Oats : Benefits & Nutritional values

Characteristics of oats

  • Rich in dietary fiber;
  • Source of carbohydrates;
  • Promotes satiety and intestinal transit;
  • Contains gluten;
  • Rich in essential vitamins and minerals.

 Nutritional and caloric values ​​of oats

What is a “serving” of oats worth?
Weight / volumeOat bran prepared with water, 175 ml / 153 gUnfortified oatmeal, prepared with water, 175 ml / _164 g
Protein4.9 g4.3 g
Carbohydrates17.5 g17.7 g
Lipids1.3 g1.6 g
Dietary fiber4.0 g2.8 g

Focus on the micronutrients contained in oats

Oats owe their popularity to their unique nutritional profile. Among the vitamins and minerals found in this cereal unlike any other, we can cite: 

  • Phosphorus : Oat bran is an excellent source of phosphorus, while oatmeal is a good source. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays a vital role in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes;
  • Manganese : Oat bran and oatmeal are excellent sources of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor of several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals;
  • Magnesium : Oat bran is a good source of magnesium for women and a source for men, the needs of men being greater. Oatmeal is a source of magnesium for both men and women. Magnesium is involved in bone development, protein building, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses;
  • Iron : Oat bran is a good source of iron for men and a source for women, the needs of women being greater. Oatmeal is a source of iron for both men and women. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the manufacture of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in foods of plant origin is less well absorbed by the body than the iron contained in foods of animal origin. The absorption of iron from plants is however favored by the consumption of certain nutrients, such as vitamin C;
  • Selenium : Oat bran and oatmeal are good sources of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps convert thyroid hormones into their active form;
  • Vitamin B1 : Oat bran and oatmeal are good sources of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth;
  • Zinc : Bran and oatmeal are sources of zinc. Zinc participates in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the manufacture, storage and release of insulin;
  • Copper : Bran and oatmeal are sources of copper. As a component of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals;
  • Pantothenic Acid : Oat bran and oatmeal are sources of pantothenic acid. Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows the body to adequately utilize energy from the foods we eat. It is also involved in several stages of the manufacture of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses) and hemoglobin.

 The benefits of oats

Grain products are of great importance for a healthy diet. One of the Dietary Recommendations for Health is to give “the greater part of the diet to cereals, breads and other cereal products as well as to vegetables and fruits”. The PNNS (National Health Nutrition Plan) for healthy eating takes this recommendation into account and insists on the choice of whole grain or fortified cereal products. The US authorities, for their part, recommend that at least half of the grain products consumed be whole grain.

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Cereals and the cardiovascular system

Epidemiological studies have shown that the consumption of whole grains is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity. These beneficial effects are linked to the synergy between the many compounds contained in whole grain cereal products, such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. As the majority of these compounds are contained in the bran and the germ, it is advantageous to consume whole grains rather than refined ones.

An excellent source of fiber

Oat-based foods have been the subject of several investigations, particularly because of their content in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber present in large quantities in this cereal. Soluble fiber promotes the fecal excretion of cholesterol by decreasing its production by the liver, resulting in a significant, but modest, reduction in blood cholesterol levels. The mechanism of action suggested would be related to the viscosity of beta-glucan, which would interfere with the reabsorption of bile acids, thus causing a decrease in plasma cholesterol levels. A diet high in soluble fiber may also help normalize blood glucose and insulin levels, which may help in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. beta-glucan would slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestine, which would lower blood sugar after meals, thereby reducing the need for insulin. It would therefore be a food to be favored by people suffering from type 2 diabetes.

Oats contain a high proportion of soluble and insoluble fiber, which gives them beneficial effects on the digestive system. In fact, fiber helps normalize intestinal transit in addition to causing a satiating effect more quickly. Finally, several studies have shown that a diet rich in fiber is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Although the preventive effect has been demonstrated, the role of fibers in the treatment of cancer remains controversial.

Rich in vegetable proteins

Oat protein is considered to be of good quality since it contains several essential amino acids. However, as in all cereals, some of these amino acids are present in smaller quantities, hence the need to supplement with other protein sources such as meat or legumes. Remember that an amino acid is essential when the body cannot produce it and it must necessarily come from food.

A word from the nutritionist

Watch out for processed products, including breakfast cereals, which may contain sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, and other low-nutrient flavors.

 How to choose the right oats?

