By Dorothy Long
My dad starts everyday with a bowl of oatmeal. I used to think: boring! However, I have begrudgingly come to learn he is usually right about most things and there is a lot of wisdom in his actions. Just don’t tell him that I said that.
Why are oats good for you?
Simply said, FIBRE! As a whole grain, oats are high in both insoluble and soluble fibre and you need both for a healthy diet. Insoluble fiber is the bulky fiber found in vegetables, bran and whole grains like oats. It keeps you regular and makes your digestive system happy. Soluble fiber is the sticky fibre found in pulses, nuts, flax, barley and, of course, oats. It helps lower blood cholesterol levels and, therefore, reduces the risk for developing heart disease. Oats have also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and aid in promoting a healthy blood pressure. They are also an excellent source of iron and a good source of plant-based protein.
Confirming oats’ healthy status is a health claim from Health Canada based on research findings that the soluble fibre in oats, called beta glucan, helps reduce cholesterol. Beta glucan is found in all cereal grains but is particularly rich in oats and barley.
For those with Celiac disease, oats are naturally gluten-free. However, they are often harvested and processed using the same equipment as gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley and rye. There are now several farmers and processors that are implementing practices to protect against cross-contamination with cereals containing gluten. These ‘pure’ oats are safe for most people following a gluten free diet. In fact, they are often a welcome addition to a gluten-free diet as they provide dietary fiber, B vitamins and iron, which are often hard to get on this diet.
Oat Groats or Pearls are the whole oat grains with the hull removed. I personally think oat groats conjures visions of bowls of gruel served on dark, wintery days and prefer the term oat pearls, which is gaining popularity. It sounds more appetizing and exotic. Oat pearls are great in salads and pilafs.
Steel Cut Oats are made by cutting oat pearls into two or three pieces using a sharp steel blade. Steel cut oats have risen in popularity and are considered chichi in some circles. They take longer to cook than rolled oats and have a slightly fuller flavor and texture than rolled oats. When time permits, steel cut oats make the best oatmeal!
Rolled Oats or Old-Fashioned Oats are made by steaming whole oat pearls and then rolling them. This process shortens cooking time compared with steel cut oats. They are the oats used most often in your breakfast oatmeal and for baking.
Quick Oats or Oat Flakes are made by steaming and rolling steel cut oats. They often are considered the least healthy of the oatmeal family but really, like other oat products are made from the whole oat. They are simply processed into smaller pieces to shorten the cooking time. These are the oats found in instant oatmeal products and are also often used in baking.
Oat Flour and Oat Bran are made from grinding oat pearls. The resulting flour is sold as whole oat flour. Separating out the bran from the whole oat flour produces oat bran. The bran is sold separately and the flour without the bran is sold simply as oat flour. Pure oat flour is often used in gluten-free baking.
Starting your day with a hot bowl of oatmeal is great, but oats don’t have to be relegated to just breakfast. Here are some recipes for snacks using oats. Enjoy!
recipe courtesy of dairygoodness.ca
Recipe courtesy of healthyflax.org
Recipe courtesy of canolaeatwell.com