It’s official — mornings are best fueled by oats or oatmeal.
Oats are a gluten-free reserve of dietary fibre, unique proteins and various micronutrients. While these whole grains keep you satiated and energized, they may silently be boosting your brain health too.
All thanks to that one unique micronutrient. Know more in the sections below!
Oats and Nutrition
Raw oats contain:
- Carbohydrates: 60 %
- Protein: 11-15 %
- Fats: 5-9 %
- Dietary fibre: 2.3–8.5 %
- Calcium : 0.54 %
- Iron: 0.047 %
- Thiamine : 0.002 %
- Niacin : 0.032 %
Apart from these nutrients, oats contain active antioxidants like flavonoids, hydroxybenzoic acid, and AVAs (avenanthramides, which are biochemicals specific to oats). Despite being carb- or starch-heavy, oats have a relatively low glycemic index of about 55-57. This means they digest slowly and leave you feeling full for a longer time.
But the game-changing component for brain health is beta-glucan or β-glucan.
β-glucan is a type of dietary fibre abundant in oats. It promotes digestion, controls blood sugar levels, maintains heart health and regulates cholesterol levels. What’s more — recent research has shown that β-glucan may also play a pivotal role in managing neurodegenerative diseases
β-glucan and Brain
Oat β-glucan is an easy-to-digest fibre that may have protective effects on cognitive health. It has antioxidant properties that reduce oxidative stress in the brain. In simple terms, β-glucan neutralizes the negative effects of chemicals (free radicals) in our body.
When left “unsupervised”, these free radicals can impair the signalling processes in the brain cells (neurons) and ultimately cause their death or damage (neurodegeneration).
Improper signalling and loss of neurons may trigger brain conditions like memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. β-glucan in oats, barley and other whole grains controls neurodegeneration and delays the onset of brain disorders.
β-glucan and the Gut-Brain Connection
Our gut is known to inhabit several microorganisms — primarily bacteria.
These “good bacteria” aid in the digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients from the food we consume. They also break down complex fats in our diet and regulate blood cholesterol levels. Because the flipside can be lethal!
When their levels are high, cholesterol molecules (in the blood) get deposited on different organs in our body — including the liver and brain. Cholesterol accumulation in the brain is another factor that flares inflammation of neurons and triggers the onset of brain disorders.
By directly and indirectly controlling blood cholesterol levels, oat β-glucan (with the help of “good microbes”) brings down the levels of overall inflammation in our body and keeps brain functions under tight check.
- Oatmeal-Containing Breakfast is Associated with Better Diet Quality and Higher Intake of Key Food Groups and Nutrients Compared to Other Breakfasts in Children. Nutrients. 2019 May; 11(5): 964.
- Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods – a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Feb; 52(2): 662–675.
- Glycemic index for 60 foods. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
- Diet and Brain Health IFAS Extension, University of Florida.
- Protective effects of beta glucan in brain tissues of post-menopausal rats: A histochemical and ultra-structural study. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2016;32(3):234-9.
- β-glucan attenuates cognitive impairment via the gut-brain axis in diet-induced obese mice. Microbiome. 2020; 8: 143.