Did you know that January is National Oatmeal Month? This is a perfect time to focus on improving your overall health and increasing the whole grains in your diet, giving you a good reason to start the year off right.
Oats at a glance
Oats (Avena sativa) have a sweet ﬂavour that makes them a favourite 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.
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.
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.
- 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 tumours. This may help reduce your risk of some cancers.
- Early introduction of oats in children’s diets may help reduce their risk of asthma.
- It is 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.
Fun facts about oats
- Oatmeal rated #1 among breakfast foods and #3 overall in a “Satiety Index” created by Australian researchers seeking to ﬁnd foods that make people feel full and satisﬁed the longest.
- Oats grow best in cooler climates with plenty of rainfall – conditions inhospitable to most grains.
- Oats are used in the food industry as a stabilizer in foods like ice cream.
- Because of their natural anti-itching properties, oats are used in the cosmetic industry for a variety of products. The name Aveeno, for instance, comes from the botanical name avena, for oats.
- Oats were originally considered a nuisance weed, to be pulled up and burned when they appeared in ﬁelds of wheat and barley.
- Many people consider oatmeal brulée the ultimate porridge: picture a thick bowl of oatmeal topped with a thin layer of caramelized sugar and some fresh berries.
- Russia, Canada, the United States, Finland, and Poland are the world’s leading producers of oats.
- Oats are naturally gluten-free, but may be contaminated with gluten during growing and processing. Look for oats certiﬁed gluten-free if you are sensitive to gluten.
- An 18-ounce package of old fashioned oats contains about 26,000 rolled oats.