Yes, National Oatmeal Day is a thing. And we’re not going to lie: we’re pretty excited about it. Oatmeal may not be the fanciest, foodie-approved meal, but it’s an amazing source of dietary fiber, plus healthy fats, protein and iron. Swapping out your sugary breakfast cereal for a bowl of oatmeal is an easy way to not only curb your appetite for the rest of the day, but to also reduce your risk for a handful of diseases.
Here are six reasons you should eat oatmeal today:
You’ll feel fuller longer than regular cereal. A 2013 study measured subjects’ fullness after consuming oatmeal vs. ready-to-eat cereal (basically, your average dry cereal). After eating oatmeal, participants had a greater reduction in hunger, less of a desire to eat, and increased fullness. This increased satiety can ultimately help curb overeating and prevent weight gain.
You’ll lower your coronary heart disease risk. A 2003 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a higher intake of dietary fiber reduces heart disease risk. Soluble fiber—which forms a gel-like consistency in your stomach, helping block cholesterol absorption — can help lower cholesterol levels, and has also been shown to keep blood pressure at a healthy level. And guess where you can find it? Oatmeal!
You’ll boost your immune system. Studies have shown that beta-glucan, a class of soluble fibers found in whole grains, affects immune function, although more studies need to be done to determine whether or not they can truly improve it. According to NYU Langone Medical Center: “Some of the immune-related effects seen in studies include alterations in the activity of certain white blood cells and changes in the levels or actions of substances, called cytokines, that modulate immune function.”
You’ll stabilize blood sugar. This is particularly good for those with type 2 diabetes. Oats are a low-glycemic index food, which means they digest much slower (thanks to the high soluble fiber content), therefore slowing glucose absorption in the stomach. This creates a slow, gradual rise in blood sugar levels that’s much healthier than the erratic spikes that can come when you eat white bread or rice.
You’ll reduce stress. Complex carbs can also help boost serotonin levels in the brain, explains Lori Rosenthal, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, and coach for nutrition-coaching app Rise. This can help you stay calm and reduce stress levels. Plus, the stabilized blood sugar levels (see above) will prevent you from feeling irritable and cranky, Rosenthal says. (Or, as we like to call it, hangry.)
You’ll be protected against breast cancer. Yes, it really is a super-food. Numerous studies have shown the anti-cancer effects of a high-fiber diet, showing that there’s some benefit in how the nutrient moves waste and carcinogens through and out of the body. But some studies specifically have found that fiber may lower the risk of breast cancer. An analysis of relevant studies, published in the Annals of Oncology, found that for every 10 grams of fiber consumed daily, breast cancer risk was decreased by five percent. One reason for this, researchers hypothesize, is that fiber reduces the amount of circulating estrogen in the body by binding to it and filtering it out when it passes through the digestive tract.