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Oats - Why You Need Oats

Why You Need Oats

Oats and Carbohydrates

There are many ways in which you can use oats to meet the recommendations for healthy eating. In particular, they are an excellent source of starchy carbohydrate and soluble dietary fibre. The COMA report says, 'It would be advantageous to increase the intake of fibre-rich carbohydrates (bread, cereals, fruit and vegetables) providing this can be achieved without increasing total intake of common salt or simple sugars.'
Carbohydrate at present provides about 42 per cent of the calories in the average British diet and comes in the form of sugar and starch. All carbohydrates in excess can cause overweight. The particular drawback of sugar is that it provides calories (energy) but no other nutrients. It causes tooth decay and it is very easy to eat too much because sugar has no bulk.

There are two kinds of starch, refined and unrefined. Refined starchy foods include white bread and flour and white rice. These foods lack the fibre and some of the nutrients of unrefined cereals. Unrefined cereals, which we should be eating more of, include wholemeal cereals, oat products, pulses and seeds. Their special advantage is that they have not lost any nutrients to refining, and their natural fibre gives them filling but non-fattening bulk.
Since the end of the Second World War the population has generally become more affluent and therefore people have tended to buy more meat, sweets, convenience foods and dairy products. The amount of cereal foods, such as oats, in the diet has declined and obesity has become a problem for many. As the fashion for slimming grew, slimmers omitted the starchy foods from their diet, believing them to be the villains. We now realise that unrefined carbohydrates are desirable for health. Besides energy they give us protein, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins. As we reduce our intake of foods containing fat and sugar, we should make up the energy shortfall by eating more unrefined starch.
We would be well advised to plan our meals as they do in countries such as Japan and China. They think of the cereal content as the base for a meal, then add fresh fruit and/or vegetables and, last, smaller amounts of meat, more as a garnish and for added flavour than anything else. Wholemeal flour and pasta, oatmeal in all its forms, jacket potatoes and brown rice can all form a good starchy-carbohydrate, high-dietary-fibre base on which to build a meal or a recipe. Carbohydrate should provide at least 5 5 per cent of our daily calorie requirement.
As the guidelines point out, the extra starch carbohydrate must not be accompanied by an increase in sugar or salt. The recipes in this book have been written with this in mind and salt and sugar are kept to a minimum.

Oats and dietary fibre

The COMA report also suggests the total amount of dietary fibre in the diet should be increased by using more unrefined cereals (whole-wheat products, oatmeal products and brown rice), using pulses instead of and as well as meat, and more fruit and vegetables.
Dietary fibre has no nutritional value but it is a vitally important part of our diet. It used to be called roughage and its part in the diet was greatly underestimated. In fact everything seems to have been done to avoid eating it. White bread was more popular than brown so the wheat bran and germ were removed from flour during milling. Oatmeal lost favour and was given more to horses than humans. Fruit and vegetables were usually peeled, cored and cooked to make them softer. More and more plant foods were processed so that the fibre, which is mostly found in the outer skin and cell walls, was removed.
Fibre is formed from a mixture of substances; cellulose and hemi-cellulose which are polysaccharides, lignin which is the woody part of plants, and gum and pectin which are in the soft tissues of fruits and vegetables. Cereal fibre in particular should be increased because it is more effective than fruit and vegetable fibre.

Further research has shown that there are two main types of dietary fibre and both are necessary in the diet.
Water-insoluble fibre, such as cellulose found in the plant cell walls of foods, cannot be digested by the body. (Bran is water-insoluble fibre.) It absorbs water and adds bulk to the body's waste material. This bulk is very important. It stimulates the muscular contractions which move food steadily along the intestine so that all its nutritive value is derived and the waste is easily evacuated.
Without this fibre the faeces do not absorb water. They are hard and tend to remain in the large intestine for longer than they should.
It is best to take insoluble fibre into the body in the form it naturally occurs in food, such as in wholemeal bread and cereals, kidney beans and pulses and nuts. It is not wise to eat more refined food and then sprinkle bran on to everything as this may sometimes be excessive and may cause abdominal discomfort.
Soluble fibre is partially broken down during digestion and plays a valuable part in some of the body's metabolic processes. Oats are particularly rich in soluble fibre. The part of the oat that has the highest concentration of soluble fibre is the bran, but tests have shown that any oat product eaten in sufficient quantity will be beneficial.
It also affects the blood sugar level, an important factor in controlling diabetes.

