Ah, the humble oat. A grain grown primarily for animal feed that’s been fighting to climb the cuisine ladder for centuries. Way back in the day, Greeks and Romans considered them food for barbarians and the Egyptians regarded them as little more than a lowly weed. For generations since, they’ve been a bland, blah, boring breakfast. Not too long ago, they found their way into more beloved fare like cookies and bars. Today, it has risen to celebrity status and you can find over 3 million photos of it adorned in all sorts of accouterment on Instagram. How has this unlikely star come to be?
Poor thing. For centuries it’s been almost entirely misunderstood and underappreciated. It’s as if Lady Gaga was never given a microphone to sing into or the chance to wear what she wanted to wear. What a grave loss for the world!
Luckily, oats have finally found their voice and we’re learning how marvelously wonderful they are with a little dressing up. And when we say “found their voice,” it’s really just because we finally started listening to their superfood swoons. Yes -- move over kale and quinoa, oats are a true superfood superhero.
What Makes a Superfood “Super”
While there’s no standard definition, superfoods contain higher levels per calorie of vital nutrients. Here are some of the typical key elements of superfoods and how oats stack up:
- Clean protein - About 12% of the energy from oats is protein, supplying 34% of the Daily Value (DV) in just one serving! And they also contain iron (both of which are generally found in animal meats), making them an excellent grain for vegetarians and vegans.
- Vitamins and Minerals - One serving of oats contains:
- 246% DV manganese
- 64% DV molybdenum
- 52% DV phosphorous
- 51% DV thiamin
- 44% DV magnesium
- 31% DV copper
- 27% DV copper
- 26% DV biotin
- 26% DV iron
- 26% DV zinc
- 25% DV vitamin B1
- 19% DV potassium
- 16% DV magnesium
- 15% DV chromium
- 13% DV pantothenic acid
- 8% DV riboflavin
- 6% DV vitamin B6
- 5% DV niacin
- 5% DV calcium
- Good fats - About 20% of the total energy from oats comes from fat which is almost entirely healthy, unsaturated fat.
- Essential fatty acids - One serving of oats contains 0.11 grams Omega-3 fatty acids and 2.42 grams Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Antioxidants - The fat found in oats carries the fat-soluble vitamin E, which is a vital disease-fighting antioxidant. Whole oats are also the only source of a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which help protect against heart disease. Ferulic acid, the most common polyphenol antioxidant in cereal grains, is also found in oats.
And, oats’ superfood superiority doesn’t stop there.
- Oats are rich in phytochemicals, which are known to have disease-fighting properties.
- Oats are an excellent prebiotic, meaning oatmeal feeds the good bacteria and helps support a healthy gut flora.
- Oats are packed with fiber (44% DV in one serving!) and also contain a particular type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease while insoluble fiber contributes to good gut health and bowel regularity.
- Oats have a low to moderate GI, so they fill you up and keep your glucose levels stable while keeping you feeling fuller, longer.
- Oats are one of the most nutrient-dense grains -- even more nutrient dense than quinoa!
What’s even better? Oats are rarely eaten alone and with every addition -- like bananas, pecans, blueberries, flax seed, etc -- that little bowl of goodness gets greater and greater superfood superpowers!