Oats…Grain of the Month – Let’s Eat More!

January’s grain of the month is OATS. Americans buy more oats at this time of year than in any other month – and January has long been celebrated as National Oatmeal Month.

Oats at a Glance

Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary defined oats as “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.” The Scotsman’s retort to this was, “That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!” Oats (Avena sativa) have a sweet flavor that makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among the most widely-eaten grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So, if you see oats or oat flour on the label, relax; you’re virtually guaranteed to be getting whole grain.

In the U.S., most oats are steamed and flattened to produce rolled oats, sold as “old-fashioned” or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. If you prefer a chewier, nuttier texture, consider steel-cut oats, also sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats. Steel-cut oats consist of the entire oat kernel (similar in look to a grain of rice), sliced once or twice into smaller pieces to help water penetrate and cook the grain. Cooked for about 20-30 minutes, steel-cut oats create a breakfast porridge that delights many people who didn’t realize they love oatmeal!

Health Benefits of Oats

Scores of studies have documented the many health benefits of oats:

  • Eating oats helps lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Oats help you feel fuller longer, which helps control your weight.
  • Oatmeal and oats may help lower blood pressure.
  • Oats may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, since their soluble fiber helps control blood sugar.
  • Oats help cut the use of laxatives without the side effects associated with medications.
  • Oats are high in beta-glucans, a kind of starch that stimulates the immune system and inhibits tumors. This may help reduce your risk of some cancers.
  • Early introduction of oats in children’s diets may help reduce their risk of asthma.
  • Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.
  • Oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching activity.

Meal Ideas

Think oats are limited to breakfast cereals, cookies, and snack bars?  Think again!  Oats can be used in place of bread crumbs in meatloaf and hamburgers, in side dishes, and as a crispy coating.  Check out these recipes for healthy, new ways to use oats:

For additional oat recipes you may want to try at home, visit: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/

Source:  Whole Grains Council at http://wholegrainscouncil.org/