“It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.” ~ Assyrian Proverb
Whether liked or disliked for their mushy yet hearty texture when cooked, oats are cherished for their nutritional value and health benefits.
In this article, we will review:
- What Are Oats? |What Oats Are Made Of?
- Oats Nutritional Value Per 100g
- Types of Oats
- Oats Health Benefits
- Potential Risks of Eating Oats
- Ways to Incorporate Oats into Your Diet
- Conclusion and My Recommendation
What are Oats? |What Oats Are Made Of?
Formally named Avena sativa, oats are a type of cereal grain from the Poaceae grass family.
They are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber and are a good source of minerals, some B vitamins, and antioxidants.
Due to their many health benefits, like cholesterol and blood sugar control, oats have gained enormous popularity.
Usually, they are served as a breakfast cereal like oatmeal or as oat milk.
Oatmeal is a type of flour made by hulling oat grain either by milling or steel-cutting.
Thanks to their versatility, oats are featured as an ingredient in many dishes, including baked goods, muesli, and granola.
Oats Nutritional Value Per 100g
Oats Calories 1 Cup = 389
Types of Oats
These are whole oats with only the inedible hulls removed. They have the most fiber content among types of oats, thus taking longer to cook.
Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes.
Steel-Cut or Irish Oats
Steel-cut oats are groats cut into several pieces with a steel blade. This reduces cooking time.
They take a little longer to cook than rolled oats, but their wonderful and satisfying texture is worth the wait.
Cooking time: approximately 20 minutes.
Rolled Oats or Old-Fashioned Oats
The most common type of oats, these are steamed, rolled, and flattened into flakes, then dried to remove moisture to increase shelf life.
Cooking time: approximately 15 minutes.
These oats are stoneground into almost a powder, giving them a creamy, hearty texture after cooking.
Scottish oats cook a bit faster than steel-cut oats.
Cooking time: approximately 10 minutes.
These oats cook faster than the oats mentioned above. They are cut, steamed, and rolled into thinner flakes.
Their finer texture is the reason they are a frequent ingredient in muffins, cookies, and bread.
Cooking time: approximately 5 minutes.
You find these oats in a single serving packet, often with added flavors.
They are precooked, then dried, cut, and rolled for instant preparation—just add boiling water.
Cooking time: approximately 1 minute.
Oats Health Benefits
May Lower Heart Disease Risk
Oats are associated with heart health.
A meta-analysis of 18 studies found a 21% reduced risk of heart disease among people with the highest whole grain intake compared with the lowest.1<https://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(14)02278-4/fulltext>
There is a high amount of beta-glucan—a type of soluble fiber—in oats.
Another meta-analysis concluded that eating 3 grams of beta-glucan from whole oats daily modestly decreased blood cholesterol levels by about 12 points.2<https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900710003941>
May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a common disease.
The beta-glucan fiber in oats has shown promise in regulating blood sugar and insulin after carb-rich meals.3<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23422921/> 4<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7840078/>
In a study of patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, there was a 40% reduction in the dosage of insulin required to control glucose after a four-week dietary intervention with oatmeal.5<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18095234/>
Thus, instead of being avoided because they are a carb-rich food, oats may be an excellent part of a diabetic diet.
Always choose less processed oats like steel-cut, which have a low to moderate glycemic index and more fiber and nutrients intact than highly processed oats such as instant oats.
May help in Weight Control and Digestion
The beta-glucan in oats attracts water, which expands the volume of food in the gut, resulting in a feeling of fullness.6<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19917449/> 7<https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/74/2/131/1924832>
Fullness helps control cravings. 8<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23680169/>
Oats are also low in calories and high in fiber and other healthy nutrients, thus they are a valuable food for weight loss.
The high fiber content of oats also aids in bowel regularity and prevents constipation.
Fiber increases the weight and water content of stool, making it easier to pass.9<https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/4/1417/html>
Steel-cut oats have unbroken fiber, hence they are most effective.
A gluten-free diet is essential for individuals who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Oats are gluten free but have a similar protein called avenin.
Numerous clinical studies suggest that celiac disease patients tolerate a moderate or even large intake of pure oats.10<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11839710/> 11<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15082581/>
Oats also increase the nutritional value of a gluten free diet.12<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19756027/>
Potential Risks of Eating Oats
Usually, oats don’t have any side effects for healthy individuals.
However, those who are allergic or sensitive to avenin should avoid oats.
Although gluten free, oats are sometimes contaminated with wheat because they are often processed in the same space.
Therefore, people allergic or sensitive to gluten, wheat, or other grains and those who have celiac disease should look for brands certified as gluten free or pure oats.13<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21623493/>
Ways to Incorporate Oats into Your Diet
Oats are extremely adaptable, providing a variety of eating options.
The following are a few ways you can incorporate oats into your diet:
- Eat them as oatmeal.
- Select oat bread for sandwiches.
- Blend oats in smoothies.
- Include muesli (a mixture of raw oats, dry fruits, seeds, and nuts) in your diet.
- Cook oats with vegetables.
- Make oat milk.
- Sprinkle them over homemade goodies such as granola.
- Use oat flour to make bread, waffles, and desserts.
My oats breakfast includes oats with apple and banana slices, soaked almonds, raisins, a little milk just to moist the oats, two teaspoons of peanut butter, and a few seeds like hemp, sunflower, or tulsi.
I mean, look at this wholesome breakfast; it is healthy, easy to make, and tasty at the same time.
You can combine healthy foods like these and have a quick nutrient-dense meal.
There are innumerable ways to eat oats. You can find plenty of healthy recipes on the internet.
Conclusion and My Recommendation
Oats are one of the world’s healthiest grains.
They are a good source minerals, some B vitamins, and antioxidants and are a rich source of complex carbs and fiber.
In particular, beta-glucan fiber provides numerous health benefits such as blood sugar regulation and cholesterol control, which lowers heart disease risk.
Beta-glucan gives a sense of satiety, which reduces the urge to eat extra.
Thus, oats can also be an excellent partner in your weight loss journey.
Oats are an asset to people with celiac disease or gluten or wheat intolerance, as oats are gluten free.
But always pick brands certified as gluten free or pure because of contamination risk.
Also, individuals who are avenin sensitive should not consume oats.
There are many oat varieties available. They all are usually healthy except the flavored ones, which often contain artificial flavoring and have little fiber.
In my opinion, steel-cut oats are the healthiest, as they are the least processed, keeping their nutritional value intact. Plus, they take only about 20 minutes to cook—a win-win situation.
And for diabetes patients, research recommends eating the steel-cut variety. So, it may be worth including oats instead of processed flours in one’s diet after consulting a doctor or physician to avoid risk due to any other related condition.
I strongly advocate adding oats to your must-eat-foods list. Your body will thank you.
What do you think about this article? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!
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