Oats are one of the healthiest whole grains on earth. With their intact bran and germ, oats provide multiple well-balanced health benefits to your body. They are rich in iron, Vitamin E, Zinc, selenium, fiber, manganese, and phytonutrients. They are versatile, although most people consume them in the morning with breakfast.
Oats are not often known for their phytonutrient properties which are powerful antioxidants that protect the cells in the body against cancer, support the immune system, and decrease inflammation. The nutrients from oats also help reduce the risks of diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Oats are naturally gluten-free. However, sometimes they may have been stored or processed in facilities that handle other gluten-containing grains.
Everyone has a certain way they like their oatmeal. In Haitian culture, we usually cook oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, sugar, and a small amount of salt. This porridge that we call “avwan” in Haitian-creole can be consumed for breakfast or supper.
Below are some of the different ways oats are processed:
Whole oat groats: These oats are less processed than any other type of oats. The outer hard husks that protect the seed of the oat plant are removed and the whole oat groats are toasted. They are chewy. Although it takes a long time to cook them, they are packed with nutrients. Soak the groats in cold water overnight to reduce the cooking time the next day.
Steel-cut oats: They are whole oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces. In other words, they are a slightly processed form of whole oat groats, also with a chewy texture. It takes about 20 mins to be cooked when 1 cup of dry steel-cut oats is combined with 4 cups of liquid.
Old Fashioned oats: They are rolled oat groats that are steamed, rolled and dried. It is the most consumed type of breakfast oatmeal with a smooth and creamy texture and takes less time to cook then steel-cut oats. Combine 1 cup of dry rolled oats with 2 cups of liquid to be ready in five minutes.
Quick oats: Unlike old fashioned oats, quick oats are cut finely before being rolled thin. These oats are partially cooked and usually consumed as oatmeal. They have a creamy mushy texture, but the sodium content is usually higher than the previously mentioned oats.
Instant oat: This type of oat is precooked and dried for quick preparation. The pre-packaged instant oats can easily be mixed with warm water and consumed right away. Instant oatmeal is usually high in sugar, salt, and added ingredients that are not beneficial to your health.
Oats are highly nutritious and beneficial to people with intolerance to gluten. Remember oats are high fiber carbs with high protein content as well as vitamins and minerals. The more the oat is processed that increases the calorie and glycemic index of the oats. Foods that contain high glycemic index spike the blood glucose or blood sugar. On the other hand, foods with lower glycemic index help maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
Be creative in the kitchen. Oats can be eaten anytime during the day to help you stay full longer. Turn ground oats into breadcrumbs to coat your meats such as chicken. Add oats to your low-fat plain yogurts, paired with some of your favorite seasonal fruits to add more flavor. They can also be added to smoothies for additional fiber. Remember to add fat-free milk and less sugar to your oatmeal the next time you have oats on your mind.