Jan 24, 2013

Grain Challenge - January: Oats

This information is from www.wholegraincouncil.org
January is Oats Month
January has long been celebrated as National Oatmeal Month. (So it's only right we start off the challenge with this familiar grain.


Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary defined oats as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people." The Scotsman's retort to this was, "That's why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!"
Oats (Avena sativa) have a sweet flavor that makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among the most widely-eaten grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label, relax: you're virtually guaranteed to be getting whole grain.
In the U.S., most oats are steamed and flattened to produce rolled oats, sold as "old-fashioned" or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. If you prefer a chewier, nuttier texture, consider steel-cut oats, also sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats. Steel-cut oats consist of the entire oat kernel (similar in look to a grain of rice), sliced once or twice into smaller pieces to help water penetrate and cook the grain. Cooked for about 20-30 minutes, steel-cut oats create a breakfast porridge that delights many people who didn't realize they love oatmeal!

Raw Oats, newly harvested
This is what oats look like before the kernels (groats) are separated from the hulls and stalks. Admittedly, you won't see them this way in stores, but we thought you'd like to see what they look like fresh from the fields.
Whole Oat Groats
A groat is another name for a grain kernel. Whole oat groats are the result of simply harvesting oats, cleaning them, and removing their inedible hulls. You can most often find these in health food stores. They take the longest to cook.
Steel Cut Oats
If you cut groats into two or three pieces with a sharp metal blade, you get steel cut oats. They cook quicker than oat groats, because water can more easily penetrate the smaller pieces. Steel cut oats are also sometimes called Irish oatmeal.
Scottish Oatmeal
Instead of cutting oats with a steel blade, the Scots traditionally stone-grind them, creating broken bits of varying sizes, which some say results in a creamier porridge than steel-cutting.
Rolled Oats – regular (old fashioned)
Rolled oats (sometimes called old fashioned oats) are created when oat groats are steamed and then rolled into flakes. This process stabilizes the healthy oils in the oats, so they stay fresh longer, and helps the oats cook faster, by creating a greater surface area.
Rolled Oats – quick or instant
If you roll the oat flakes thinner, and/or steam them longer, you create quick oats and ultimately instant oats. The nutrition stays the same (these are all whole grains) but the texture changes – a plus for some people and a drawback for others. The good thing about having so many choices is that everyone can get exactly the taste they like best!
Oat Flour
Oat flour is a whole grain flour that can be used in baking, or for thickening soups and stews. 


Scores of studies have documented the many health benefits of oats.
  • Eating oats helps lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Oats help you feel fuller longer, which helps control your weight.
  • Oatmeal and oats may help lower blood pressure.
  • Oats may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, since their soluble fiber helps control blood sugar.
  • Oats help cut the use of laxatives, without the side effects associated with medications.
  • Oats are high in beta-glucans, a kind of starch that stimulates the immune system and inhibits tumors. This may help reduce your risk of some cancers.
  • Early introduction of oats in children's diets may help reduce their risk of asthma.
  • Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.
  • Oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching activity. (Which is increased when taken with vitamin c--so drink some OJ with your morning oats!)

How to store

Oats are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the oats are covered, free from debris, and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Smell the oats to make sure that they are fresh. Whether purchasing oats in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture.
If you purchase prepared oatmeal products such as oatmeal, look at the ingredients to ensure that the product does not contain any salt, sugar or other additives.
Store oatmeal in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for approximately two months.


 Although oats do not actually contain gluten, they are generally grown alongside gluten grains such as wheat and barley, which is why many people with gluten intolerance cannot eat them. However, pure, uncontaminated, certified gluten-free oats (which can be ordered online or sometimes found in health food stores) can usually be tolerated by those with celiac disease. In rare cases, a protein called avenin has triggered an immune response similar to that of gluten in some people with celiac disease. Proceed with caution if gluten is an issue for you.

Cooking time: Bran, 5-7 minutes; rolled, 10 minutes; steel-cut, 20-40 minutes; groats, 45-60 minutes
Liquid per cup of grain: Bran and rolled, 2 cups; steel-cut and groats, 3 cups
How to cook oats:  With the exception of whole oat groats, oats are among the only grains that should be stirred while cooking. For oat groats, combine groats with water in a pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes until tender. For steel-cut, rolled or oat bran, combine with the appropriate amount of water in a pot and, covered, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for required time, stirring often (stir steel-cut oats less), until desired consistency is reached. Season with milk or soymilk, dried or fresh fruit, your favorite spices and a small amount of low-glycemic sweetener, if you wish. A spoonful of nut butter stirred in before eating also makes a delicious addition. (from drweil.com)

Here are some more tips to get your oats in...
1. Opt for Healthier Instant Oatmeal
2. Make Some Muffins With Oats
3. Substitute Oats for Other Fillers
4. Add Toasted Oats to Other Dishes
5. Thicken Soups and Stews with Oats
6. Cook up a Fruit Crisp
7. Replace up to 1/4 the amt of Flour With Oats
8. Move Over, Chocolate Chip Cookies--try oats and use applesauce instead of the oil
9. 'Oatify' Your Homemade Bread
10. Make your own granola

Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal


Heart healthy oat cookies
Baked blueberry oatmeal
PB banana oat squares

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