By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
What could be tastier, more filling, or more comforting in the morning than a steaming bowl of oatmeal? And it turns out that your oatmeal breakfast is also super-healthy. In fact, oatmeal could hold the secret to a longer, healthier life, according to new studies. And, two of the oldest people on Earth --- 109 year-old Jessie Gallan of Scotland and 110-year old Adele Dunlop of New Jersey --- both attribute their long lives to eating oatmeal every day.
But what's the scientific evidence that oatmeal helps you live longer? What benefits, aside from tasting great, does oatmeal have for your body?
Nutritional Benefits of Oatmeal
Oats are a healthy addition to your diet as the harvesting and preparation process for these grains does not strip away the beneficial bran or germ. This means oats are packed with fiber. A single cup of oats contains 8.2g of fiber , which equals about one-third of the recommended daily intake of 25g g for women and 38g for men.
In particular, oats are rich in a special fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan helps protect your heart, lower your blood pressure, and may even lower your cholesterol.
Oatmeal is also a good source of manganese, phosphorous, selenium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6, and zinc. Plus, oats give you energy without too many calories. One cup of oats has approximately 307 calories. Oats provide a slow-release form of energy due to their low GI, which makes them helpful for weight loss.
How to Eat Your Oats
Oatmeal, where oats are cooked with water or milk to form a warm porridge, is not the only way to get your oats.
You could also eat oats as part of a whole grain breakfast cereal, use oats in a stuffing mixture for meats, bake cookies with oats, use as a crumbly topping for vegetables or stews, or stir them into a pancake mix. A variety of different oats are available. Depending on how the oats are cut they will cook more quickly or slowly.
Many recent studies point to the benefits of oatmeal for health. Here's the evidence that eating oatmeal can indeed help you live longer:
1. Eating Oatmeal Is Linked to Lower Mortality: Fact
A bowl of oatmeal a day could be your key to a longer life, according to the results of a 2015 study by the Harvard School of Public Health.
Experts say that eating whole grain foods like oatmeal could lower your risk of death by as much as an astounding 15 percent.
Scientists looked at information from 74,000 women and 43,000 men who have been surveyed about their diet since the 1980s.
For each serving of whole grains, the overall mortality dropped by 5 percent, and by 9 percent for death from cardiovascular disease.
And swapping one serving of red meat per day with a serving of whole grains resulted in a drop in the risk of death from heart disease by 20 percent. Oatmeal is an ideal whole grain as the germ and the bran are preserved through the preparation process.
2. Oatmeal Lowers Cholesterol for a Longer Life
Oats are full of beta-glucan. This fiber has a substantial benefit on cholesterol levels, as demonstrated in many recent studies where improvements of up to 10 percent have been seen in terms of lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol.
A 1997 study from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center at the US Department of Agriculture showed modest amounts of oat extract significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels. Low levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to a healthier heart, and a longer life.
3. Antioxidants in Oatmeal Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Oats with their high fiber content help reduce LDL cholesterol and they may also help to protect your heart in a different way.
Antioxidant compounds in oats, called "avenanthramides", help to protect against free radical-damaging LDL cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, according to a 2004 study from researchers at Tufts University, Boston.
Adding vitamin C to the mix increased the beneficial action. So, it would help your health to eat your oatmeal with a large glass of orange juice.
4. Eat Less, Manage Your Weight, and Live Longer with Oats for Breakfast
Keeping to a healthy weight helps you live longer, and oatmeal packed with fiber is an excellent solution for minimizing the risk of overeating.
According to a 2015 study from Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital, eating oatmeal for breakfast resulted in greater fullness, lower hunger, and fewer calories eaten at lunch compared to a breakfast with similar calories like sugared cornflakes.
Results were even more pronounced for people who were overweight – overweight participants consumed 50 percent fewer calories at lunch after eating oatmeal.
5. Lower Blood Pressure with Oatmeal for a Longer Life
Lowering your blood pressure with oatmeal is as effective as taking medication, according to a 2010 study from The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
But you have to eat a lot of it. A diet high in wholegrains like oats – at least three servings a day – resulted in a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 5-6 mm Hg.
Lowering your blood pressure results in a substantially lower risk of developing life-threatening diseases like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and aneurysm.
6. Oatmeal Helps to Reduce the Risk of Coronary Artery Disease
Eating oatmeal may help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.
The study looked at 10 years of research into oats including the results of eight trials involving wholegrain oats, and concluded that eating oats lowers cholesterol levels which result in a lower risk of heart and arterial disease.
7. Eating Oatmeal Helps Lower Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
Increase your longevity and lower your risk of cancer by eating oatmeal.
That’s the verdict of a 2011 study from Imperial College London, the University of Leeds, and Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands that shows a high fiber diet mainly from wholegrains like oats is linked to a lower colorectal cancer risk.
Researchers demonstrated that for every 10g of fiber in the diet, there is a 10 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. Adding three servings of wholegrains to the diet is linked to a 20 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer.