Starting your day off with a sustainable steaming bowl of oats is not only delicious and easy, but it can help you lose weight, decrease food cravings, improve your digestion, and more!
Today’s oats originated from the wild red oat, a grass native to Asia. Oats first entered the human diet about 1000 BC in central Europe. Major use as a human food began in the British Isles in about 700, when oats became the primary cereal grain. Back in the 19th century, oats were considered a “health food”. Unlike some of the new foods and ingredients that have entered the human diet recently (like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil) we have been eating oats for centuries and our digestive system is well adapted to this nutritious and health benefits-packed plant.
Oats play a leading role in preventing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, the leading cause of disease and death in the U.S., involves a chronic inflammatory response and an accumulation of macrophages and oxidized LDL-cholesterol in the walls of the arteries. Bioactive compounds in oats help prevent this inflammatory response and lower the oxidized LDL cholesterol. The bioactives include two types of fibers, beta-glucan and a resistant starch; both of these slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood, blunt the insulin response, control the appetite, and improve digestion. A unique antioxidant called avenanthramide inhibits vascular smooth muscle cells from migrating into the atherosclerotic plaque and helps enhance nitric oxide production, strengthening the heart and vessels.
If you have celiac disease or are on a gluten-free diet, oats are still a healthy, safe food, but look for the gluten-free label. This is because commercial oats have been found to contain up to 1338 ppm (parts per million) of gluten, often because they are produced in facilities that process wheat. Several “challenge” studies have been done to determine safe levels of gluten for persons with celiac disease. This is done by feeding a specific amount of gluten to persons with celiac disease and measuring the effects on the small intestine. 30 mg per day seems to be the safe limit, according to challenge studies. For comparison the average western diet contains 10000-20000 mg of gluten. The Food and Drug Administration allows products to carry a “gluten-free” health claim if they contain <20 ppm. To get an idea of what this means consider that one loaf of gluten free bread would be about 30 mg of gluten.
Quick oats are simply whole oats cut up. They contain the bran and germ and the same nutrients as old fashioned oats and all the benefits described above. Oats are an easy, affordable, low-carbon, and sustainable food. Cooking them in the microwave uses less energy than stove top cooking (further lowering the carbon footprint). One cup cooked oats with 5 walnuts has the same protein content as an egg. So cook up and enjoy! Here’s a basic recipe:
1/2 cup quick cooking gluten-free oats
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
Splash of organic soy milk or almond milk
Add oats and water to a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate to prevent oats from bubbling over. Microwave for 1-1/2 minutes. Top with a walnuts, coconut, cranberries, and a little organic soy milk or almond milk.