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There’s been a growing backlash over carbs in the last couple of months thanks to the rising trend in Paleo style diets and Low Carb High Fat (LCHF). Both these diets tend to restrict carbohydrates and emphasise more liberal use of fats. People often take new diets to the extremes however and whilst a reduction of refined carbohydrates is always a good thing, you can live a healthy lifestyle by consuming carbohydrates in moderation. In fact, many forms of carbs provide a range of beneficial nutrients and should be part of a well balanced diet. Take oats for example, arguably one of the best carbohydrate sources around.

Oats are high in protein, dietary fibre and are a good source of B vitamins such as thiamine as well as the soluble fibre Beta-Glucan, which is considered one of the core reasons behind the beneficial effects of oats. In a recent meta-analysis randomised controlled trials of Beta-Glucan and its effects on cholesterol levels, authors were able to find that 3g or more or beta-glucan over a period of time can help to significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol or Low Density Lipoprotein is considered a type of bad cholesterol as high levels can result in atherosclerosis or the thickening of arteries. This can in turn lead to more dangerous issues such as heart attacks and strokes.

Oats among other wholegrains have also been shown to provide important nutrients for the gut microbiota or flora, which are the microorganisms in our gut. These have been shown to have a dramatic effect on our health including supporting our immune system, preventing allergies and inflammatory bowel disease just to name a few of its functions. There’s concern by those who suffer from coeliac disease that oats may not be a suitable grain and it is often left out of gluten free diets as oats can often be contaminated with other gluten containing grains. However, some studies have shown that a small amount of oats over the course of 8 years did not result in any untoward symptoms.

Practical Applications

Oats are one of the most common bodybuilding and training foods around and have been used for decades by some of the best athletes around. Its nutritional profile is one of the best of all grains and can help to reduce unhealthy cholesterol as well as support a healthy digestive system. It’s a great carb to include in your everyday diet regardless of your goals and can help to support weight loss and muscle gain.

    Whitehead A, Beck EJ, Tosh S, Wolever TM. ‘Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Dec;100(6):1413-1421.
    Kaukinen K, Collin P, Huhtala H, Mäki M. ‘Long-term consumption of oats in adult celiac disease patients.’ Nutrients. 2013 Nov 6;5(11):4380-9.
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