There isn’t a single morning when my grandmother doesn't start her day without a steaming bowl of freshly cooked oats doused in milk. It always made me look at her quizzically and wonder... Why oats? Yes, it's healthy, but can one really have it every single day?
Nutritionist Gargi Sharma says, "Oats are rich in soluble fibers which help in lowering cholesterol levels. These soluble fibers help increase intestinal transit time and reduce glucose absorption. Oats also contain beta glucan which is a lipid lowering agent. A very healthy breakfast option - you can spruce your oats with fruits and crunchy nuts." Be it a quick fix for hunger pangs, a light and hearty evening snack or the much needed energy to carry you through your hectic morning, oats is the one superfood that can easily fit itself to suit your needs. Protein-packed, full of fiber and low on fat, oats are designed to boost your energy levels and help you lead a healthy lifestyle. They are not only good for the stomach but are interestingly super filling, satisfying and versatile. Oats contain a wide range of nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, etc. which make them top the healthy food charts.
Benefits of Oats
1. Prevents cardiovascular disease: "The antioxidants present in oats are beneficial for heart disease and the dietary fibers help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting the good cholesterol (HDL)", says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja. Oats also contain plant lignans, especially enterolactone, which protect against heart disease. Thus, oats help reduce your cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. He adds, "It is a key food item that has proven to be good for the heart".
2. Prevents constipation: Oats are a rich source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which helps in regulating bowel movements and hence prevents constipation.
3. Controls blood sugar levels: Since oats help stabilise blood sugar and reduce risk of type-2 diabetes, diabetics should consume oats regularly. The high fiber and complex carbohydrates slow down the conversion of this whole food to simple sugars, and beta-glucan delays the fall in blood sugar levels before meals and slows the rise after a meal.
4. Reduces cancer risk: Lignan, the same compound which helps prevent cardiovascular disease also "helps reduce chances of hormone-related cancers like breast, prostate and ovarian cancer", according to the American Cancer Society. Therefore, eating oats is good for both men and women.
5. Reduces hypertension: If you suffer from high blood pressure, a daily dose of oats will help combat this problem and in turn, lower risk of hypertension.
6. Rich source of magnesium: Oats are also a rich source of magnesium, which is key to enzyme function and energy production, and helps prevent heart attacks and strokes by relaxing blood vessels, aiding the heart muscle, and regulating blood pressure. The high levels of magnesium nourish the body’s proper use of glucose and insulin secretion.
7. Supports weight loss: Oats is a low calorie food which slows digestion and makes you feel full longer. Thus, reducing your cravings and helping you shed a few pounds. Cholecystokinin, a hunger-fighting hormone, is increased with the oatmeal compound beta-glucan.
8. Enhances immune response to disease: The unique fiber in oatmeal called beta-gluten has been shown to help neutrophils travel to the site of an infection more quickly and it also enhances their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.
9. Protects skin: Oats have been used as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation while also providing an array of benefits for the skin. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, "Oatmeal is able to normalise the skin’s pH. It also helps moisturise and soften the skin."
Cooking with Oats
For those who don’t like the taste of regular oatmeal, we’ve rounded up some inventive recipes to make your mornings fun and healthy. Cooking with oats like never before:
1. Chocolate Oatmeal Bars Recipe
For Crust and Topping: 1⅓ cups oatmeal 1 cup all-purpose flour 1⅓ cups light brown sugar ½ tsp baking powder 10½ tbsp butter
For Filling: ½ cup all-purpose flour ½ cup light brown sugar 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 4 tbsp butter 3 large eggs
Instructions Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a 8x8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and add some oil. Combine flour, oats, 1⅓ cups light brown sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl, add 10½ tablespoons melted butter and stir to combine. Press half of mixture firmly into the pan and bake about 8 minutes, cool it. To make the filling, melt the butter and chocolate chips together and stir until it’s smooth. Whisk together flour and sugar in a bowl. Whisk eggs into cooled chocolate mixture, then stir in the flour mixture. Pour chocolate filling over cooled crust and top with remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Note: Cool completely before serving.
2. Banana Oats Smoothie
Ingredients ¼ cup rolled oats ½ cup yogurt 1 banana, cut into thirds ½ cup milk 2 tbsp honey (optional) ½ tsp ground cinnamon
Instructions In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Top it off with a pinch of cinnamon and serve immediately.
3. Chocolate Oat Fondant Recipe by Seema Chandra
Here is a classic French dessert with a healthy addition of oats. The sinfully flavourful chocolate soaks in the aromatic goodness of oats, and in the end it's what you call - having the best of both worlds.
For the fondant: Melted butter for brushing the ramekins Cocoa powder for dusting 200 gms good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (70 %) 150 gms butter, cut in small bits 3/4 cup demerara sugar (ground) 4 whole eggs 4 yolks 3/4 cup flour 3/4 cup oats (ground) 1 tsp baking soda 1 Tbsp of cocoa 1/2 cup milk to loosen batter (optional)
For the strawberry compote: 1 cup freshly cut strawberries 1 tsp lemon juice 1 Tbsp brown sugar 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
For the fondant: Brush butter on the insides of your ramekins, and dust with cocoa powder. Put them in the freezer to set. Take a pan of simmering water, and place another bowl that fits snugly over it, without touching the water. Slowly melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolks together with the sugar until the whisk leaves a trail. Now add the flour, oats and baking soda into the eggs and beat it well. Pour the melted chocolate into this batter bit by bit, beating well in between each addition. Add a little milk to loosen the batter. Take the ramekins out of the fridge and pour this batter in equal quantities into the ramekins. Put these back in the freezer, and take them out just before you're ready to bake them. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees till the fondant rises and flowers out of the ramekin.
For the strawberry compote: In a pan add butter, strawberries and sugar. Add the lemon juice and vinegar. Let the strawberries leave a little juice. Your compote is ready.
4. Oat Crunchies
150 g butter 2 tbsp golden syrup ¾ cup brown sugar ½ cup coconut 2 cups rolled oats ½ cup flour
Instructions Melt butter, syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan and keep stirring. Mix in coconut, oats and flour until combined. Roll table spoonsful of oats into balls. Spread on a greased oven tray and flatten with a spoon. Bake at 180C degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack and voila!
5. Chocolate Banana Oatmeal
Ingredients 1 cup water 1 tsp brown sugar 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 1/2 banana, sliced 1 tbsp chocolate-hazelnut spread Pinch of salt
Instructions Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in oats, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Top it off with banana and a yummy chocolate spread.