Oats are a source of folate, zinc, iron and potassium and are high in thiamin, phosphorus, copper and magnesium. They are also high in fibre, particularly soluble fibre in the form of beta-glucan (around 5g beta-glucan per 100g oats) which makes up around half the fibre content.
There is strong evidence that increased intakes of total dietary fibre, particularly cereal fibre and wholegrains, are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. In the UK, 30g of fibre is recommended per day for adults. This is quite a challenge as the current average fibre intake in the UK is around 18g per day. Therefore, most adults need to double their fibre intake! Around 1 in 5 (18%) adults do not eat any wholegrain foods (Mann et al, 2015).
Current UK fibre recommendations:
15g/day (2-5 year olds)
20g/day (5-11 year olds)
25g/day (11-16 year olds)
30g/day (over 16 year olds)
Cereals and cereal products make the largest contribution to our fibre intakes (around 40%). Including wholegrain products, such as oats, in meals and snacks is key to meeting daily fibre recommendations. Around 15% of our wholegrain consumption is provided by oats in the form of porridge, ready-to-eat cereals, cereal products and sweet snacks. There are approved EU health claims specifically relating to oats and their beneficial effect on faecal bulk, lowering cholesterol and reducing the blood glucose rise after meals. These benefits makes oats an attractive choice for the increasing number of consumers seeking healthy foods and there is indeed a growing consumer demand for oats and oat-based products.
As well as the health benefits associated with oats, this wholegrain also has a variety of functional benefits that may be useful for the food industry. For example, oats have a good flavour profile and textural characteristics as well as good moisture retention properties and viscous and emulsifying properties. This makes oats useful for the food industry in terms of providing a creamy mouthfeel and smooth texture without the fat and improving the shelf life for some products, for example keeping bread fresh for longer. The number of new products with oat ingredients is rising quickly worldwide.
High fibre and low cost - oats are a fantastic wholegrain food that offers many health benefits. Up your oats and increase your fibre intake by having porridge for breakfast, adding a handful of oats to smoothies or yoghurt, make a batch oaty bars or add to desserts such as crumble toppings.
Mann et al. Wholegrain intake and its association with intakes of other foods, nutrients and markers of health in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme 2008-2011. Brit J Nutr, 2015; 113(10): 1595-1602.
SACN (2015) Carbohydrates and Health. London: TSO https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445503/SACN_Carbohydrates_and_Health.pdf