Are oats good for you? Reader's question answered

Are oats good for you?

If you believe in natural superfoods, oats are amongst them and they’d have to be one of the most economical.

Oats can legitimately claim a health benefit for humans. Oats do help lower blood cholesterol. It is the beta-glucan in oats that does the trick to reduce the re-uptake of cholesterol. One serve contains 1.6 g beta-glucan. You need two serves or 3 g beta-glucan a day for the cholesterol lowering benefit.

There’s no advantage of steel cut over traditional or instant oats for beta-glucan or weight management. There is a difference in taste, texture, and cooking times.

Oats cooked with milk into traditional porridge promises a soothing winter breakfast. For sweetness, cook with sultanas or top with berries and banana slices. Another sweet secret is to use a low lactose cows milk as it yields a sweet flavour. A light sprinkling of chopped unsalted nuts (macadamias are my favourite) adds a crunchy contrast.

Easy proportions for porridge: 1/3 cup oats plus 3/4 cup liquid (water, milk). In a small saucepan, bring the oats and liquid to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes (for a chewy porridge) or until you reach the thick creaminess you prefer. Stir it every now and then to unstick the oats at the bottom of the saucepan.

If you cook it longer, add a slurp more water unless you like your porridge really thick and stodgy. The longer you cook it, the more liquid you need.

For extra fibre and creaminess, mix a spoon of raw oat bran with the dry oats and liquid before cooking.

I eat my porridge straight from the saucepan … keeps it warm and saves on washing up! How about you?

Oats are not just for breakfast Here are some other ideas to try:

  • Add oats to stews and casseroles. Traditional oats add extra texture and chewiness but remember to add a little more stock because oats lap up liquid. Fine instant oats work well as a thickener.
  • Add oats to crumble toppings for savoury dishes.
  • Serve as an alternative to a rice base with saucy savoury meals.
  • Whip up a savoury oat ‘congee’ for lunch or dinner.
  • Work raw coarse oats into bread doughs
  • Eat bircher-style for dessert or afternoon tea
  • Bake into desserts and biscuits.