The Humble Yet Mighty Oat

Oats are one of the most nutritious yet underappreciated grains often relegated to a bland breakfast porridge. Yet, beneath its unassuming husk lies a nutritional powerhouse packed with benefits extending far beyond breakfast.

The health benefits of oats have been extensively researched with studies showing links between oat consumption and lower cholesterol, reduced risk of heart disease, and stable blood sugar levels.

Oats are rich in dietary fibre, including a special type called beta-glucan fibre. This soluble fibre has been shown to help reduce total and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. A review of 28 studies found that higher intakes of oat beta-glucan were associated with significant reductions in both total and LDL cholesterol compared to control groups (1). Researchers believe that the viscosity of beta-glucan helps trap bile acids and remove them from the body, forcing the liver to use circulating cholesterol to make more bile (2).

The high fibre content of oats also helps slow digestion and prevent spikes in blood sugar, which may reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. Population studies also show associations between higher whole grain intake, including oats, and reduced risk of heart disease over time (3).

Yet despite their stellar nutrient profile, oats are often overlooked at breakfast time in favour of quicker, highly processed cereals.

Adding more oats to your diet is an easy way to boost nutrition and there are some great ways to do so. From overnight oats to smoothies to savoury oat recipes, here are some tasty ways to enjoy their benefits:

Breakfast:

Overnight Oats: This make-ahead breakfast allows you to soak oats in milk overnight, so you can wake up to a creamy, ready-to-eat bowl.  Just mix 40g oats with 250ml milk of your choice, cover and leave overnight. In the morning, top with fresh fruit, nuts, cinnamon, nut butter, seeds or a combination of these.

Oats in Smoothies: Boost your morning smoothie with a handful of oats. Blend them with fruits, yogurt, a milk, nut butter or protein powder for a filling and nutritious drink.

Savoury Sensations:

Oatmeal Burgers: Combine cooked oats with mashed beans, spices, grated or chopped vegetables, shape into patties, and pan-fry or bake for a protein-packed vegetarian burger.

Creamy Oat Risotto: Replace rice with cooked oats in your favourite risotto recipe for a fibre-rich and creamy twist. Add roasted vegetables or mushrooms for additional flavour and nutrients.

Sweet Surprises:

Oat Flour Cookies: Substitute wheat flour with oat flour in your favourite cookie recipe for a nutritious and delicious treat. Add nuts, seeds, or dried fruit for extra flavour and texture.

Baked Oat Crumble: Substitute half of the flour in your crumble topping with rolled oats, and spices for a satisfying and healthy change.

Oat Energy Bites: Combine oats with nut butter, honey, and dark chocolate chips to create energy-packed bite-sized snacks. Perfect for a quick pick-me-up during the day.

Oat Flour Baking: Try using oat flour to partially replace wheat flour in recipes for cookies, and muffins. The fibre-rich flour adds whole grain nutrition.

Summary:

Incorporating more oats into your diet is an easy and delicious way to boost your fibre intake, stabilise blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and enjoy a wealth of nutrients.  Remember, with a little creativity, oats can transform into countless delicious dishes. So, ditch the bland perception and embrace the versatility and power of this humble grain!

 

References:

  1. Whitehead A, Beck EJ, Tosh S, Wolever TM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(6):1413-1421. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.086108
  2. Gunness P, Gidley MJ. Mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble dietary fibre polysaccharides. Food Funct. 2010;1(2):149-55. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00080a.
  3. Mellen PB, Walsh TF, Herrington DM. Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008;18(4):283-90. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2006.12.00