There are two other benefits from a high-fibre diet. Fibrous foods are filling so you eat less of them, especially helpful for slimmers as they make them feel full, and they require extra chewing which may help to improve dental health.

The body needs both soluble and insoluble fibre. Oats are one of the richest and most easily available sources of soluble fibre so including them in the diet on a regular basis is very beneficial to health.

Oats for protein

The report states that it would do no harm for most people to eat a little less protein. It is recommended that a larger percentage of our protein should come from cereals, pulses and nuts rather than animal sources.

This recommendation does not just consider the amount of protein in the diet, but the foods from which it comes. Many animal protein sources are high in total fat, especially saturated fat By eating more cereal and vegetable protein instead, you reduce your intake of fat and increase your intake of starchy carbohydrate and dietary fibre.
protein is essential for the healthy growth of all body tissues. It is especially important for babies and growing children, during pregnancy, after operations and any time that new tissue is being formed. It is also needed by everyone, everyday, to replace worn-out tissues and to make blood cells, hormones and enzymes in the body.
proteins are made up of units called amino acids. There are many different amino acids but only ten are essential for children and eight are essential for adults. The quality of any protein depends on its amino acid content. Animal proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and milk products contain the essential amino acids in the right proportions. They are said to be of high biological value. Cereal and vegetable proteins are usually deficient in one or two essential amino acids, therefore they are of lower biological value.
To overcome these deficiencies you need to combine a vegetable protein with an animal protein, or combine two vegetable proteins. These protein 'mixes' are usually of far better total nutritional value than a single plant protein source. For example, as you can see in the chart above, oatflakes do not supply quite enough of the amino acid lysine. Lysine in this case is what is called Limiting amino acid. But milk is high in lysine so by making, for instance, milky porridge, you have an ideal protein dish.
Through the ages, oats have provided a very large percentage of the diet's protein requirement. They are rich in protein- 13 per cent. But whereas the nation' s diet once relied on cereals as a base, during the last two centuries proteins of animal origin have become more popular. With the swing back to cereals, oats will again play an important part in providing the essential amino acids in the diet.

Oats and fat

The COMA report recommends that: 'there should be a reduction in the average total fat content of the diet to the level at which it provides at the most 34 per cent of total calorie intake and preferably less to 30 per cent of total calorie/joule intake. The reduction should come from saturated fats; the polyunsaturated fats should not be reduced, indeed some are essential in the diet.'
It is easy to assume from their floury appearance that cereals, including oats, do not contain any fat. In fact oats contain 8.7 per cent fat, made up of the three main types, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
To cut down on saturated fats you should avoid frying, spread fats thinly on bread, use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and avoid fat in meat and in processed foods, both savoury and sweet. polyunsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, may be eaten in moderation. They are beneficial, especially the two essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic. Oats contain a very small amount of saturated fat but provide good quantities of the essential fatty acids.
When using oats in recipes requiring fat, remember to use other polyunsaturated fats, such as margarines high in polyunsaturates, and oils such as soya and sunflower, rather than animal fats such as lard, butter and ordinary margarines. Olive oil, which is monounsaturated, is also suitable. Avoid palm and coconut oil, however, as these are the two vegetable oils that are high in saturated fats.

Oats and sugar

The COMA panel recommends that the intake of simple sugars sucrose, glucose and fructose should not be increased further.

There are several reasons for this recommendation. A large percentage of the population is overweight and this is partly because of the large quantity of sweet foods we eat. Foods containing sugar are often those that also contribute saturated fatty acids to the diet (see above) in the form of cakes, biscuits and puddings. Sweet foods can lead to dental decay too, particularly damaging to the young. Sugar is most harmful taken between meals, when it gets the chance to linger on the teeth.
Oats, however, are free of sugars and none is added during milling. If you want sweetness in an oats dish, such as muesli, dried or fresh fruit will add minerals, vitamins and dietary fibre as well as sweetness. Everyone should aim to reduce sugar intake until it supplies only around 10 per cent of total calorie (energy) intake.