Oats are one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world. In France, there are more than 30 cultivated varieties of oats, some spring and others fall. For centuries, oats have been used exclusively as animal feed. Its introduction into human food is very recent but its popularity continues to grow, to our great pleasure. 

ID card

  • Family: grasses;
  • Origin: Europe;
  • Season: spring and autumn;
  • Color: brown;
  • Flavor: sweet.

In what form to choose oats?

Bran, flour, whole or crushed grains, and oatmeal can be purchased in bulk. The flakes can be of various sizes, be rolled more or less finely, be free of their bran or not, etc. Organic oats are widely available in health food stores.

 How to prepare oats

Both flour and flakes can replace all or part of white flour or whole wheat flour in bread, muffins, pies, cakes, pizza dough, etc. If you replace 1 cup of white flour, you will use 1 cup of oatmeal or 1 ½ cups of ground flakes. For 1 cup of whole wheat flour, you need ¾ cup of oatmeal or ¼ of flakes.

Scottish pancake

The Scottish Galette is made with oatmeal and buttermilk. We put the preparation in the refrigerator overnight and the next day we add eggs and melted butter, and any spices to taste, before cooking.

Oatmeal porridge

To prepare the porridge, or oatmeal, we cook flakes in water or milk and eat as they are or with cream, yogurt, pieces of fruit, maple syrup, honey, etc. .

Make your homemade granola

The “granola” or muesli is prepared by roasting oatmeal, chopped nuts, honey, cinnamon, a little vanilla and salt. Put in the oven for half an hour, stirring for ten minutes. Serve with pieces of dried fruit, as is or in milk or yogurt.

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Traveling with oats

In North America, it is made into a crispy preparation that garnishes a dessert with fruit compote. In Quebec, we call this “croustade”.

In the high mountains of Sansi, on the Sino-Mongolian border, at altitudes where no other cereal grows, it is oats that have always been used and are still used in the preparation of the main course, yumienwowo, which consists of a puree rolled very thinly like a pie crust, then cut into squares that are wrapped around the finger to give them the shape of a cigar. The cigars are then placed in a basket and steamed.

n South America and Asia, we reduce the oat grains to powder to which we add the same amount of sugar, flavors and vitamins. Mixed with milk or fruit juice, the preparation is taken in the form of a drink.

Some ideas for incorporating oats in cooking 

  • Add oatmeal to vegetable soups to thicken them and increase their protein value;
  • Mix minced meat and oatmeal with zucchini, onions and chopped peppers, season with salt and pepper. Shape into patties that will be toasted on both sides. Serve with a little sour cream, lettuce and tomato slices. Or mix together canned salmon, oatmeal, milk, eggs, herbs and cook like patties;
  • Add oatmeal to meatloaf preparations;
  • Make a preparation, with some vegetables or meat, to stuff tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, etc;
  • In the pilaf, replace the rice with oatmeal;
  • Eat the oatmeal raw, but it is best to first make sure it is digested well as some people may have difficulty. To avoid unpleasant reactions, introduce raw flakes gradually into the diet and always drink plenty of fluids at the same time;
  • Add oat bran to yogurts, fruit compotes, bread mixes, pies, cakes, muffins, etc., to increase their dietary fiber content.

Discover our recipe for fruit cereal bars, or its apricot-based version made from oatmeal.

 Contraindications and allergies to oats

If oats are known to be an excellent cereal for health, there are however some contraindications to its consumption. Indeed, this cereal is a source of gluten incriminated in intestinal hypersensitivity and celiac sensitivity. In addition, its phytic acid content may reduce the intestinal absorption of certain micronutrients. 

Phytic acid and reduced intestinal absorption 

Cereal grains contain phytochemicals. Phytic acid, which is one of the most abundant micro-constituents in grain, is a good example. This compound, which is found in greater quantities in the outer shell of the grain (bran) and in the germ, has the ability to bind to certain minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc) and, thus, to reduce their absorption in the intestine. However, researchers agree that in a North American context, where there is abundance and dietary diversity and where nutritional deficiency is rather marginal, this effect has little impact on health. The consumption of phytic acid (or phytate) would even be beneficial since it acts as an antioxidant in the body. Indeed, phytic acid, and more precisely its derivatives, could help protect against colon cancer and even cardiovascular disease. These effects, observed in vitro and in animals, have not yet been validated in humans.

