Conversations these days start and end with words like healthy, nutritious, immunity and so on. One of the ingredients that has been a buzzword in the health circles for decades is Oats.
A discovery by a team of the University of Florence suggests that Paleolithic nomads used wild oats as food. Though for many decades now, refined grains have won the public vote owing to technological advancement and cultural sophistication, our humble oats still secure a place as a whole grain in the world of healthy consumers.
Types of Oats
Oats are available in various different types, each claiming its own texture and cooking time.
The entire husked kernels of oats, which take the longest to cook are called oat groats.
Steel-cut oats are full oat groats that are chopped into various pieces during processing with a metal blade.
When steel-cut oats are further processed by flattening out the pieces with a roller, they are referred to as rolled oats.
The rolled oats which are even further chopped up into smaller pieces are quick oats which have faster cooking time.
When these quick oats are finely cut, partly cooked and dehydrated before packaging, they are the infamous instant oats.
Oat flour is ground from oat groats or steel-cut oats. It can be used for desserts and bread making.
Oats can also be soaked and pulverised to produce a plant-based liquid that is called oat milk. It had many uses ranging from being a simple coffee creamer to a complicated dessert ingredient.
Let us have a look at the immense health benefits these modest grains extend.
Health Benefits of Oats
Oats offer a mega-dose of water-soluble fibres called beta-glucan. These fibres make the food in our upper GI tract more viscous and that in turn controls the pace of the food going through the tract. Basically, it helps the consumed food to move slowly and give the nutrients time to get fully absorbed and digested by the system.
As oat bran is also rich in insoluble fibre, it is an efficient way to avoid or treat constipation. Gut health is one of the main advantages of a daily intake of oats.
Aids cardiac health
The beta-glucan found in oats is once again celebrated for its heart-friendly status. It is known to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol, without affecting HDL, the good one.
The vitamin E found in oat bran is responsible for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease too. Oat bran is touted to lower the cholesterol levels better than wheat bran as per an Australian study.
Decreased levels of LDL and total cholesterol have also been the byproduct of the antioxidants – avenanthramides and phenolic acids, which are present in oats.
Aids in diabetes management
The fibres present in oats are responsible for the slow movement of food through the GI tract, thus making no quick blood sugar spikes. Regular consumption of oats improves the postprandial blood sugar and insulin levels. The low glycemic index of oats regulates the blood sugar levels and ensures low blood glucose concentrations. Though one should bear in mind that only steel-cut oats and old-fashioned rolled oats are low to medium on the glycemic index scale and not the instant oats or flavoured oats, so it is better to steer clear of the latter if you are looking for the diabetes management benefits of oats.
May help prevent certain cancers
According to some research, the avenanthramides are anti-inflammatory compounds found in oats. They could restrain the growth of cancer cells without harming the healthy cells.
The fibre found in oats could once again be responsible for preventing colorectal cancers. More research is definitely needed to prove this to be a certainty, but till then, a big bowl of oatmeal-a-day is anyways beneficial to us.
Aids in weight loss
The fibre content in oats helps us feeling full for longer and helps us avoid binging episodes. Oats are thus a great recipe for weight loss. We can choose to have our oatmeal with healthy fats like almonds and seeds, which can help to increase our metabolism.
Can be used as a cosmetic product
Oats is so versatile that it can be used as a cosmetic product for beautiful skin and hair. When used topically, it can be a good acne treatment and to lighten and moisturise the skin. It can maintain an efficient natural barrier on the skin to reduce sun and pollution damage.
It is wonderful product for the hair as it can reduce dandruff and fight hair loss.
Ways to have oats:
Though oatmeal is an excellent breakfast, we can look beyond the regular. Some scrumptious lunch ideas from oats would be idlis, dosa, khichdi and savoury porridges.
A dinner recipe can include oats as an ingredient where you can use them as a crunchy coating to cheese sticks, chicken popcorns and paneer tikkas. In soups, it can be used as a thickening agent and to give that extra vibe of health. Oat flour is huge in the baking scene these days, and the health quotient of any bread and pie crust can be dramatically increased by favouring this flour.
Many desserts use oat milk and oatmeal as a basic ingredient. Overnight oats with a choice of fruits, nuts, seeds and chocolate can be heavenly. Cookies, quick bars and squares, pumpkin and apple pies and cakes can all be made using this grain to exemplify its health benefits.
Article by Payal Kurian