In the battle of sugary cereal versus oatmeal, as kids, most of us would go against the grain and succumb to the sweet taste of Frosted Flakes. However, as we get older, our health forces us to end our love affair with everything sugar and realize oatmeal is more than just a healthy breakfast food. The power food is rich in vitamins, minerals, and lipids, which possess endless benefits for our health.

According to a Decision Analyst survey, in the U.S., Americans consider oatmeal to be the fourth healthiest food from a list of 70 foods and beverages. Despite this, Dr. Matthew Brennecke, a board certified naturopathic doctor practicing at the Rocky Mountain Wellness Clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., has observed oats are still not popular in the American diet. “Oatmeal is a pretty underutilized food and has, unfortunately, become less and less popular in the American diet, yet it maintains a very cheap price tag loaded with benefits,” he told Medical Daily in an email.

This quick and healthy breakfast food staple is a whole grain powerhouse that packs plenty of nutritional value for our health. Whether it's plain rolled oats or steel-cut oats, adding oatmeal to your diet will make you feel and look good. It’s time to soak your oats and reap the benefits of this health trend that is here to stay.

1. Boosts Energy

Oatmeal is a carbohydrate and protein-rich source that provides calories and energy. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found consuming a low glycemic meal, like oatmeal, three hours prior to a run gives you better endurance than a high glycemic meal. Foods like oatmeal tend to cause a slow rise in glycemic levels, which is ideal for increasing fat-burning during exercise.

“The complex, slow digesting, carbohydrates will give your muscles the energy it needs to have a better workout,” Brennecke said. He suggests complex carbohydrates be accompanied with some protein. This will give the muscles the tools necessary to rebuild while also giving your muscles a head start on post-workout muscle recovery.

2. Protects Skin

This power food has been used as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation while also providing an array of benefits for the skin. Oatmeal is able to normalize the skin’s pH, which can relieve itchy and uncomfortable skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This is why oatmeal baths are recommended for itchy skin relief because they are able to soften and moisturize the skin, helping to protect it from potential irritants.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology discussed the high concentration in starches and beta-glucan in colloidal oatmeal is responsible for the protective and water-holding functions of oats. Moreover, the presence of different types of phenols confers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Nutrients in oatmeal like copper, zinc, selenium, thiamin, and niacin contribute to support skin health.

3. Supports Weight Loss

Oatmeal is an appetite suppressor that can be an integral part to any weight loss diet. Cholecystokinin, a hunger-fighting hormone, is increased with the oatmeal compound beta-glucan. A 2009 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found satiety increased as a result of eating foods containing beta-glucan. Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian and lead nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating told Medical Daily in an email: “Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which can help anyone feel fuller for longer, as it takes a long time to digest.” This keeps hunger at bay, which can help you stay slim.

4. Prevents Diabetes

Oatmeal’s low glycemic index is beneficial when it comes to reducing the risk of diabetes. This helps the stomach empty its contents slowly, which affects blood sugar levels and has a positive effect on our insulin sensitivity. A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a diet that produces a low glycemic response is associated with less insulin resistance and a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes than a diet that produces a high glycemic response. “Diabetes affects just about every organ in the body and needs to be controlled,” Brennecke said.

5. Boosts Heart Health

Foods rich in whole oat sources of soluble fiber have been linked to good heart health. Oatmeal contains both calcium and potassium, which according to Brennecke, are known to reduce blood pressure numbers. “Eating oatmeal on a daily basis can reduce your blood pressure several points,” he said.

A 1999 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found whole grain consumption was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease due to its soluble fiber. The 10-year groundbreaking study was able to track the value of oat-based products and showed there was a link between their consumption and a healthier lifestyle.

6. Reduces Colon Cancer

A high-fiber diet can be beneficial when it comes to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. Its soluble fiber and insoluble fiber can help speed up the passage of food and waste. Brennecke explained how “soluble fiber dissolves in water, which delays the emptying of your stomach, keeping you full for longer periods of time.” Meanwhile, insoluble fiber has a laxative effect and adds bulk to the stool, which prevents constipation. This fiber attracts water and passes through the digestive tract easily, speeding the passage of food and waste. This is what promotes good colon health.

A 2011 study published in the BMJ found total fiber intake, as well as fiber from whole grains and from cereals, was strongly associated with a reduction in colon cancer. Although the link between fiber intake and risk reduction was small, with a 10 percent risk reduction seen in colon cancer for each 10 grams of fiber eaten a day, the more fiber people ate, the more risk reduction was found.

So, soak your oats and eat your way back to good physical, mental, and emotional health.