Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are now quite famous for their health benefits and have grown in popularity.


Unlike other grains, although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ which allows them to remain a concentrated source of fiber and nutrients.  Different types of processing techniques are used to produce different oat products.

  • oat groats - this week I've been trying recipes using whole kernel oats - also called oat groats or oat berries.  They look similar to a grain of brown rice (see photo below).
  • steel cut oats - produced by running oat groats through steel blades to slice them , creating a denser chewier texture.
  • old fashioned rolled oats - these oats are steamed and then rolled to have a flatter shape.
  • quick cook oats - similar to old fashioned but these are steamed and then cut finely and then rolled.
  • instant oatmeal - these oats are partially cooked rather than just steamed and then rolled very thinly.  Often salt, sugar or other ingredients is added.
  • oat bran - the outer layer of the grain.
  • oat flour - made from the hulled oats.
Oat groats/oat berries
Oats are a very good source of the minerals manganese, selenium, and phosphorus. They are also a good source of magnesium and iron and heart protective polyunsaturated fats.  Oats have more than three times as much magnesium as calcium and are a good source of vitamin B1 and soluble dietary fiber.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats

Oat bran's dietary fiber is high in beta-glucans, which helps to lower cholesterol by binding bile acids and removing them from the body via feces.  In individuals with high cholesterol (above 220mg/dl) the consumption of 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (1 bowl for breakfast) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8 - 23 %.  This is highly significant as with every 1 percent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.  


The polyunsaturated fats in oats actually contribute as much to its cholesterol lowering effects as the fiber does.

Oats also have beneficial effects on blood sugar as well so are a good food for diabetics to consume.

Oats are also good for the skin.  Four tablespoons tied into a muslin bag, soaked in the bath and used as a sponge are healing and soothing for dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.  This amount is enough for 4 or 5 baths.  You can also buy oat based creams and ointments for topical applications.


There are many different ways to prepare oats.  Yesterday I shared my recipe for oatcakes made from rolled oats. Last week, I shared my prize winning marmalade granola recipe with you.  I also frequently make a simple muesli from :

2 cups of old fashioned oats, 
4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, 
handful of raisins.  
Mix the ingredients together in an air tight container and use 1/2 cup per serving, with non-dairy milk or yoghurt and fruit and nuts.


I'll be sharing some recipes using whole kernel oats soon.  If you do have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, make sure you purchase gluten free oats. 
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Healing foods - garlic, onion, chives, leeks, shallots

Photo by janscheffner
Garlic, onions, chives, leeks and shallots all belong to the alliaceous family of plants - alliums.  Garlic is recognized as one of the oldest medicinal herbs (prescribed on Sumerian tablets from 3000 BC). Louis Pasteur observed its antibacterial properties in 1858 and during World War I, garlic was widely used in bandages to prevent infections.  Russian soldiers in WWII used it when there was a shortage of antibiotics and it garnered the name "Russian penicillin".

The alliums are great foods for cancer prevention and halting cancer growth.

The organosulphur compounds in this family of plants are seen to prevent the development of cancer by detoxifying nitrosamines and N-nitroso compounds, which are created from over-grilling meat and during tobacco consumption.


They promote apoptosis (cell death) in colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer, as well as in leukemia and also block angiogenesis (- the formation of blood vessels needed to provide nutrients to the cancer tumor).

Epidemiological studies suggest a reduction in kidney and prostate cancer in people who consume the most garlic.

Photo by Sensinct
Moreover, all the plants in this family help to regulate blood sugar levels which in turn, reduces insulin secretion and Insulin-like growth factor, and thus reduces the growth of cancer cells.

Onions also contain high concentrations of health-promoting flavonoid antioxidants, predominantly quercitin, and red onions also contain at least 25 different anthocyanins. Quercetin slows tumor development, suppresses growth and proliferation and induces cell death in colon cancer cells.  Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory effects that may contribute to cancer prevention.


Photo by tallpines

Active molecules of garlic are released when a garlic clove is crushed and are more easily assimilated if they are dissolved in a little oil.

Try and include an alliaceous food every day, for example chopped garlic and onions mixed with steamed vegetables, or raw onion or chives on a salad or in a sandwich.

What's your favorite way to eat a food from the allium family?  Is it:

?

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