Did you know that at least half of the grains you eat on a daily basis should come from whole grains? Why? Because whole grains, unlike refined grains, contain the entire grain – the bran (rich in fiber), germ (sprouting segment of the grain), and endosperm (where protein and carbohydrates are stored). When refined, grains are milled into flour or meal. This process removes the bran and germ. As a result, fiber, iron and the B vitamins are lost from the grain. Although these products are typically enriched to add back the B vitamins and iron, the fiber usually is not returned.
Health Benefits of Whole Oats:
Whole grain oats are a rich source of fiber. The dietary fiber found in oat bran is high in beta-glucan – a soluble fiber that has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels by binding with bile, which is then eliminated from the body through feces. Eating whole oats has also been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some research evidence even suggests that total waist circumference can be decreased by including ready-to-eat whole oat cereal as part of a weight loss program – a finding that has great implications considering that excess abdominal fat is associated with a higher risk for developing metabolic syndrome. It is also purported that whole grains in general can help with weight management due to their high fiber content which provides a feeling of “fullness” sooner when consumed in comparison to foods lower in fiber. In addition to fiber, whole oats are a good source of the minerals selenium, phosphorous, and manganese.
Selection and Storage of Oats:
Compared to other whole grains, oats have a higher fat content, which decreases its shelf life. It is recommended that you purchase oats in small quantities to increase the chances of consuming them before they become rancid. When fresh, oats will have a sweet, grassy smell. If stored in an airtight container and placed in a dry, cool area away from light, uncooked oats should last about two months. Cooked oats can remain in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days and in the freezer for about 1 month.
- Ready-to-eat whole oat cereal may be the easiest way to include this whole grain into your diet.
- Whole oats can be added to baked goods such as cookies, breads, pancakes, pie crusts, and muffins.
- Whole oats can be used in replace of bread crumbs as an outer coating for chicken and fish dishes.
- Mix whole oats and/or ready-to-eat whole oat cereal with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc., to make a trail mix.
- Boost fiber intake by adding whole oats to yogurt and protein drinks.
What is your favorite way to add whole oats to your diet? Share with us, we want to know!