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Back in 2015 scientists discovered that a 32,000-year-old pestle was flecked with tiny remnants of oat starch, suggesting that even our Paleolithic ancestors were most likely making and consuming foods that contained flour rather than adhering to a so-called Paleo diet. It turns out these prehistoric people were onto something. For decades research has shown that many nutritional benefits come from eating whole grains such as oats: They contain good amounts of zinc and magnesium, and there’s evidence they can lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Nutritionally, whole grains have the edge over refined grains. “Refined grains and whole grains have very different fiber content,” explains Dr. Adetunji Toriola, a Washington University associate professor of surgery at Siteman Cancer Center. “Whole grains are much better when it comes to digestion. They are rich in insoluble fiber, which helps attract water and helps move food through the digestive system, helping to prevent constipation.” Attracting water also means whole grains provide better satiety — that is, they help keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you’re more likely to consume fewer calories overall. Plus, whole grains can lower cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels.

Dr. Toriola

Dr. Toriola, Washington University associate professor of surgery at Siteman Cancer Center

Oat flour is a great substitute for regular flour for people with gluten sensitivity, so give it a try in your favorite recipes. Still, it’s important to keep an eye on the label. “Oats are naturally gluten free, though be sure to read the packaging to make sure they haven’t been processed in a facility where they may have become cross-contaminated,” Dr. Toriola says.

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In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.