Oats are believed to have been cultivated inWestern Europefrom wild grass cousins around 5000 years ago, and have been a staple food in many Northern areas where few other grains would grow. Unlike other popular grains like wheat and rice, most oats are not highly refined. The tough outer husk is removed, but not the nutritious germ. Rolled oats are made by hulling, steaming and then flattening the grain. Instant oats are rolled thinner and pre-cooked so they cook quicker, though contain less of their original nutritional value.
In addition to being a good source of carbohydrates, oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, meaning they release their sugars slowly, without raising blood sugar levels dramatically. For this reason, oats are recommended for breakfast. They keep mood and energy levels even for hours after eating them.
Research has revealed that oats can lower cholesterol by carrying it out of the bowel and preventing its re-absorption. For years this advice has failed to be publicised nearly as effectively as cholesterol-lowering drugs. There’s clearly not as much money in selling oats as drugs, though oats can be very effective at lowering cholesterol and with no adverse side effects. Oats contain the highest quality protein of any grain, and are also loaded with B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals like iron and zinc.
Eat rolled oats every day for breakfast. Make them tasty with honey, dried fruit, nuts or seeds, served with cow’s, soy, rice or almond milk. In the cooler months cook them up into hearty porridge with sultanas – they plump up when cooked. Other ways you can enjoy this versatile grain in the rolled form include homemade oaty snack bars, or mixed with a little organic raw sugar as an apple or berry crumble topping, baked in the oven till the sugar melts and binds the crunchy oaty top. Much healthier than pastry, and easier too! Those with an intolerance to gluten should avoid oats. While they contain less than wheat, they do contain gluten and are often processed with machinery that also processes wheat.
It is important to get organic oats. Most non-organic grains are grown in vast mono-croppings, to which massive amounts of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are applied.