It seems that there’s always great news for fans of a bowl of oatmeal porridge. Latest information on the health benefits of oats.
Regulating our diet and getting plenty of exercise are well-known recommendations for good health, but a recent study by scientists in Ireland sheds new light on why eating oats regularly is good for your heart.
It has been previously stated, in 1987, by Robert E Kowalski in his book, ‘The 8 week Cholesterol Cure’, that oat bran and fish oil are essential to a heart healthy diet. He revealed study after study from around the world showing how a diet rich in oats lowers cholesterol. JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), the following year, also carried a report on the virtues of reducing cholesterol through a diet that includes oat bran.
An interesting study in 2003, of 10,000 children aged 2-18, by researchers at Columbia University, New York, showed that those who ate oats regularly were less likely to be overweight.
Then in 2014, scientists at the American Chemical Society Conference in Dallas Texas, said there was growing evidence that the benefits of oats do not just come from the fibre, and that a bioactive compound called avenanthramide could stop fat forming in the arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes.
The report which came out on Monday, by the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork, suggests that the regular consumption of oats could not only lower blood cholesterol (which is linked to strokes and heart attacks) in mice, and keep body weight down, but create a thriving environment for good microbes living in the intestines. The soluble form of fibre found in oats (beta glucan) dissolves in the digestive tract and acts as a prebiotic. This allows the gut bacteria to produce higher levels of a fatty acid known as butyrate, which is shown to protect against diet induced obesity in mice.
To sum up, Prof. Catherine Stanton who led the Irish study, states, ‘The message is to take porridge regularly to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease whilst also protecting your gut microbiota.’
This is great news for fans of this inexpensive and easily available cereal.
Oats have always been popular, as they have been cultivated and harvested in parts of the world for nearly 2000 years. They have long been the breakfast of choice amongst athletes and dieters as oats are filling and provide more energy for a longer period of time.
Additionally, they are low in fat, high in fibre, rich in vitamins and minerals (such as manganese, phosphorus, copper, B-vitamins, iron, selenium, magnesium and zinc), and antioxidants. Oats contain more protein and fat than most other grains. Pure oats are also gluten-free.
There are different types of oats:
Oats with the husks are normally fed to cattle and horses. Those processed for human consumption have the hulls removed, leaving the oat groats. The bran is the layer directly below the hull. When the bran is removed, what is left is less nutritious.
Oat bran – this is the outer layer of the grain and is rich in soluble fibre. It makes a very smooth porridge and may be used in muesli or in breads.
Jumbo oats – these are large, thick pressed oats. They make a good thick porridge with slight nutty flavour and may be used in muesli or to make cookies.
Oatmeal – these are groats which have been rolled or crushed into flat flakes and then lightly toasted. It is popular for porridge and baking.
What is known as Steel-cut oats are oat groats with the bran intact and chopped with steel blades. These are less processed, have higher nutrients but take the longest to cook (approx. 30 minutes). They also have the best flavour.
Old-fashioned Rolled oats have most of the bran removed and therefore, have less fibre than steel-cut oats. They are rolled flat to make them easier to cook.
Quick/Instant oats – these are the most popular breakfast oats. These are rolled oats cut into smaller pieces and rolled even thinner so they can absorb water more easily for quick cooking. They are partially cooked in the milling process and are ideal for making porridge, muesli and baking. Quick-cooking and instant oatmeal usually have the oat bran removed.
Tip: Oats that take longer to cook could be made in a crockpot. It is also useful to note that porridge can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen in ready to-use portions
Have a look here for how to make porridge.