The common oat, (Avena sativa), is a cereal grain wonder-food known by its plural name: oats.
Prevention of heart disease and cancer, immune system enhancement, blood sugar stabilization and insomnia relief are just a few of the benefits from consuming oats. Additional value includes decreased neurologic pain, improved bladder control, anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-addiction, anti-hypertension, anti-fungal, colitis relief and improved energy.
The domestication of oats for consumption occurred about 5,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Israel and other bordering countries. Oats quickly became a mainstay in many diets for both humans and animals, with Russia being the leading producer of oats today. In the 1755 edition of, A Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson wrote that oats were a grain given to horses in England and to people in Scotland. This provoked the Scottish retort that while “England had the finest horses, Scotland had the finest men”.
Oats have been used as food in a variety of manner including baked goods such as bread and cookies, granola, oat milk, beer, stout, whiskey and as feed for cattle and horses. Oat extracts have been used in soothing lotions and cosmetics, often labeled as Avena. Oats contain more soluble fiber than other grains, which means that when eaten they take longer to digest and provide a sensation of fullness for a longer period of time. Oats contain the highest content of protein of any of the cereal grains, essentially equivalent to soy protein.
The only downside of eating oats comes for those who suffer with Celiac disease (see my newsletters on Wheat and Got Gas). Although pure oats are tolerated by some people with Celiac, the likelihood of cross contamination with wheat products makes them an unreliable food for these individuals.
Know Your Oats
Oats come in several shapes and forms. Whole oats have an indigestible outer hull that must be removed before ingestion. Oat groats are the whole grain minus the hull. Raw oat groats can be sprouted and eaten. Oat groats cut into pieces are called steel-cut oats. Steamed and flattened oat groats are called rolled oats or quick-cooking rolled oats if made from steel-cut oats. The less nutritious instant oats for ‘instant’ porridge come from rolled oats that have been steamed for a longer period of time. Oat flour can be used for cakes, cookies and breads.
Uncooked oats are particularly beneficial as an anti-fungal for the digestive system, and provide essential enzymes and nutrients that are lost in the cooking process. Here are two recipes to enjoy.
Raw oatmeal mush
Add two cups water to one cup oat groats and let sit for at least two hours (overnight is even better). Pour the soaked oat mix into a blender, blend into mush and enjoy. You can add a variety of condiments, fruit, spices, nuts and such. However, if you are concerned about candida overgrowth don’t add any other sweeteners.
Place 1 cup raw oat groats into two cups of water and let sit for two hours. Blend. Add 2-3 cups more water. Let stand 1-2 hours more and then thoroughly blend again. Pour through a strainer and keep the oat milk in the refrigerator. Enjoy as you would milk, but don’t heat it to preserve the best nutrient value. You can add vanilla or other flavoring, and be sure to shake it before dispensing as there will be some settling.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. As always, comments are welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND