What Are Oats?

All About Oats: everything you need to know

Oats are grains from the cereal plant, Avena Sativa, and once harvested are processed for use in animal feed, skin products or food.

For food use, oats are milled, steamed, heated and cooled in a kiln, which brings out the flavour. The oats are then rolled, cut or ground to produce flakes, oatmeal or flour.

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How do I know I’m getting whole grain oats?

In order to retain the valuable nutrients in oats, processors set out to preserve as much of the oat grain as possible. The mill removes only the outer inedible shell known as the hull – virtually guaranteeing you get all the goodness of wholegrain no matter what form you eat oats in.

Different types of oats

Do you know your pinhead from your jumbo, or your oatmeal from your rolled?

Here's an explanation of the different types of oats to be sure you're oat-savvy next time you hit the shops.

  • These are whole oats that have simply been cut into two or three pieces by steel cutters to produce rough, coarse oatmeal. Sometimes also called Irish or Scottish oats.

    Uses: use for oatcakes and the traditional way of making porridge.

  • These are whole oats that have been softened with steam and then flattened between rollers to produce flakes.

    Uses: use raw in muesli, or to make thick, textured porridge.

  • These are steel cut (also known as pinhead) oats (oats that are cut into two or three pieces) that have been softened with steam and then rolled to produce flakes. They are smaller than jumbo flakes therefore, so cook quicker and make a finer, smoother porridge.

    Uses: tend to be used for the single-serve sachet products found in supermarkets. Use a mix of jumbo and rolled oats to make biscuits, oatcakes, cereal bars or flapjacks.

  • This is made by using grooved rolls to break up the oats to produce different grades of oatmeal, from coarse oatmeal (steel cut/pinhead oats), to medium or fine oatmeal. Until rolled oats were introduced, porridge was traditionally made with oatmeal. It takes longer to cook and usually has a much thicker texture compared to rolled oats.

    Uses: use for biscuits, oatcakes, scones and crumble toppings.

  • Finer than oatmeal, this is made by grinding and sieving oats. As with oatmeal, the flour can be coarse, medium or fine.

    Uses: use for making bread or cakes.

Nutrients found in Oats

Oats are whole grains packed full of nutrients to help keep your body healthy. Take a look at all the goodness they contain.

Nutrient

What is it?

How does it help your body?

Nutritional composition per 100g of wholemeal flour

Thiamin

B-vitamin

Helps release energy from carbohydrate.

Vital for a healthy nervous system.

0.9mg (100% RDA*)

Riboflavin

B-vitamin

Helps release energy from food.

Keeps skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy.

0.09mg (8% RDA*)

Niacin

B-vitamin

Helps release energy from food.

Vital for a healthy nervous system.

0.8mg (6% RDA*)

Carbohydrate

The most important source of energy in the diet.

Our bodies digest and metabolise all carbohydrates into glucose, which provides energy for the body.

66g

Protein

Performs vital structural functions in the body.

Needed for growth and development.

Constantly involved in rebuilding, repairing and maintaining vital tissues.

11.2g

Fat

An essential part of the diet.

An important source of energy, although intakes should be controlled.

Necessary for the storage and transport of fat soluble vitamins.

9.2g

Sodium

A mineral

Involved in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance.

7mg (0.4% RDA*) High sodium is associated with raised blood pressure, it is recommended that we have no more than 2.4g sodium per day

Fibre

'Nature's broom'

Helps maintain a healthy digestive system.

7.1g (of which beta-glucan is 4g)

Calcium

A mineral

Helps build strong bones and teeth.

52mg (7% RDA*)

Vitamin B6

B-vitamin

Needed for protein metabolism
Helps the central nervous system to function.

Needed for the production of haemoglobin, the red pigment in blood, which carries oxygen around the body.

0.33mg (25% RDA*)

Folic Acid (folates)

B-vitamin

Essential for growth and the formation of red and white blood cell formation in bone marrow.

Protects against neural tube defects (spina bifida) pre-conceptually and during early pregnancy.

60ug (30% RDA*)

Vitamin E

A powerful antioxidant

An antioxidant is a substance that may help prevent damage to the body's cells.

N/A

Potassium

A mineral

Involved in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance.

Essential for the transmission of nerve impulses.

350mg (10% RDA*)

Iron

A mineral

Helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

3.8mg (43% RDA* men, 25% women)

Magnesium

A mineral

Needed for healthy bones.

Helps release energy from food.

Helps nerve and muscle function.

110mg (40% RDA*)

Phosphorus

A mineral

Helps build strong bones.

Helps the body to store and release energy from food.

380mg (70% RDA*)

Zinc

A mineral

Essential for growth, reproduction and immunity.

3.3mg (40% RDA*)

Selenium

A mineral and powerful antioxidant

An antioxidant is a substance that may help prevent damage to the body's cells.

3mg (5% RDA*)

Trace elements

The minerals copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and iodine are referred to as trace elements.

Essential for good health but only required in minute amounts.