Oats As Medicine, Beauty Treatment and Good Food
If you think oats are just for making oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, then you don’t know oats! Here are some ways this versatile grain can be used as medicine, for beauty and your skin, and as good food.
How are oats used as medicine?
You may be familiar with the ancient adage from Hippocrates, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Oats are an excellent example of that saying, and here are a few reasons why.
Heart health: A new study appearing in Nutrients reports that beta-glucan, a component of fiber found in oats, reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Numerous studies also have pointed out that oats help lower the levels of both total cholesterol and the “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
Colon cancer: It is generally accepted that consumption of whole-grain foods helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. The authors of an article in Nutrition and Cancer recently reported that “oats and oat bran may reduce the risk of colon cancer not only because of their high fiber content but also due to Avns [avenanthramides], which attenuate proliferation of colonic cancer cells.”
Immune system: Beta-glucan also has an ability to trigger activity among macrophages and neutrophils, which are white blood cells that help the immune system fight invaders.
Celiac disease: It is generally believed that most people who have celiac disease can eat oats without experiencing any problems. A small minority of individuals with celiac, however, may also have an intolerance to avenin, the protein in oats that is equivalent to gluten in wheat, and be unable to tolerate oats. However, for the majority, oats may represent an additional dietary option.
Oats as beauty treatment
You can use oats as an inexpensive and effective way to care for your skin. A 2012 article in a dermatology journal noted that “oatmeal plays a role in cosmetics preparations and skin protection against ultraviolet rays.”
How can oats help your skin? Here are a few examples:
- Acne: Use cooked oatmeal (cooled, of course) to help treat mild acne. Apply to your skin, let it stay on for about 10 minutes, then rinse it off.
- Facial scrub: A form of oatmeal called colloidal oatmeal, a mixture of finely ground oatmeal and water, is a natural, effective facial scrub. You can prepare a mixture of 2 tablespoons of ground oatmeal and 1 teaspoon baking soda, blended with a small amount of water to make a paste. Apply to your face, leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off with cool water.
- Sunburn: If you have let those ultraviolet rays get to your skin, it’s time for an oatmeal treatment. Grind regular oatmeal in a food processor and add just enough water to make a paste. Apply to sunburned areas with your fingers. Oatmeal contains polysaccharides, which help protect your skin from drying, and natural fats, which help hold moisture in your sunburned skin.
Oats as good food
Whole-grain, steel-cut oats are the most nutritious oats because they still have their outer layer of nutrient-packed bran. Oats are an excellent source of beta-glucan, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine (vitamin B1), iron, and the antioxidants called avenanthramides. More than 20 avenanthramides are found in oats, and that they have potent antioxidant properties.
If having a bowl of oatmeal sounds boring, shake it up while keeping it nutritious. For starters, choose the most nutritious oats instead of quick oats or instant oats if possible—you’ll really taste the difference!
To spark up your oatmeal:
- Stir in natural applesauce instead of milk
- Add no-fat or low-fat vanilla soy beverage instead of milk
- Top with a handful of fresh berries, chopped up dried apricots, or sliced frozen banana
- Sprinkle frozen grapes (cut in half) on top
- Serve with cinnamon and dried cranberries
- Drizzle with agave nectar or honey and chopped walnuts
Oatmeal also can find its way into oatmeal cookies, oat bread, and other bakery type items. When you substitute whole oats for other grains in a recipe, you boost the fiber and nutrition content.
Oats may have a reputation as a boring food, but opinions may change once their versatility is revealed. Consider the advantages of oats as medicine, beauty treatment, and of course as a regular part of your diet.
Bernstein AM et al. Major cereal grain fibers and psyllium in relation to cardiovascular health. Nutrients 2013 Apr 29; 5(5): 1471-87
Guo W et al. Avenanthramides inhibit proliferation of human colon cancer cell lines in vitro. Nutrition and Cancer 2010; 62(8): 1007-16
Meydani M. Potential health benefits of avenanthramides of oats. Nutrition Reviews 2009 Dec; 67(12): 731-35
Pazyar N et al. Oatmeal in dermatology: a brief review. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 2012 May-Apr; 78(2): 142-45
Richman E. The safety of oats in the dietary treatment of coeliac disease. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2012 Nov; 71(4): 534-37