Oats 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
What are Oats?
Oat is a cereal grain from the species Zea mays. It belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae). They grow wild in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. There are many varieties of oatmeal including golden brown, red and white. They have different names such as buckwheat, kamut, amaranth or Indian gram flour.
How do they work?
Oats contain soluble fiber, vitamins A, C and K2. They are good sources of protein and other nutrients. Oats are rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese. They also provide B6 which helps with mental alertness. Oats are very low calorie food source. One cup contains only around 150 calories compared to 250 calories in one slice of bread or 500 calories in a large banana!
How much does it cost?
One cup of whole oats costs between $0.30 and $1.00 depending on where you buy them. You can purchase them at health food stores, grocery stores, natural foods shops etc. The price varies according to quality and quantity of the product. Some brands are cheaper than others so check before buying! Oats are available in various forms like flakes, granules, instant oatmeal or even powder form.
What are the different types?
There are three main types of oatmeal, namely:
Whole-milled oats: Whole-milled oats are whole groats (hulled and sliced oats) of uniform size. They are also known as steel-cut oats or Irish oats.
They can be found in health food shops or online shops.
Rolled oats: These are groats that have been steamed and pressed flat. They are also known as old-fashioned oats or simply ‘rolled oats’.
They can be found in any grocery shop or supermarket.
Instant oats: These are rolled oats that have been cut into smaller pieces. This type is also known as instant oatmeal.
They can be found in the same locations as rolled oats.
How to store?
Oats can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They can keep for up to two years at room temperature and only about four months in the fridge. Always check the product’s label for further information.
How to prepare?
Oats contain saponin, a natural substance that is toxic for humans but it can be easily removed by proper preparation. Oats are not considered safe to eat raw. To prepare 1/4 cup of dry rolled oats, place them in a bowl and add 1 cup of water. Let it soak for at least 6 hours. If you want to reduce the cooking time, place the bowl with rolled oats in the microwave and heat until the water is boiling (1-2 minutes). Cook on medium heat for around 5-7 minutes until all the water is absorbed. A pinch of salt can be added for taste.
What are the health benefits?
Oats are one of the most nutritious foods for people on a diet. They are very low in fat and sodium but rich in fiber, magnesium and complex carbohydrates. One cup of cooked oats contains:
Vitamin B1: 0.04mg (8%)
Vitamin B3: 0.9mg (6%)
Potassium: 194mg (5%)
Magnesium: 60mg (12%)
Oats are only carbohydrate and among all other grains, they contain the highest level of an amino acid called ‘L-tryptophan’. This is one of the reasons why oatmeal is recommended for people who want to sleep better at night.
Who cannot eat oats?
People who suffer from celiac disease should not eat oats as they contain gluten. Oats can also worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some types of diarrhea. If you suffer from either of these conditions, consult your physician before adding oats to your diet. Pregnant women should also eat oatmeal with caution as it can increase the risk of constipation when consumed in excess.
Buying and storing oatmeal
Oats can be purchased either in the form of rolled oats or instant oats. Check the expiration date before buying as they have a shelf life of up to two years.
They can be stored at room temperature in airtight containers. Make sure to keep them away from heat, light and moisture as this can reduce their nutritional value.
Healthy ways to eat oats
There are many easy and healthy ways to eat oats. You can add dry rolled or instant oats in your breakfast cereal, make chia puddings, soak them overnight and blend them into a refreshing and filling texture, add them to bread recipes, make homemade granola bars and much more.
Sources & references used in this article:
A scientific review of the health benefits of oats by DL Katz – The Quaker Oats Company. Obtenido el, 2001 – researchgate.net
Health benefits of whole grain phytochemicals by N Okarter, RH Liu – Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 2010 – Taylor & Francis
Putting the whole grain puzzle together: health benefits associated with whole grains—summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium by SS Jonnalagadda, L Harnack, R Hai Liu… – … of nutrition, 2011 – academic.oup.com
Bioactivity of oats as it relates to cardiovascular disease by D Ryan, M Kendall, K Robards – Nutrition research reviews, 2007 – cambridge.org
Corn phytochemicals and their health benefits by S Siyuan, L Tong, RH Liu – Food Science and Human Wellness, 2018 – Elsevier
Consumer attitudes and understanding of cholesterol-lowering claims on food: randomize mock-package experiments with plant sterol and oat fibre claims by CL Wong, J Mendoza, SJ Henson, Y Qi… – … of clinical nutrition, 2014 – nature.com
Oat-based breakfast cereals are a rich source of polyphenols and high in antioxidant potential by L Ryan, PS Thondre, CJK Henry – Journal of Food Composition and …, 2011 – Elsevier