Of all the grains out there, oats are one that you should always have on hand. Their sheer versatility, as well as health-protective nutrient profile, makes them a must in your pantry. From sweet to savory dishes, this versatile food is a staple in many regions beyond our borders, including Africa, Australia, South America, Asia, and Europe. Nutritious and budget-friendly, this whole grain is rich in carbohydrates and protein. The humble oat (Avena sativa) is also rich in bioactive compounds, soluble fiber, and digestion resistant starch, and steel cut oats has a lower glycemic index, too. It’s no wonder this healthy grain has long been touted for its health benefits, in particular cholesterol-lowering properties.
Numerous studies have shown that if you eat oats on a regular basis, you can lower your cholesterol and reduce blood glucose levels. Why do they have this ability? Namely, they are a great source of soluble fiber, in particular beta-glucan, which is the active component responsible for the cholesterol-lowering and diabetes-fighting activity of oats. Yet there’s more to the story, as a 2017 study in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research showed that the nutrition power goes far beyond fiber. They are also rich in plant compounds that have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.
This whole grain is a veritable powerhouse of plant-based nutrition. A serving of steel cut oats (1/4 cup dry) contains 4 grams of dietary fiber and 6 g of protein. They are also rich in important micronutrients, such as vitamin B1 (25% DV), biotin (26% DV), manganese (83% DV), phosphorus (29% DV), molybdenum (64% DV), and copper (27% DV) in a ¼ cup serving of dry, unprocessed oats.
With forms such as old-fashioned and steel cut, there are endless ways to include this whole grain in your diet. You can use them for breakfast recipes, such as overnight oats, add them to snack bars for extra energy, stir them into granola, mix them into baked goods, and cook with them in savory dishes (see recipes below). Their mild, enjoyably nutty flavor, and the variety of recipes they can be included in make this whole grain a terrific staple grain, reaching far beyond the familiarity of breakfast cereal.
Check out these Top 5 Ways to Use Oats below, and get cooking today! Start out with my recipe for Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats. Watch how to make this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats, which uses oats.
Top 5 Ways to Use Oats
1. Whip Up an Easy, Updated Breakfast Meal. While oats for breakfast may be as familiar as apple pie, you can seriously up your breakfast game with a nutrient-packed, grab-and-go take on this classic: Overnight Oats. This is one of my favorite plant-based breakfasts, because you can mix it up the night before, and grab it the next morning. Try this Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats recipe, which features plant-based milk, pumpkin, and maple syrup, topped with pumpkin seeds for a little bit of crunch. Yum!
2. Create a Savory Oat Bowl. This whole grain can go beyond sweet cereal dishes to the savory, as it makes a great base for a hearty meal filled with your favorite plant-based proteins and veggies. This Savory Steel Cut Oats with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Tofu recipe is a delicious way to incorporate this whole grain into your collection of breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes.
3. Use Oats in a Veggie “Meatball”. Who says plant-based diets can’t include “meatballs”? Oats are a fabulous foundation for veggie balls, as they help create the perfect texture that sticks those delicious plant-based ingredients together. These Sage White Bean Veggie Balls are sure to win over the hearts of anyone who tastes them. They are a big hit at my potlucks and dinner parties, too.
4. Make a Delicious Whole Grain Snack Bar. Turn to oats to power up your home-baked snack bars. This baked treat is packed with flavorful persimmons, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, golden raisins, and spices. It’s perfect for a trail snack, or on-the-go breakfast.
5. Use Oats as a Healthy Dessert Topping. Old-fashioned oats make the perfect crumbly topping for one of my all time favorite desserts, a fruit crisp. The variations are endless, but I used rosemary and olive oil in this mouthwatering take on this classic dessert, which is low in sugar, and packed with goodness.
Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN and Julie Suttle, Dietetic Intern
Get to know more about how to use these plant foods with my Top 5 Ways: