There is a common sense that oats are one of the healthiest grains on the planet. Whether as flakes, in muesli, in porridge or as a dough. Nevertheless, oats are often underestimated or even ignored. Hardly anyone would categorize oats as superfood, although the small grain would definitely deserve this title. For us as producers of organic breakfast, however, oats are one of the most important ingredients – reason enough for us to take a closer look:
What is oat?
Oat is actually a type of sweet grass. The seed oat, which is cultivated as a grain, is colloquially known as oat. There are 25 different types of this cereal. The largest oat producer in the world is Russia, followed by Canada and Australia. The first early indications of possible oat cultivation were in the Bronze Age with the pile dwelling settlements in Switzerland. Even then, the inhabitants of these settlements knew how to grow oats to their advantage.
Oats are considered to be one of the most resistant cereal species and can often survive storms and heavy rain. In general, seed oats prefer regions with higher precipitation, such as the foothills of the Alps, the low mountain ranges and coastal regions. Moreover, when bent over, the grain stands up all by itself again. Thus, oats can be cultivated in climatically less favourable locations too. That was in fact done, as oats bring more constant yields than other cereals, even under bad weather conditions.
Oats remained the most important crop in the world until the High Middle Ages, when they were replaced by potatoes. Until the 19th century it ranked among the top 3 in this category.
The word superfood probably makes you think of chia seeds, maca, physalis, barley grass or goji berries. Oats however, will be found on this list only very rarely, even though they are one of the primary sources of a healthy diet. In 2017, oats were voted the number 1 medicinal plant of the year by a working group at the University of Würzburg. The ten percent content of dietary fibre, the quality of the carbohydrates, the protein composition, the unsaturated fatty acids and several vitamins and minerals were particularly emphasized.
Oats are particularly helpful with digestive problems. Due to their increased content of beta-glucans, which primarily improve digestion, oats definitely stick out in this category. Beta-glucan is part of the large family of dietary fibres found in oats. Not only the digestive tract is stimulated by it, but also the metabolism may experience positive changes. These dietary fibres bind bile acid, which then leads to the breakdown of cholesterol. Studies on oats also describe the ability of its fibres to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, fat metabolism disorders and heart disease.
The role of oats in the diabetes therapy
A special feature of oats is their use on people with diabetes. Due to the delayed rise in blood sugar levels and the associated lower insulin release, oats are often used in diabetes therapy and subsequently in diabetes nutrition. For example, doctors often establish the so-called “oat days” for treatment. On these days, a specific dietary plan is followed that contains plenty of oat products. This usually takes place over the time of several days. The aim of this simple method is to reduce insulin resistance. Initial scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of oats in the diabetes therapy.
Is oat gluten-free?
Also for people who suffer from allergies, oats can be very beneficial. Especially people affected by celiac disease (= gluten intolerance) can gain a lot of positive benefits from oats. Many classic cereals contain gluten and therefore have to be avoided. In a lot of cases however, oats are tolerable for people suffering from a gluten intolerance. It just has to be ensured that the oats have not been mixed with wheat flour. However, science does not yet agree on this. Studies from Sweden and Canada have shown that a small amount of oats is not harmful for the healing of the mucous membrane of the small intestine, but studies from Germany advise that people affected by celiac disease steer clear from having oats.
For us at Verival, it is particularly important to produce guaranteedly gluten-free products. All mueslis and porridges that are labelled with the gluten-free seal therefore undergo a strictly controlled 5-stage process.
Oats can also be found in cosmetic products such as lotions or hair care products – to strengthen the hair root or for dry and cracked skin.
Oats and breakfast
For a morning dose of oats, there are various possibilities. The most important source are the so-called oat flakes. They are usually prepared in the form of muesli or porridge. If you want to do something for your health in the morning already, you can simply make yourself a delicious oat porridge. Our personal tip: Prepare your porridge with fresh fruit, add some cinnamon and a teaspoon of peanut butter. This can make the already yummy porridge even more delicious.