Oats

The third largest grain crop in Australia, oats are mainly fed to livestock. However, an increasing amount of oats are being grown for human consumption (mainly in breakfast foods) due to consumer interest in the cholesterol-lowering benefits of oat bran.

Oats are naturally rich in beta-glucan – a soluble fibre found in the bran and endosperm layer of the oat grain. Beta-glucan actively lowers total and LDL-cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular health and wellbeing. More recent research indicates oats contain avenanthramides – a unique antioxidant that has been shown to help protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL-cholesterol. Other beneficial antioxidants found oats include vitamin E, phenolic acids, phytic acid, selenium, copper, zinc and manganese.

Another point of interest is that oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. As such, most food products containing ‘oats’, ‘oat flour’ or ‘oatmeal’ as an ingredient  contain wholegrain oats.

 

Nutrition credentials of wholegrain oats:

√ High in carbohydrates (mainly starch).

√ The protein content is higher than other cereals, at around 14%.

√ High in soluble dietary fibre, specifically beta-glucan found mainly in the aleurone and subaleurone layers.

√ The fat content is the highest of all grains (7-8%), with fat contained in the endosperm and the germ. The fat is mostly unsaturated.

√ The starchy endosperm of the oat grain contains more fat and protein than other cereal grain.

√ High in potassium and low in sodium.

√ Contains B-group vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate and pantothenic acid.

√ Contains vitamin E.

√ Contains iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium (depending on the soil content of selenium).

√ Contains small amounts of copper, manganese and calcium.

√ Contains phytochemicals including lignans, phenolic acids (such as ferrulic and caffeic acids), phytic acid, plant sterols and saponins.

 

Main culinary uses of oats:

  • Oatmeal – Oats are processed to produce oatmeal of various degrees of coarseness. Fine Oatmeal (called pinhead) is used in certain types of sausage. Super-fine is used in baking and oatcakes. Medium rough is used by butchers for mealie puddings but can also be used in porridge and baking. Rough is used in porridge. Oats make the best porridge of all grains. Containing virtually no gluten, fine oatmeal is unsuitable for bread-making, although it can be added to wheat flour for flavour.
  • Rolled oats – Most oats are steamed and flattened to produce “traditional” or regular oats, quick oats and instant oats. The more that oats are flattened and steamed, the faster they cook and the softer they become. Rolled oats are used in the manufacture of porridge oats, breakfast cereals (especially muesli), bread and muesli/snack bars.
  • Oat bran – Retaining the bran and outer endosperm material, oat bran is made by a separation process during milling. It is used to manufacture breads, biscuits and breakfast cereals with higher levels of oat beta-glucan.

 

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