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Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They're a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Oats are a whole-grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa. Oat groats, the most intact and whole form of oats, take a long time to cook. For this reason, most people prefer rolled, crushed or steel-cut oats. Instant (quick) oats are the most highly processed variety. While they take the shortest time to cook, the texture may be mushy.
Oats are commonly eaten for breakfast as oatmeal, which is made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is often referred to as porridge. They're also often included in muffins, granola bars, cookies and other baked goods.
The nutrient composition of oats is well-balanced. They are a good source of carbs and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan. They also contain more protein and fat than most grains. Oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. This means that oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.
Whole oats are high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats.
Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This gas molecule helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow. In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects. Ferulic acid is also found in large amounts in oats. This is another antioxidant.
Oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber. Beta-glucan partially dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in the gut. The health benefits of beta-glucan fiber include reducing LDL and total cholesterol levels, reducing blood sugar and insulin response and increasing feeling of fullness and the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
When you shop for oats, you'll see several types on the store shelves. They're all based on "oat groats", which are the whole oat kernel.
Instant oats: Oat groats that have been steamed and flaked.
Rolled oats(also called regular or old-fashioned oats): Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): You get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
Scottish oats : These are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
Oat groats: This is the whole oat kernel - no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.
You can cook oatmeal on your stove top, in your microwave, or in a slow cooker. "Overnight Oats" are also popular. These are oats that are soaked overnight in a liquid like milk or yogurt.
Also, they can be made into many different types of food like Fruit Oatmeal, Chia Seed Oatmeal, Yogurt Oatmeal, Nuts Oatmea and so on. They are also a great combination with Grain Cheerios, Corn Flakes and Grain Balls.