Oats – Nutritional Profile

Oats are a significant source of many nutrients. They have a greater concentration of protein than other cereals, contain phytochemicals that are associated with pigmentation in plants and protect from chronic disease such as cancer. They also contain a significant amount of fatty acids that are generally linked with life longevity and have higher levels of amino acids than any other grain. Amino acids are essential proteins that help facilitate optimum functioning of the body.

Oats are a good source of essential B group vitamins such as thiamine, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid and vitamin E. They also contain zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese and magnesium.

Oat beta glucan also appears to help speed up response to infection resulting in faster and more complete healing. According to a new study, it was discovered that beta glucan enhances the body’s ability to direct certain human immune cells to the location of a bacterial infection, resulting in faster healing.

In dietary nutrition, Glycemic Index (GI) is the rate at which carbohydrate are released into the bloodstream. Low GI foods are regarded as more beneficial and oats are a particularly good example of a Low GI food.

Oats – Health Benefits

Lowering cholesterol has been known to be a benefit of eating oats since the 1960s. Since 1963, studies have repeatedly proved the beneficial effects of oat fibre on cholesterol levels. Studies show that individuals with high cholesterol who consume just 3 grams of soluble oat fibre per day should expect to lower cholesterol by between 8 and 23%. This is a significant benefit because a 1% drop in cholesterol results in a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. Soluble fibre creates a gel like compound that has been shown to absorb LDL cholesterol and promotes the uptake of the desirable HDL cholesterol.

Latest research shows that oats have an additional mechanism that is beneficial in cardiovascular health. Antioxidants that are unique to oats help prevent free radicals from oxidising cholesterol, this is a critical stage in the process of cholesterol building up in the inside of blood vessels. This further reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Heart failure is a major cause of hospitalisation amongst the elderly in Western nations (other than those with a Mediterranean diet). A 19 year study in America has shown that a daily morning bowl of whole grain cereal (such as oats) reduces the risk of heart failure by 29%. Significant benefit can be provided to post-menopausal women where arteriosclerosis was slowed significantly if they ate six servings of whole grains (such as oats) a week.

Beta glucen, again found in oats, has been shown to have beneficial effects on patients with Type 2 diabetes. An 8 year study showed how 41,000 participants confirmed the relationship between magnesium and calcium, both of which are found in oats and help in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. Risk of diabetes was 31% lower in groups who ate grains rich in these nutrients. The benefit of avoiding surges in blood sugar after eating provide better blood sugar control which means lower rates of Type 2 diabetes.

Selenium in oats work with vitamin E to ensure that antioxidants reduce the occurrence of asthma attacks, fibre from oats has also been shown to be protective against breast cancer in a study of 35,000 British women.

Oats are also gluten free and make a viable alternative for celiac who are unable to consume wheat products due to gluten intolerance.

Oats – Product History

Oats are grown across a wide swath of temperate farmlands and the world crop achieved is 24,600,000 tons of which a large portion was grown in Russia (5,100,000 tons), Finland (3,300,000 tons) and the United States (1,700,000 tons).

One of the factors that has led to them becoming as widespread as they are is their ability to thrive in poor soil conditions.

Oats achieve a particular taste as part of the processing they go through following harvest. Initially the outer husks are removed mechanically and then the grain toasted. Unusually neither of these processes reduce the nutritional value of oats whereas mechanical removal of outer husk layers in wheat decrease fibre levels.

Oats contain purines which are enzymes that break down into uric acid. Excess purines can break down, in some where a person may have an already accumulated amount of uric acid to combine and cause gout.