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Oats ... yes please!

Oats are a member of the grass family (Poaceae) and are often called  "cereal grass" or "cereal grain." Grain refers to the edible seeds of the plant and the word "cereal" refers to the practice of growing these plants in order to obtain their grains. The cereal grasses include oats, wheat, rye, barley, kamut, spelt, triticale, sorghum, rice, corn (maize), and millet. In addition to being members of the grass family, oats belong to the science genus/species Avena sativa.


Oats are an excellent source of manganese and molybdenum, a good source of phosphorus, copper, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, zinc and protein. In the phytonutrient category, oats provide valuable amounts of beta-glucans and saponins. 

Beta-glucans are polysaccharide carbohydrates and steroidal saponins are sugar-related (glycoside) molecules. Beta-glucans improve blood-sugar regulation; some foods can cause abrupt increases in blood sugar following consumption, the beta-glucans found in oats help prevent these abrupt increases. Saponins in the digestive tract produce an emulsification of fat-soluble molecules meaning they bind to bile acids and help eliminate them from the body, preventing cholesterol from being reabsorbed.


Ordinarily, you might assume that quick and instant oatmeals were far less nutritious that either old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats. While there are definitely some measurable differences in these different oat types, they are far more similar in terms of their conventional nutrient content than you might think. The protein, fiber, and fat content of all three types are very similar. Like most moderately-high, carbohydrate-containing foods, increased amounts of processing usually result higher glycemic index (GI) values. The GI values for old-fashioned and steel cut oats fall into the range of 50–65. which puts oats in the low to medium GI range. Instant oats fall into the 70–80 range and researchers usually consider this to be the high GI range.


How to Select and Store

Buy small quantities at one time since this grain has a slightly higher fat content than other grains and will go rancid more quickly. If you purchase them from bulk bins, 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  freshness. Smell the oats to make sure that they are fresh and make sure there is no evidence of moisture. Store oats in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place where they will keep for approximately two months.

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