Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A World of Oats

Guest blog post by Laura Williams

Oats are a gluten-free cereal grain and are the third leading cereal crop produced in the United States (after wheat and corn) and the fourth most important crop worldwide. They were once considered a weed, but are now a popular staple of the British Isles like Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The grain was introduced into the Americas in 1602 by a sea captain who planted them in one of the islands off the coast of Massachusetts. Today, nearly half of the world's oat crop--more than 4 billion bushels a year--is grown in the United States and Canada. Oat kernels look very much like wheat in structure with an outer covering of bran, which protects the starchy endosperm and the germ that sits at the bottom of the grain. Whole grain oats contain seven B vitamins, vitamin E, and nine minerals, including iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorous and calcium. Oats are very high in protein, containing about twice the protein of wheat or corn. But the most important nutritional advantages of oats are the soluble fiber and the GLA (gamma linoleic acid), an essential fatty acid. The soluble fiber is what gives oatmeal its gummy texture; it also has many beneficial effects on health. Regular use of oats in the diet can be helpful for managing several medical conditions. They have been shown to help control blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for people with both type 1 and 2 diabetes; to reduce cholesterol levels, which may help prevent heart disease; and to reduce plaque build up in the arteries which may help prevent atherosclerosis.

Different forms of oats:

Oat groats: This is the whole oat grain, with only the outer hull removed. Oat groats are extremely nutritious, but they need to be soaked and cooked a long time. Oat groats are usually processed into one of the other forms below.

Steel-cut oats: Produced by running groats through steel cutters, chopping the groats into smaller pieces and creating a chewy texture. Steel-cut oats still contain the whole grain and oat bran, and are also very nutritious.

Rolled oats or old-fashioned oats: Steaming groats and then flattening them with a roller makes rolled oats.

Quick-cooking oats: Steaming and flattening steel-cut oats makes quick-cooking oats.

Instant oatmeal: Produced by rolling more thinly and steaming longer or partially cooking the oats. Instant oatmeal will also have salt, sugar, and in some cases artificial sweeteners added to it.

You can also grind rolled oats yourself to make oat flour.

Oats can be included in the diet in the form of oatmeal, cold cereals, baked products, granola bars, etc. Any way you include oats in your diet, you will still receive their beneficial effects.

Some recipes to try using oats include:



2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)

2 cups apple juice or apricot nectar

1-1/2 cups sliced fresh fruit (any combination of banana, peaches, nectarines or strawberries)

8 oz vanilla low-fat yogurt

2 T chopped nuts* (optional)

1 T ground flax seeds* (optional)

Preparation: Combine all ingredients except nuts and fruit; mix well.

Cover; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Serve cold; add fruit and sprinkle with nuts, if desired. Refrigerate in airtight container up to 4 days

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


3 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup flour

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup honey or maple syrup

¾ cup softened butter

½ tsp vanilla

1 egg

½ cup raisins

Preparation: Preheat oven to 375 F. lightly coat cookie sheet with vegetable oil. Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Mix honey/syrup, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add egg. Blend in dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Stir in raisins. Place rounded spoonfuls of blended ingredients onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Makes 50 cookies.

I made three batches of these cookies each using a different sweetener (1 each with honey, maple syrup, and sugar) and would definitely recommend using maple syrup.

Laura is a senior at Syracuse University majoring in dietetics and minoring in hospitality management. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian. Laura has a passion for cooking and baking.


  1. Have you heard of our oats? Coach's Oats are a unique type of oat all together. You get the texture and taste of steel cut oats, but our oats cook in 3 to 5 minutes on the stove top or microwave. Check out the difference here:

    Got to love the incredible oat!

  2. Thanks for the information. We will definately check out your oats!

  3. yum I love oats and oatmeal & raisin cookies. But I only have access to the rolled oats. I really want to try steel cut and the oat groats but I haven't seen it available where I live sigh!