OATS has become a staple in my diet and cooking because it’s such a versatile ingredient. It’s a wholegrain that has been cultivated for thousands of years — dating back to ancient Egypt way back in 2000 BC. Ever since then, it’s been a source of sustenance for both adults and children all over the world. It’s also budget-friendly compared to other whole grains that you find in the supermarkets.
Nutritionally, a recommended serving of one cup of cooked oats has an average of only 150 calories, which is similar to about two slices of bread. It contains complex carbohydrates that provide filling energy for your day.
It also contributes 3 grammes of protein, which is important for the building blocks of your muscles and cells. It has a host of key vitamins and minerals, namely Vitamins B1, B12, iron and magnesium. Vitamins B12 and iron is particularly important for the production and function of red blood cells. They’re abundantly found in animal meat, but oats is one of the few plant-based foods that contain them as well. Magnesium works hand in hand with calcium to help keep your bones strong.
One cup of cooked oats also provides us with a substantial amount of fibre — 4 grammes. As part of a healthy diet, foods rich in fibre have multiple benefits that benefit our good health. It is good for our digestive system, helps maintain our regular bowel movements and keeps us feeling full for longer.
The nutrients in oats collectively contribute to other important health benefits as well. As they say, prevention is better than cure, so it is never too early to start eating right as a family to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.
High cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease as it clogs up the arteries and restricts much-needed blood to the heart. We often think of high cholesterol and heart disease as affecting only the elderly. But honestly, the accumulation of high cholesterol levels is being seen even in younger people. One area of study on oats in how it may help reduce our high blood cholesterol levels is its fibre content. The type of soluble fibre in oats is predominantly beta glucan. Studies show that a soluble fibre beta glucan intake of 3 to 6 grammes daily as part of a healthy, low fat diet can help to reduce high total and LDL (the bad) cholesterol.
In 2005, The Malaysian Ministry of Health Malaysia permitted the health claim “Beta glucan from oats helps to lower or reduce cholesterol” to be displayed on nutrition labels of food products with the adequate amount of soluble fibre. In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) approved the use of the health claim “foods rich in oat bran or oatmeal, in combination with a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease” in 1997. You can easily get your 3 grammes of soluble fibre beta glucan in about 70 grammes of oats (roughly about 10 tablespoons). Other foods that are a source of soluble fibre beta glucan include barley pearls, mushrooms (maitake and shitake) and seaweed.
WHOLE GRAIN GOODNESS
Studies show that a healthy diet that is rich in whole grains, such as oats, may also be beneficial in taming high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure makes you a walking time bomb for a stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure is one of the fastest growing lifestyle conditions among young Malaysian adults, due to an unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet, inactivity and high stress.
When you go to buy oatmeal in your grocery store, you may notice that there are various types of oats. Here’s what they are:
• Steel-cut oats are toasted oat groats that have been cut with a sharp steel blade into smaller pieces. Groats are the oat grain with its outer husk all still intact. Depending on the size of how the grain is steel cut, the cooking time can average around 10 to 20 minutes.
• Rolled oats are groats that have been steamed, then rolled to be flattened and dried. Sometimes, they are refered to as “Old Fashioned Oats”. They take about an average of 5 minutes to cook.
• Quick cooking oats have been cut into the thinnest and smallest pieces so that their cooking time can be done very quickly, as the name suggest.
• Instant oats is quick cooking oats that has already been partially cooked before drying so that all you have to do is add boiling hot water and the grains will literally be cooked.
WAYS TO EAT OATS
• Oats can be cooked into a warm, hearty porridge with a variety of flavours. Try it with a touch of sweetness with fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Or give it a savoury taste with lean meat, vegetables and herbs.
• Make overnight oats by soaking raw oats in dairy milk or unsweetened soya/almond milk in a container or jar. Place it in the fridge overnight to soak up the liquids. Enjoy it chilled the next day, topped with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds.
• Use oats to substitute some of the flour in your pancake, fritters, muffins, cakes or cookie recipe to increase the fibre content.
• Use oats as a crumb coating for homemade chicken or fish nuggets
• Add oats together with dairy or plant-based milk, yogurt and fresh fruit to make an extra creamy smoothie.
• Stir in some oats into your hot milk or beverage.