Singing the praises of oat-erly fantastic oats

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 8 November, 2022

Oats

You can use me in both sweet and savoury recipes, grind me into flour for baking, press me into milk, mix me into a face mask, or add me to a bath – What am I? Oats, of course!

Australia is frequently the second largest oat exporter (around 10 to 15% of world oat trade), behind Canada (75% of world trade), and also the fourth largest global exporter of processed oat products with a market share of around 10% (Aegic Opportunities and Risks for the Australian Oats Industry, 2021) – according to the numbers, it’s safe to say that Aussies love their oats.

Oats have been in use since ancient times and are now cultivated worldwide. These small but mighty grains are considered a dietary staple in many cultures, and with good reason — they’re rich in protein and contain a number of important minerals, lipids, and beta-glucans, which form an important part of dietary fibre.

If you’re as intrigued as we are by this versatile and humble grain, read on below…

Botanical name: Avena Sativa
Common name: Oats, oat straw, milky oats
Medicinal parts used: Seed, stem (straw) and leaf
Family: Poaceae

History

Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth and have been used in a variety of ways since ancient times. The oldest known oat grains can be traced back to Egypt from around 2,000 B.C. Interestingly enough, unlike other grains in use at the time, the Egyptians considered oats to be weeds and didn’t cultivate them – the oldest known cultivated oats were found in caves in Switzerland, seemingly from the Bronze Age. Similar to their standing in Egyptian society, the Greeks and Romans didn’t think much of oats — considering them fare for barbarians.

Before the discovery of chemical preservatives, commercial bakers often added a pinch of ground oats to pressure bread and cakes. If we’re talking rolled oats, the outer shell is removed from the oat kernel and then steamed and rolled flat in preparation for flaking. The steaming process enhances the digestibility of oats but doesn’t destroy the enzymes or any vitamins!

Uses

Oats possess different pharmacological properties, such as being antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound healing. They regulate the immune system and are thought to possess anti-diabetic and anti-cholesterol properties (Singh & Belkheir, 2013). Oats contain compounds that are sedative and soothing to both the brain and nervous system, which is why they’re said to be a good grain for nerve restoration.

Ever heard the phrase sowing your wild oats? Apart from some of their more commonly known properties, oats are also a natural libido enhancer and are often described as natural Viagra. In women, the aphrodisiac effect seems to work by relaxing the body which in turn allows a natural increase in desire. In men, it appears to be effective for treating impotence and premature ejaculation by increasing healthy blood flow. The stimulating effects of oats are also recognised in the animal world, especially horses, where it’s widely known that their behaviour will become energetic if fed oats (Singh & Belkheir, 2013).

Nutritional profile

Oats have a well-balanced nutritional profile, which is one of the many reasons we love them! They’re a great source of carbs, fibre, and beta-glucan, while also being high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (Bjarnadottir, 2019).

One cup of raw oats contains 307 calories, 10.7 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of fat, 54.8 grams of carbohydrates, and 8.1 grams of fibre. They’re also a mean source of manganese (a key mineral for development, growth, and metabolism), thiamin (​​vitamin B1), phosphorus, copper, iron, selenium, magnesium, and zinc.

What do oats and Flubber have in common? They can both take a variety of solid and liquid forms! The main forms include whole oat groats, steel cut/Irish oats, Scottish oats, rolled/old-fashioned oats, quick oats, instant oats, oat bran, oat flour, and oat milk.

Oat groats, the most whole form of oats, take a long time to cook. This is why most people prefer rolled, crushed, or steel cut oats. Instant/quick oats are the most highly processed variety – while they take the shortest time to cook, the texture can be quite mushy (9 Health Benefits of Eating Oats and Oatmeal, 2020).

When it comes to storing oats, they should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place — ideally in a pantry or cupboard. If kept under these conditions, they can retain their quality for up to six months. Want to stretch their lifespan to the limits? As with many consumable products, freezing them will give you around 12 months with your oats.

Okay, we know we just told you to put your oats into the pantry or freezer but it’s time to take them out again… we’re getting hungry! Check out some of our favourite recipes starring or featuring oats:

References

Aegic Opportunities and risks for the Australian oats industry. (2022). Aegic. https://www.aegic.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/AEGIC-Opportunities-and-risks-for-the-Australian-oat-industry-2021.pdf

Bjarnadottir, A. (2019, May 17). Oats 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/oats#nutrients

9 Health Benefits of Eating Oats and Oatmeal. (2020). Healthline. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-oats-oatmeal

Singh, R., De, S., & Belkheir, A. (2013). Avena sativa (Oat), a potential neutraceutical and therapeutic agent: an overview. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 53(2), 126–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2010.526725

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Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture Therapies and Chinese Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

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