex and complimentary layer of flavors to the finished plate.

Sargent Choice Chocolate Chip Cookies

This classic cookie recipe came from a love of the Original Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie, which most people are familiar with and love. Here, it’s been modified to make it whole grain and heart-healthy, but still delicious!

Processing Barley & Oats Can Make Phenols More Bioaccessible

A food’s nutritional quality is influenced not only by its ingredient list, but also by how it is processed. To see how processing grains affects the bioaccessibility of nutrients in animals, researchers measured the free and bound phenolic acids in pigs after feeding them whole grain barley and oats, or extruded whole grain barley and extruded oats. Extrusion is a process used to make pasta, cereal, croutons, and other grain products, by sending a flour and water mixture through a die to get uniform shapes. The researchers found that the phenolic acids (healthy phytochemicals found in plant foods) were 29% and 14% more bioaccessible in extruded barley and extruded oats, respectively, compared to their non-extruded counterparts. While this is just an animal study, it indicates that different processing methods might make different nutrients more readily available.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013 Mar 20;61(11):2739-47. (Hole AS et al.)

Oatmeal with an Egg Boost

For oatmeal fans who want more protein in their breakfast, adding yogurt and egg does the trick, making this somewhat like bread pudding. Although ⅔ cup of oats contains 3 grams of protein, you’ll get an additional 6 grams of protein by adding the egg, and even more if you top it with yogurt...

Oatmeal Fruit Smoothie

Oatmeal is a versatile grain, but drinking oatmeal? Yup. Cook up a batch of quick oats with cranberries, honey, apples and cinnamon. Let it cool completely. Then add to a blender with yogurt, milk and bananas. Calcium, fiber, vitamin C-rich cranberries, potassium — it’s all in here. Drink a...

Brown Rice Apple Crisp

Traditionally, fruit crisps are made with oats alone, but nothing says other whole grains can’t join the party. Cook some extra rice at dinner tonight, and you’ll have a shortcut for tomorrow’s dessert. Two whole grains are better than one!

RCT Shows Whole Grains Reduce Blood Pressure

In a randomized control trial of 233 healthy, middle-aged volunteers, subjects spent 4 weeks consuming a run-in diet of refined grains, and then were randomly allocated to the control diet (refined), a whole wheat diet, or a whole wheat and whole oats diet for 12 weeks. Each group consumed 3 daily portions of the specific grains. Systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure were significantly reduced by 6 and 3 mm HG, respectively, in the whole grains groups compared to the control refined group. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen concluded that this blood pressure decrease would decrease the incidence of coronary artery disease and stroke by 15-25% respectively.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2010; 92(4):733-40. Epub August 4, 2010

Oat and Amaranth Crusted Quiche

This unusual cracker-like, protein-rich crust offers the pleasing sweetness of oats, and amaranth’s hint of corn.

Ready-to-eat Oat Cereal May Help Reduce Waist Circumference

Researchers investigated the impact of regularly consuming a whole grain oat cereal during the course of a dietary program in 204 overweight or obese adults. In the study, one randomized group of subjects consumed two servings per day of a ready-to-eat oat cereal in place of a low-fiber food of equivalent calories (control, which was given to the second group of subjects). LDL cholesterol and waist circumference were reduced significantly more among those receiving the whole grain ready-to-eat oat cereal. Body weight, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol were not significantly different between the two groups.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Feb 2010;110(2):205-14


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