As every diabetic knows, healthy eating is a vital part of maintaining good blood sugar control.

A diet comprised of lean proteins, fresh non-starchy vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and a controlled quantity of carbs can help our glucose levels remain steady.

One of the healthiest whole grains available is oats. Oats contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Since the early 1960s there have been numerous studies, each proving the extraordinary benefit consumption of this fiber has on blood cholesterol levels.

Science has confirmed the health benefits of oats, oat bran and oatmeal: low in calories, high in a variety of essential nutrients and high in a certain valuable group of antioxidants. New research suggests that oats are also instrumental in enhancing immune response to bacterial infection. For all of these reasons, both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend oats as a healthy food choice.

Oats Stabilize Blood Sugar

As a low glycemic food, oats do not cause blood sugar to spike. In fact, the beta-glucan has been shown to create much lower rises in blood sugar than other carbohydrates.

Oats Reduce Cholesterol

Diabetes raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL). This lipid dysfunction, in conjunction with the damage to blood vessels also caused by diabetes, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The beta-glucan in oats has been proven effective in removing cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise have found its way into the bloodstream.

Research has shown that as little as 3 grams of soluble oat fiber consumed each day (about the amount in a single bowl of oatmeal) lowers cholesterol levels by 8 to 23 percent. Since each 1 percent reduction in serum cholesterol levels translates to a 2 percent reduction in risk of developing heart disease, this is a significant finding.

Oats Contain Antioxidants

There is an antioxidant compound called avenanthramides that is found only in oats. This compound helps prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, according to research conducted by Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Oats Improve Immune Response

The beta-glucan in oats enhances the immune system's response to bacterial infection. Beta-glucan helps immune cells (in the form of neutrophils) to respond to the site of infection more quickly. Once there, the beta-glucan enhances the ability of the neutrophils to fight infection. These are the findings of researchers at the Department of Surgery at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, as reported in the journal Surgery.

Not All Oats Are the Same

Instant oatmeal has had much of the beneficial fiber removed. It may also contain sweeteners and other flavorings. The preferred and most advantageous forms of oatmeal are steel-cut oats or rolled oats. One part oats should be added to two parts cold water. Rolled oats should simmer for about 15 minutes, while steel-cut oats will take a half hour to cook.

Sources: Healthline and World's Healthiest Foods

Image credit: Renee Comet