O is for Oats!

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Nutrition Tip Thursday

Randi Karlinsky MS, RDN, LDN, CHC

Each week have covered a different nutrient using the letters of the alphabet. This week is a little different since the only nutrient starting with the letter “O” has been covered already (see: O is for Omega Fatty Acids). Instead of skipping the letter all together, I have decided to discuss one of our most powerful grains, oats!

There are three types of oats typically sold in our grocery stores today: old fashioned oats (a.k.a. regular or rolled oats), quick & instant oats, and steel cut oats. Old fashioned oats are steamed and rolled in order to produce their unique shape, followed by being heat-dried to remove the moisture. Quick and instant oats undergo the same processing as old fashioned, but for a longer period of time to create a thinner flake that is easier to chew and prepare quickly. Finally, steel cut oats are created by simply taking the original whole oat and cutting it into smaller pieces by using a steel blade (hence the name “steel cut” oats).

The nutrient composition of all three types of oats is fairly similar. All three contain roughly the same amount of protein, fat, and fiber. However, steel cut oats are typically considered a low glycemic index food while quick oats tend to be on the higher end, relatively speaking. At the end of the day, all three types of oats have wonderful health benefits:

  • Helps with digestion by slowing it down in order to maximize nutrient digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Upon arriving in the large intestine, the fermentation process helps promote and maintain healthy bacteria for good immune function and overall health.
  • Regulates blood sugar/energy levels by slowing down digestion for a steady release of glucose for energy in the body. This helps avoid the sudden spike and crash often experienced with the quick release of glucose leaving us feeling sluggish and craving high-sugar foods like candy.
  • Promotes Heart Health due to the soluble and insoluble fiber content. The two types of fiber work together to promote healthy digestion and absorption of heart-beneficial vitamins and minerals such as B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.
  • Overall general health and longevity from its wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Excellent source of manganese and molybdenum
  • Very good source of phosphorus
  • Good source of biotin, vitamin B1 (thiamin), magnesium, chromium, fiber, zinc, protein

Check out Saturday’s recipe post for a delicious way to enjoy your oats!