The humble and often forgotten oat is one of the healthiest grains on earth. Gluten-free, whole grain and an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals, oats have a number of impressive health benefits and, best of all, are incredibly versatile and easy to use. That’s not just the usual porridge or overnight oats we’re talking about – you can use these healthy grains in a range of exciting and delicious recipes. They can be used in sweet and savory cooking, from cakes and cookies to curries and, dare we say it… haggis!
Why You Should Eat Oats
This ancient natural cereal is gluten-free, whole grain, and full of fiber. Oats are packed full of powerful nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, and beta-glucan, an important dietary fiber. A group of antioxidants, known as avenanthramides, are only found in oats, and are believed to protect against heart disease. They have a number of other health benefits, including lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and aiding weight loss. Whole oats are called oat groats, and are usually rolled or crushed before being consumed. They are mainly grown in North America and Europe, and have been a food staple in some ancient diets, including Scottish and Irish.
What makes this cereal such a healthy breakfast option is the fact that it has a very well-balanced nutritional composition, and will keep you fueled and full for longer, without causing mid-morning sugar crashes or cravings. One ounce of oats (28 grams) contains 109 calories, which is made up of 66% carbohydrates, 17% protein, 11% fiber and 7% fat. Broken down into grams, that is:
Carbohydrates – 19 grams
Fiber – 3 grams
Fat – 2 grams
Protein – 5 grams
Cholesterol – 0 grams
Half a cup (78 grams) of oats contain:
Manganese – 191% of your RDI
Phosphorus – 41% of your RDI
Magnesium – 34% of your RDI
Copper – 24% of your RDI
Iron – 20% of your RDI
Zinc – 20% of your RDI
Folate – 11% of your RDI
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) – 39% of your RDI
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) – 10% of your RDI
A Brief Look At The Health Benefits Of Oats
There are a number of health benefits associated with oats, including a lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, regulated blood sugar levels, and weight loss…
1. Oats Are A Good Source Of Dietary Fiber
Most of the fiber in oats is a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is an important immune-boosting nutrient. Beta-glucans lower cholesterol levels, potentially decreasing the risk of heart disease, and improve bile acids in the stomach. They may also reduce blood sugar and insulin levels after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Oats boast more soluble fiber than other grains, making them slower to digest, increasing satiety and suppressing appetite.
2. Oats Are A Good Source Of Plant-Based Protein
The protein in oats is high quality, with 80% of it being the avenalin, which is not found in any other grain, and is similar to the protein in legumes. Protein is an incredibly important macronutrient that needs to be fed to the body every single day. It is the major structural component of cells, and is therefore a building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, fascia and blood. It is responsible for building and repairing tissues in the body, and fills you up with few calories, so can actually aid fat loss.
3. Oats Are A Rich Source Of Antioxidants
Avenanthramides are a group of antioxidants only found in oats, and are incredibly beneficial to human health. They increase the production of nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels, leading to better blood flow, which may help lower blood pressure levels. On top of that, these unique antioxidants have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects.
4. Oats May Aid Weight Loss
One of the reasons oatmeal or porridge is a great breakfast option (as well as being tasty and nutritious!), is the fact that it is very filling. Eating wholesome foods in the morning that fill you up and digests slowly helps you eat fewer calories throughout the day, ultimately aiding weight loss. This occurs because you are delaying your stomach from emptying food, prolonging your feeling full. Not only that, but the beta-glucan (fiber) in oats may also increase the release of a hormone called peptide YY, which is produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone also plays a role in reduced calorie intake, potentially reducing your risk of obesity.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Carbs
The debate over carbohydrates has confused a lot of people, and in some cases, has led to dieters cutting out grain carbs altogether, which is detrimental to overall health and balance. Oats are 66% carbohydrates, making them a high-carb food, but they are a healthy carbohydrate that fuels the body, and actually aids weight loss. While they are high in carbohydrates, oats are low in sugar, and the carbs are broken down into 11% fiber and 85% starch, including 7% rapidly digested starch, 22% slowly digested starch, and 25% resistant starch. Resistant starch functions like fiber, escaping digestion and improving gut health by feeding friendly bacteria. Slowly digested starch is broken down and absorbed slowly, as the name suggests. Rapidly digested starch is broken down quickly and absorbed as glucose. Oats are a type of natural low-sugar carbohydrate that people should not be afraid of, and they should be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Delicious, Nutritious Oat Recipes
The first thing that springs to mind when talking about these ancient grains is usually porridge or overnight oats, but they are so much more than that! These versatile flakes can be used in sweet and savory cooking, in hundreds of different recipes, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert!
Savory Rolled Oat Recipes
Vegetarian Haggis – So, you’ve heard of the Scottish favorite – haggis, but not sure what you think of the meaty side of it – sheep’s liver, heart and lungs minced up with oats and cooked in the animal’s stomach? Although traditional haggis is actually quite healthy, for vegetarians, or diners who find those ingredients a little squeamish, this meatless option is extremely healthy, and doesn’t include any animal organs! With oats, lentils, onion, celery, carrot, kidney beans, thyme, lemon, cashews and seasoning, it is a hearty meal packed full of essential nutrients that also tastes delicious!
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