Oats and salt

The COMA report recommends that: 'the dietary intake of common salt should not be increased further and that consideration should be given to ways and means of decreasing it.'
Common salt is sodium chloride and the sodium part of the compound has been linked to the possible cause of high blood pressure and heart disease. It is estimated that in the UK each person takes approximately 7-10 g salt each day. Much of this is added during cooking or at the table, and a further large proportion is added by manufacturers to food. Only a small amount occurs naturally in foods.
We need only around 3 g of salt a day. In some people, eating too much salt leads to high blood pressure which may, in turn, lead to heart attacks and strokes. There is no way of telling for certain which people are likely to be most affected, but those with a history of high blood pressure in the family are certainly thought to be at risk. While further research is taking place it is recommended that everyone should take less salt to be on the safe side.
Oats have naturally a very small amount of sodium - 3 3 mg per 100 g (9 mg per ounce) - so they add only a very small amount of sodium to any recipe. However, you should take care not to add salt to oat recipes and to use herbs, spices, dried fruit and fresh fruit for flavourings instead. These help bring out the real flavour of the oats, too.

Traditionally porridge is made with salt, not sugar- indeed many Scots consider salt is the only permissible addition. If you like salt on porridge, try adding a small pinch and stirring it in before considering adding more. You may find that you don't need more- and be able gradually to cut down from there.

Oats for vitamins and minerals

Oats are a valuable source of many vitamins, especially those in the B-complex. As the whole grain is used in the manufacture of Oatmeal, there is no loss of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is partly destroyed when heated, such as in the baking of bread. During the milling of oatflakes there is no loss of vitamin B1. This vitamin aids in the conversion of carbohydrate into energy in the muscles.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is heat resistant but susceptible to light. There is minimal loss when oats are used in a recipe. It is essential for normal health and growth and in the digestion of nutrients.
Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) is essential in the diet. It can be made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. As oats are rich in tryptophan they are an especially good source of this vitamin. It is necessary for healthy nerves, skin and digestive system.
Vitamin B6 (pyrodoxine) is found in the outer layers of grains. It helps the body to assimilate protein and keeps the muscles, nerves and skin healthy.
Vitamin E occurs in small quantities in a wide variety of foods. It seems essential for a variety of functions in the body but its precise function is not known. Its natural presence in oats certainly serves a very useful purpose in preventing the oxidation of the polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Minerals Calcium, iron and phosphorus are provided in good quantity by oats. These are not destroyed during milling and are very beneficial to people of all ages, especially the very young child and the old person. Compared to other cereals, oats are rich sources of zinc and manganese too.

It has been said that eating high quantities of oats can hinder the absorption of calcium because of the phytic acid they contain. However recent research has shown that an enzyme in the intestine effectively deals with the phytic acid so that it is not a problem.

Slimming and special diets

The COMA report states that: 'Obesity should be avoided both in adults and in children by a combination of appropriate food intake and regular exercise. Those who are overweight are advised to adjust food intake in relation to physical activity until their weight is within the acceptable range as defined in a report of the Royal College of physicians.'
There has been a progressive increase in the average weight-for-height of adults in Britain over the last forty years and it is said that 40 per cent of middle-aged men and women are overweight. This is attributed to a decline in physical activity and a diet rich in fat and sugar with not enough dietary fibre.
Would-be slimmers often think that if they totally exclude certain foods from their diet they will lose weight. The first foods to go are often cereals, bread and potatoes as they still have a fattening image. Yet these should be among the last foods to go because their nutritional contribution is very high. Dieticians and doctors generally agree that the best way to slim and keep healthy at the same time, which is of course vitally important, is to cut right down on the fat and sugar intake, raise the dietary fibre intake, count calories and do more exercise.
The general healthy-eating guidelines given in this book are ideal for slimmers as well as those of correct weight, but if you are slimming you should eat portion sizes to fit with your calorie allowance. Oats fit easily into a slimming diet and the recipes in this book are all calorie counted. For instance, raw oatmeal is not high in calories: 100 g/4 oz provide 401 kilocalories, 1698 K joules, and 25 g/1 oz 114 kilocalories, 478 K joules.

