Your memories of oatmeal may include a steaming bowl of brown sugar flecked goodness with cream or maybe a gummy paste you wished you had missed. Regardless of your memory of oatmeal, oats are not just a breakfast cereal anymore.
Oatmeal comes from oats (Avena sativa), a cereal grain grown in North America since the 1600’s. Canada has produced nutritious high quality oats for decades and agricultural statistics show Canada produced more than 5 million tonnes in 2007. Did you know that Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia are our main oat producers? Although oats are grown mainly for livestock feed (cattle and horses), more and more people are eating them.
Oats are a health food with many non-food uses as well. Besides classic porridge, oats are an ingredient in beverages, snack bars, flour, beer, ice cream, and beauty products. In home kitchens, we use oatmeal (rolled oats) in meatloaf, cookies, and granola. Oatmeal is even a facial cleanser. Oats have come a long way from animal fodder!
A high fibre grain low in fat, sugar, and sodium, oats are heart healthy and fit well with recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide. Soluble fibre in oats helps lower bad cholesterol and insoluble fibre helps prevent constipation. Oats give energy, protein and important vitamins and minerals like folate, calcium, and iron. As part of overall healthy food choices, oats help prevent and manage diabetes and heart disease, and help with weight control.