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Ultimate guide to oats

A versatile and easy to cook healthy food which has been proven to lower cholesterol, keep hunger at bay, is crammed full of vital vitamins, minerals, good fats, fiber and protein.

Sounds too good? It’s time to get oaty! 

Scientifically known as Avena sativa, these seeds are a whole-grain cereal. Oats are a type of cereal that was originally grown as livestock food. Once its health benefits were discovered, oats became a very popular staple food worldwide. 

Oats – the magic seeds

Oats grow best in moderate climates. They are harvested for their seeds and are used in all kinds of recipes, breakfasts and snack bars are the perfect food for someone who wants to follow a healthy lifestyle. Oats have to be processed as the seeds need to be cleaned and dehulled before they can be cooked and consumed. They are then normally crushed or rolled. Oats are very flexible. You can consume them as porridge, add them in bread, baked goods, granola, or muesli. They are added to various types of protein bars and the main ingredient in flapjacks. They are a great source of fiber and protein. They also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Considering oats nutritional value, they represent great value for money. 

Different types of oats

 When you are in the supermarket, you probably have noticed the various kinds of oats on the shelves. Oats come in several varieties. These are created while the seeds are being processed. Some of the different variations of oats are mentioned below. 

  • Whole grain oats: This variety is also known as oat groats. These are whole oat kernels which have the inedible hull removed. Whole grain oats are much chewier than other kinds and are best used in porridge.
  • Steel-cut oats: These are also called Irish oats. Steel-cut oats are whole oat grains that have been chopped and broken into small bits using metal blades. Since they have been cut into smaller pieces, they absorb more fluid since they have a larger surface area. This allows them to cook faster.
  • Scottish oats: This is one of the most popular kinds of oats and commonly called oatmeal. Scottish oats are broken into irregular bits by being ground. These are also slightly toasted. These oats have a much creamier texture compared to steel-cut oats.
  • Rolled oats: While they are being processed, these oats are subjected to steam to make them soft. They are then rolled into thin flakes. Rolled oats are good for retailers and manufactures because they have a high shelf life. The steaming and rolling stabilises the seeds’ healthy oils and does not impact their nutritional value in any way.
  • Oat bran: This variety is the outer layer of the whole grain oats and crushed into a coarse meal. Oat bran is known to contain high levels of soluble fiber. These oats contain almost all the amount of fiber in the kernel. These are normally added to muesli, cereal, or breads.

The nutritional components of oats

Oats have a very balanced nutritional composition. One serving which is roughly 30 grams contains approximately 110 calories. By weight, oats can be split into 66% carbohydrates, 17% protein, 11% fiber, and 7% fat. 

  • Carbohydrates: These make up the largest proportion of oats. Oats have naturally very low sugar levels, containing only about 1% from sucrose. About 85% of the carbohydrates in oats are starch. Fiber makes up about 11%.
  •  Starch: The starch in oats is most constructed by long chains of glucose molecules. The unique part of the starch in oats is that it is very different than the compound found in other grains. This starch contains a much higher fat content and also has higher viscosity. The starch can be classified into three types based on digestibility.
  •  Rapidly digested starch: This makes up 7% of the total starch. This kind is easily broken down and absorbed into your system as glucose.
  • Slowly digested starch: This kind takes longer to be absorbed into your body. Makes up 22% of the total starch.
  • Resistant starch: This kind escapes digestion and performs just like a kind of fiber. This benefits the health of your gut by providing nourishment for the good bacteria in your intestines.
  •  Fat: Whole oats contain about 5-9% fat, which is higher than other grains. This is mostly unsaturated fatty acids.
  •  Protein: Oats contain higher levels of quality protein that most other kinds of grains. Avenalin is the major protein found in oats. This is not found in any other cereal grains. It also contains a minor protein called avenin, which is similar to gluten found in wheat.
  •  Fiber: About 11% of oats is fiber which is mostly soluble fiber. The most common is a fiber called beta-glucan. These seeds also contain fibers that are insoluble, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Due to the presence of high levels of soluble fibers, oats are great for people watching their weight. Eating oats leads to a slower digestion, make you feel fuller for longer. Beta-glucans are known to reduce cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar levels, and increase bile acid excretion.
  •  Vitamins and minerals: Oats contain several minerals and vitamins such as phosphorous, manganese, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
  •  Antioxidants: Oats contain high levels of antioxidants, which are very beneficial to your health. They contain plant compounds like avenanthramides, ferulic acid, and phytic acid.

Oats and its health benefits

Oats should be rightly included in a healthy diet plan. They are very rich in many essential nutrients and have several health benefits. Some of them are listed below. 

  • The soluble fiber in oats, especially the beta-glucans reduces bad cholesterol important to keep your heart healthy and strong.
  • They make you feel fuller for longer, giving a feeling of satiety.
  • Oats also serve as a strong source of good fat. It has the highest content of lipid among all cereals.
  • Oats contain relatively good levels of protein.
  • Oats make for a good substitute for wheat and ideal for people suffering from celiac disease. Oats are a great addition if you are looking for a gluten-free diet.
  • Regularly consuming oats has shown evidence of boosting your immune system and increasing your ability to combat bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
  • Oats contain fiber which is really good to keep your bowels and digestive system healthy.

You and your oats

Oats are quick and easy to prepare and a great healthy food. There are very few allergies associated with eating oats and ideal for people who like to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They contain several vitamins and minerals that help your body maintain a strong immune system. The beta-glucans found in oats provide you with a number of positive health benefits. Cook your oats with milk or non-dairy alternatives and add in some fresh fruit and berries to make a delicious and satisfying porridge. Or alternatively, try adding some zero syrups on the top instead of sugary jams. Mix them with whey protein to get a great pre or post workout shake. There are endless recipes you can choose from that would suit your diet and requirements best. Oats are packed with nourishment, taste delicious and don’t cost too much making them the perfect food for you and your family whatever time of the day.

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