There are hundreds of sources of information that might explain the nutritional value of oats but possibly the simplest one can be understood from a conversation dating back 200 years.
In the Eighteenth Century, when English writer Samuel Johnson was touring the Scottish islands of Hebrides with his biographer, journalist James Boswell, Johnson is said to have observed, “Oatmeal is a food for English horses but in Scotland it is fed to the people.”
“True,” replied Bosewell, a Scottish, adding “and where will you find such magnificent horses and such sturdy men?”
That conversation tells us two things. First – oats have a ton of health benefits and two, no wonder grandmas around the world swear by oatmeal. Fun fact, Adele Dunlap, the oldest American at the time she passed away at age 114 in February 2017, stuck to a diet of mostly oatmeal.
While oats have a reputation for being boring, they are far from it. In fact, since they taste bland on their own, they serve as a wonderful canvas to create something delicious while retaining the nutritional value. But before we tell you how to spruce up that unappealing bowl of oatmeal, it’s important to understand the types of oats and some of its key health benefits.
TYPES OF OATS
Broadly, there are four types of oats; oat groats, steel-cut, rolled and instant. They can be defined as follows (reference: The US-based Whole Grains Council);
Oat Groats or a grain kernel are the result of simply harvesting oats, cleaning them, and removing their inedible hulls. You can also find them in dehydrated form for natural preservation in supermarkets. At about 30-45 mins, they take the longest to cook.
Steel-cut oats are unrefined; they have simply been dried and roughly cut once or twice with steel blades into smaller pieces. Since hardly any heat is applied during processing, they retain a good portion of their nutrients, and are an excellent source of B vitamins. They have a great chewy texture and nutty flavor. They take about 20 mins to cook.
Rolled oats are the most common oats you’ll find and they are also known as regular oats. They have been sliced, steamed, rolled into little flakes and dried. These oats absorb a lot of liquid, cook fairly quickly and will hold their shape well when cooked. Rolled oats are mainstay ingredients in granola and health bars. Cooking time: less than 15 minutes.
Instant oats are as the name suggests, the fastest and most convenient way to consume oats. They are retailed via single-serving oatmeal packets, often with added flavoring or sweetners, that you can microwave with water or milk for a quick breakfast. They have been pre-cooked, then dried, cut and rolled for instant preparation (approx 1-2 minutes).
HEALTH BENEFITS OF OATS
Oat groats or steel cut oats are the least processed, which means they have more fiber and a low glycemic index and hence they are digested more slowly, prompting a more gradual rise in blood sugar. Rolled oats have been partially cooked but still contain all the nutrients of the whole grain. However, instant oats should be avoided since the sugar, sodium or other additives can reduce its health benefits.
Did you know, the protein content in oats is higher than other cereals, at around 14 percent, according to the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC).
That’s not all, the primary type of soluble fiber in oats is beta-glucan, which has been researched to help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite. Here are a few other health benefits of oats, according to GLNC.
- Healthier cholesterol scores and a reduced risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Contain plant chemicals that act as antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation that is associated with various diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (Source: Harvard health research)
- Help protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL-cholesterol
- High in carbohydrates (mainly starch).
- The fat content is the highest of all grains (7-8%), but the fat is mostly unsaturated.
- High levels of potassium and low levels of sodium.
- Contains B-group vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate and pantothenic acid.
- Contains vitamin E.
- Contains iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium
- Contains small amounts of copper, manganese and calcium.
All in all, the above benefits translate into a healthy heart, diabetes control, weight control and improvement in digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
MAKING OATS EXCITING
Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 racing driver Valtteri Bottas made a flying start to the 2019 season, winning the Australian GP in a dominant fashion. When he was asked what he ate that race morning, he said, “porridge” and later went on to even film himself making the power breakfast with a key ingredient…you guessed it… oats!
Bottas’ porridge was anything but boring and at the same time, it gave him the energy to race 19 of the best drivers in the world and be fighting fit to withstand intense gravitational forces.
Here are a number of exciting and flavorful ways to consume oats –
- Spruce up your porridge by adding all or some of the following – fresh berries, fruits, nuts, maple syrup, honey, dry fruits, chia seeds (high in protein), almond butter, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, bananas, dates and grated dark chocolate.
- There are so many great dessert-style oatmeal recipes out there. Love carrot cake? There’s an oatmeal recipe that tastes like it here. The same goes for apple pie, cheesecake, and so, so much more.
- Who said oatmeal has to be sweet! There are multiple ways in which oats can be a part of a savory dish. Cook rolled oats in vegetable broth instead of water and top it with sauteed veggies with pepper and light spices. Want more variety? Add some pesto or pizza sauce!
- How about an oatmeal latte! The super breakfast serves the dual purpose of your morning caffeine dose and something to keep you full. Self.com suggests infuse your oats with coffee either by adding a bit of coffee grounds to your oats while they’re cooking, or top the whole thing off with a shot of espresso or brewed coffee and viola! A delicious, nutritious, and efficient way to consume coffee, oats, and milk at the same time.
- You can try overnight oats, an easy and healthy breakfast that’s sure to perk up your mornings! Here’s a simple recipe
- Who doesn’t like a smoothie! And when it comes to adding oats to your food, does it get any easier than a smoothie? Add some milk, rolled oats and whatever fresh fruits you have lying around (eg, apples, bananas, mango, strawberries etc).
- Bored of having oatmeal for breakfast? Try this mushroom and herb oat risotto. All you need is vegetable stock, butter, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, oatmeal, and some cheese!
- Want something quick as a grab and go snack? Choose from Oatopia’s wide variety of nutrition bars that pack in a ton of flavor, health benefits, and no added sugar.