porridge made the traditional way with water, using 12.5 g/ 1/2 oz Oatmeal, provides 57 kilocalories, 238 K joules. One portion of porridge made with 12.5 g/ l/2 oz Oatmeal and 150 ml/ l/4 pint milk provides 147 kilocalories, 614 K joules. If you like milk with porridge but are counting the calories, use skimmed milk, which cuts the total kilocalories in the porridge to 66 per serving, or 275 K joules.
Half a small carton of low-fat natural yoghurt tastes good with porridge and provides a total of 95 kilocalories, 410 K joules. Don't add sugar or honey- try a little bit of fresh fruit instead. Similar reductions can be made if an oat-based muesli is preferred.
Any slimmer can enjoy a nourishing breakfast of porridge or muesli and can cook freely with oats. The dietary fibre in oats is especially useful for slimmers. It satisfies hunger and keeps the digestive system healthy. Just take care, if you are slimming, over the foods you choose to cook or eat with the oats.

Oats and diabetes

Diabetes is caused by an excess of sugar in the bloodstream. Normally the body can control its own balance between the sugar eaten and the sugar made in the body. When it can't, the usual treatment is by special diet, sometimes by medication, and if the control is entirely lost, by regular insulin injections.
Diabetes is much less common among populations eating a high-fibre diet than in Western countries such as Britain which generally have a low-fibre intake. A diet high in soluble fibre may help in weight control too (see above). Many diabetics who are not on insulin have a weight problem, so eating plenty of soluble fibre, reducing fat and sugar and increasing exercise, may help them to control their problems- both weight and diabetic- without insulin.
The soluble fibre also smoothes out the blood sugar by slowing down its absorption. This has a very beneficial effect on the health of insulin-dependent diabetics too, who in some cases have lowered their blood sugar levels and reduced their insulin requirements. It is very important, however, that people with diabetes should not alter their insulin or diet themselves but should consult their doctor and dietician who will make the necessary adjustments.

Oats and cholesterol

The COMA panel stated, 'there are no specific recommendations about the dietary intake of cholesterol.'
They felt that if the intake of saturated fat was reduced, then the intake of cholesterol would be likely to fall too.

Eighty per cent of the cholesterol in the body is made by the body itself and this you can do nothing about. Cholesterol's main function is to produce bile in the liver. If the level of cholesterol in the blood falls too low then the body will produce more to keep up the production of bile.
Twenty per cent of the cholesterol is taken in as food and if you eat too much, the blood cholesterol level can become too high. It is found in varying amounts in animal foods, especially egg yolks, offal and animal products such as butter, lard and suet. There is almost no cholesterol in cereals, vegetables or fruit.
It may be helpful to regulate your blood cholesterol level, primarily by cutting down on saturated fats. It seems that the soluble fibre increases the loss of bile acids in the faeces. As the bile acids are formed from cholesterol, the cholesterol is diverted towards making more bile acids rather than staying in circulation and causing trouble by blocking arteries.

Oats and coeliac disease

Anyone suffering from coeliac disease is unable to tolerate gluten, a substance that is high, for example, in wheat. This means avoiding many cereal-based products unless they are made from special gluten-free flour.

Oats contain minute amounts of gluten compared to wheat and many coeliac patients are able to tolerate oats in their diet. However, there are many who cannot, and those suffering from coeliac disease or an intolerance to gluten should not use oats until their doctor or dietician has specifically tested them for any adverse reaction and advised them accordingly.
Information provided by The Coeliac Society

Oats and allergies

If you are allergic to one or more of the many pesticides, additives, preservatives, colourings or flavourings used in the processing and manufacturing of many foods, you may wonder what treatment Oatmeal has in its passage from the field to the supermarket shelf.
The news is good. pesticides used on fields of oats are unable to get through to the groat, the part of the oat that is milled and eaten, because even the valuable bran layers on the outside of the groat are protected by the layer of inedible husk which is discarded.
No additives, no salt or sugar or any other preservatives, are added to Oatmeal. The only additions made to oats are to one or two brands of 'instant' hot oat cereal which have extra iron and vitamins added. Details of these are usually on the side of the packet. The consumer can decide whether to use the oats for a savoury or sweet recipe, and what flavourings to add.
The versatility of oats in cooking, along with the fact that they are unrefined, nutritious, and cheap to buy, are what make them an ideal staple in today's diet.

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