Oats are such a humble ingredient that I believe are very often overlooked – and yet they are one of the most easy, nutritious, cheap satisfying foods you could eat. They are a true staple in my kitchen thanks to their amazing versatility and body benefits, but are frequently avoided by those in gluten-free or grain-free circles for reasons I can’t always fathom.
Yes, oats can contain faint traces of gluten, but not usually enough to banish completely. Unless you have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity, there’s no reason to avoid them. When people do I can’t help but feel it is a real a shame.
Benefits of Oats
One of the few real whole grains out there, oats are a complex carb and therefore a great source of slow-releasing energy. Thanks to their high levels of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre, they play a key role in keeping the digestive system healthy. Not only does beta-glucan keep things moving through the digestive tract, it also encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and has been shown to reduce blood sugar and inulin response.
What does that mean for us? Well, obviously it means fewer gut and digestive health problems – something which seems to be becoming more common these days. But the high fibre content of oats also means they’re great for keeping you fuller longer, making them great for weight loss. And the stabilised blood sugar levels? Let’s just interpret that as increased energy levels and healthier, glowing skin.
Oats are also a huge source of many antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols, as well as minerals like iron, zinc and folate and vitamins B1 and B5.
Which Oats are Best?
The main types of oats you will come across are rolled, steel cut and quick-cook. You might also see larger, ‘jumbo’ rolled or steel cut varieties, which I personally like for their chunky texture.
I would always recommend rolled or steel cut oats whenever possible. ‘Quick-cook’ oats are quite heavily refined and may have lost some of their nutritional value that makes oats so great. Besides, you want to give your body something to break down, otherwise you’ll get hungry again pretty quickly.
Though not a ‘raw’ food (all oats are lightly steamed before packaged to aid the cooking process), they are a whole grain and you want to take advantage of that.
Uses for Oats
My friend Abigail once joked that I ate so many of them, I would one day turn into an oat. She was probably right – oats do make a few appearances in my daily diet in more ways than one.
Here are some of the main ways you can start getting your oats.
Porridge (or oatmeal) is of course one of the main ways people eat oats. It’s probably one of the most satisfying breakfasts you can have on a chilly morning (or ever!) and will keep you full and energised for a few hours.
- 1/2 cup rolled or steel cut oats
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1 tsp sweetener
- Topping ideas include berries, raisins, seeds, nut butter, cacao nibs, goji berries, chopped banana, etc. I’ve also heard it goes great with mashed avocado too!
Blend the milk and the oats and either microwave for 2:30 (stopping to stir halfway through) or heat gently on the hob until the oats have absorbed the liquid and are soft and cooked through (about 5 minutes).
2. Overnight Oats
Overnight oats make a great portable breakfast and can be eaten anywhere. Here’s my basic recipe for overnight oats.
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/2 cup milk of choice
- 1 tbsp chia seeds (add an extra 1-2 tbsp milk if using chia seeds)
- 1 tps sweetener
- Add-ins: 1 tbsp nut butter, chopped banana, berries, raisins, goji berries, seeds, cinnamon etc.
Stir ingredients together in airtight container. Soak in fridge for three hours or overnight and enjoy!
Oat is a key base ingredient in most granolas and flapjacks. These can be awesome breakfasts or sweet snacks on the go, but the store-bought varieties contain so much sugar, it’s much more beneficial to make your own.
My favourite granola recipe is this cinnamon & pecan granola by Deliciously Ella.
4. Oat Milk
Some years ago, oats also started to be made into a delicious plant-based milk. Now, more and more brands are jumping on the bandwagon creating their own version, and I’ve seen a few more magazines and cafes reference the stuff in the last year as they realise how great it actually is.
Oat milk is not so surprisingly my go-to choice of milk for everything – porridge, smoothies, cooking. It’s so amazingly creamy! It’s also much easier to find varieties without added sugar as it has a naturally sweet taste.
5. Nourishing Facemask
Did you know that oats also make fantastic skincare?? Ground oats were traditionally used to treat wounds, eczema and skin irritations, and are also a recurring ingredient in some skincare products today.
There’s a homemade face mask I like to use sometimes which is great for purifying oily, tired or congested skin.
- 2 tbsp oats
- 5 tbsp oat milk/water
- Squeeze of lemon juice (this is optional, but will have astringent effects)
- 1/2 cinnamon (to exfoliate)
Mix the ingredients together and smear on face. Leave for about ten mins, then rinse off. I should warn you, you WILL want to eat your face!
6. Oat Flour
One of the final ways I like to use oats is by grinding them up into a flour in my Nutribullet, and using it as a base for all variety of baked goods. Oat flour is an awesome choice because not only does it keep things moist and fluffy, you’ll also get all of the nutritional benefits of the oats.
Oats will usually replace traditional wheat flour or even almond flour in most recipes, though it may be slightly sweeter and more moist/gooey. This is great if you’re trying to eat less wheat or are nut-free.
Here are just a few of the ways I like to use oat flour:
In my easy peasy oil-free pancakes.
Are you as oat-obsessed as I am? Share your love for these grains in the comments below and let’s get the word out. YAY for carbs!!