Oats: an affordable superfood

Whole grain oats are one of the most economical, versatile and nutritious foods you can buy. A serving of organic rolled oats from our bulk bins costs you 15 cents while offering an impressive medley of nutritional benefits.

Heart healthy

Increasing your consumption of soluble fiber rich foods (such as oats) is the most effective dietary strategy to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Research confirms that oats lower total cholesterol, blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol) while also providing unique antioxidants (avenanthramides) that improve circulation and help prevent inflammation.

Food for your immune system

Oats are one of the few food sources of beta-glucans, a unique type of fiber (also found in mushrooms) with great potential to boost your immunity. Research shows that beta-glucans help your immune system respond more rapidly to infections, enhance your immune system's ability to eliminate bacteria, and may even inhibit the formation of tumors. Oats also are a good source of selenium, manganese and zinc — three minerals that support your body's antioxidant and immune defenses.

Stay satisfied

Oats are a great food to help keep you full throughout the day because of the soluble fibers that help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent hunger crashes. To maximize this effect, choose minimally processed oats such as steel cut oats or oat groats. A research study found that when a breakfast containing equal calories from either steel-cut oats or instant oats was provided to teenagers, those eating the instant oatmeal were much hungrier between breakfast and lunch and ate an astounding 500 more calories at lunch when compared to those who ate the same amount of steel-cut oats.

Always whole grain

"Whole grain" statements on food labels can be deceptive because the FDA allows the health claim "whole grain foods reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers" on products containing just 51% whole grain. Luckily oats are always a whole grain, so you don't have to read the fine print.

Quick oats and instant oats are still whole grains, because nothing has been removed, they were just ground into a finer texture (did you know that you can make your own "instant oatmeal" by placing your rolled oats in the blender for a few seconds?). Note: The more that oats are flattened, the quicker they will cook, the quicker they will be digested and the quicker you will be hungry again.

Are oats gluten free?

Oats are naturally gluten free and are safe to eat for those with celiac disease. However most oats you find at the supermarket today will contain traces of gluten as a result of sharing processing equipment on the farm and in the storage and processing facilities. If you are avoiding gluten, always be sure to look for oats that are labeled gluten free, and ideally certified gluten free to ensure safety.

More about: bulk, nutrition, oats, whole grains

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Nick Rose, M.S.

Nick Rose, PCC Cooks instructor

As a Nutrition Educator for PCC Natural Markets, Nick leads weekly "Walk, Talk, and Taste" classes, where he reveals the seasonal, sustainable, and delicious food choices found at PCC. Before coming to PCC, Nick taught nutrition courses at Bastyr University and his alma mater-Virginia Tech.

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