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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


The Health Benefits of Oats

The oldest cultivated oats were found in caves in Switzerland in the Bronze Age. Oats were mentioned for the first time in literature in the 1st century AD. They became very popular in Scotland in the 15th century and came to North America in the early 17th century. Today, 95% of commercially grown oats are produced not for human consumption, but for animal fodder. Russia, Canada, Poland and Australia are the main oats producers.

Oats contain many essential amino acids necessary for the human body (methionine, cysteine, threonine, isoleucine, tryptophan, valine, leucine, histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine). Oats are a natural source of fiber, vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, phenolic compounds and beta-glucans. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal, or three packets of instant oatmeal, provide 3 g of beta-glucans.

Oats have to be cleaned, dehulled, and kilned before eating. After milling, the oats may be cut, flaked, or ground to produce steel-cut oats, oat flakes, oat flour, and oat bran. Several types of oats are available in the market. They vary in form, taste and nutrition content according to the manufacturing process. 

  • Steel-cut or pinhead oats are made by passing the groats through steel cutters that cut each groat 2–4 times.
  • Rolled oats are made by steaming the groats and then flattening them into oat flakes using rollers.
  • Flake thickness can be controlled and, in general, quick-cooking oats are rolled thinner than whole oat flakes.
  • Instant oats are prepared in a similar way to quick-cooking oats; however, they are steamed for a longer period and rolled more thinly.
  • Oat bran, the coarse fraction of oat flour, is higher in fiber than the fine fraction of oat flour.

Oats and Cardiovascular Diseases
Among cereals, only oats contain Avenanthramides (Avn), a unique group of approximately 40 different types of phenolic compounds. Avn have antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and anti-atherosclerotic effects which may help in cardiovascular disease.

Oats are also a natural source of B-glucans. B-glucans are a viscous soluble fiber that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL; known as bad cholesterol), and improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL; known as good cholesterol). They also improve the function of blood vessels. Some studies have shown that in patients with high cholesterol, these positive effects may be achieved with 3 grams of G-glucans per day, but more studies are needed to confirm this.

Oats and Diabetes
B-glucans may have a moderately beneficial effect in blood glucose control by decelerating starch digestion and absorption of glucose in the intestine, and delaying gastric emptying. Some studies have shown that a small reduction in glucose levels after a meal have been achieved with 4 g B-glucans from barley or oats for each 30 g of available carbohydrates per meal. Again, more research is needed to confirm this information.

Oats and Satiety
Chewing foods high in dietary fiber requires time and effort, which gives enough time for the brain to start receiving the signals of satiety – or, feeling fuller longer. Delayed gastric emptying increases satiety and reduces the absorption rate of nutrients. Intestinal contents with increased viscosity prolong the intestinal transit time, which may cause satiety. Dietary fiber allows the formation of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine. These acids that influence hormones regulate satiety, may lead to a reduction in appetite sensation, and lower the blood glucose concentration.

Whether you eat oatmeal because you like it or because you are looking to improve your health, whole-grain oats are a healthy addition to your diet and a great source of fiber. According to The American Heart Association, the average American adult should eat at least half of their daily intake of grains as whole grains.

Below is a recipe for those days that you do not have much time for cooking your oats, from the Simple Vegan Blog.

Blueberry Peanut Butter Oats
2 cups almond milk (500 milliliters)
6 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 or 2 bananas
1/2 cup blueberries (70 grams)
2 tablespoons peanuts (20 grams)
2 tablespoons agave syrup (optional)

Pour the milk in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Add the oats and the peanut butter, stir with a spoon, cover the saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 10 or 15 minutes. Place the mixture in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

Nutritional Information
Serving size: 1/2 of the recipe
Calories: 415
Sugar: 34 g
Sodium: 164.5 mg
Fat: 13.8 g
Saturated fat: 1.9 g
Carbohydrates: 65.6 g
Fiber: 8.9 g
Protein: 11.5 g

Enjoy your weekend!

Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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