A cereal source of gluten 

Also known as gluten intolerance, celiac disease affects about 4 in 1,000 people in North America. People with this disease suffer from a lifelong intolerance to gluten, a protein found in the grains of several grains. In the case of celiac disease, the consumption of gluten can lead to intestinal symptoms, such as malabsorption of several nutrients. Gliadin is the part of gluten in wheat that causes an immune response in people with this disease.

Oats do not contain gliadin, but contain another molecule of similar composition, avenin. Due to their strong molecular resemblance, oats have been attributed the same physiological effects as those caused by wheat. However, more and more studies have shown that oats are tolerated by the vast majority of people with celiac disease. However, given the lack of certainty, the Quebec Federation of Celiac Disease and the Canadian Association of Celiac Disease currently advise people with gluten intolerance not to consume oats, especially since this cereal is at high risk of being contaminated by other cereals such as wheat or barley.

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 History and anecdotes

The term “oats”, which comes from the Latin avena, appeared in the French language in the 12th century and was then spelled “aveine”, taking its final form in the 16th century. Some believe that the Latin term is a modification of a very old Sanskrit word, avana, which means “enjoyment”.

A little history

Oats come from Asia. As there are many species and subspecies, and it is botanically very close to other grasses, its origin and evolution remain obscure. However, it is believed that the species of greatest economic importance, either A. sativa, or common oats, and A. byzantina, or red oats, are both native to a region that includes Asia Minor, Transcaucasia, Iran and the Turkmenistan plateaus.

It seems that oats appeared much later than wheat in the human diet, its uses being initially strictly medicinal. It would not have been cultivated before the turn of our era. From its center of domestication, it has spread to Eastern and Northern Europe by establishing itself spontaneously in wheat or barley fields. It is probable that the Celts and the Germans cultivated it 2000 years ago.

At the very beginning of the 17th century, it was introduced to North America, where it found a land and a climate that suited it particularly. In Canada, it will initially be grown in the East, but almost half of the world’s harvest is now produced in the Western provinces. However, between the 1910s, when more oats were planted in Canada than any other cereal, and the 1970s, its production continued to decline, following the fate of the carriage and draft horse, for which oats were a food of choice.

Since the 1970s, however, the trend has reversed, as the nutritional qualities of this grass have been widely publicized and consumers are increasingly concerned about their health.

Scots and oats

In Scotland, where the soil is too poor to grow wheat, barley or rye, oats are part of the diet, something that the English once considered with a certain height, as evidenced by this entry into a famous dictionary of 1755: “Oats: cereal that the Scots eat, but that the English only give to their horses. “The Scots will have this word, which they do not hesitate to use today:” That is why England has such good horses and Scotland such admirable men! “

Organic gardening

Oats are a field crop, which is normally sown in the open field. However, in the vegetable garden, it can act both as a green manure and as a protective crop for plots that are left bare after a harvest. In the first case, it will be sown in spring, preferably with a legume, and buried before flowering. In the second case, it will be sown in mid or late summer. As it dies from frost, it will leave a thick mat that will prevent soil erosion and inhibit weed emergence the following spring. We can then bury it to benefit from its contribution of organic matter or leave it in place and plant slow-growing vegetable plants through the mulch, requiring a clean soil, devoid of weeds. Sow at a rate of 1 to 1.5 kg per 30 square meters. Oats tolerate acidic soils better than other grains.

Ecology and environment

Oats are one of those multi-purpose plants whose cultivation is relatively harmless to the environment. It can be used for pasture, silage or hay for farm animals while the grain is used as energy food for ruminants, is the staple cereal for horses, and can account for 30% in the feed of chickens and 50% in that of laying hens. Thanks to its richness in minerals, it helps prevent perosis (ossification disorder of the hock joint) in chickens and gastric ulcers in pigs. Very absorbent, its straw is excellent as a litter.

In addition to serving as green manure and protecting the soil against erosion, oats can be sown with a perennial fodder, for example clover, which it will protect against weeds, wind, too hot sun. , throughout its establishment.

Oats also have many industrial uses, including for the manufacture of cosmetics, drugs, adhesives and abrasives. In the food industry, a gum is extracted from it which serves as an antioxidant in butter, cream, confectionery and various other products, as well as as a thickener and stabilizer in cheese spreads. In addition, the extract of the straw is an insecticide.