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Processed Foods and Nutritional Value
The Oat Example

Every day we see new food products on the grocery shelf. Food manufacturers are constantly coming up with new ways of processing foods and combining foods in novel and tasty ways. Suddenly chocolate seems to be in everything. But there still remain a few foods that have passed the test of time and which continue to be prepared and eaten much like they were over one hundred years ago.


Oatmeal is a good example. The goodness of oats has been recognized for a long time. The challenge has been to get people to eat more oatmeal. In response to the criticism that it takes too long to cook oats, several types of oatmeal cereal that are currently produced by different processing techniques that make it more convenient to eat oatmeal. The oat groat - that's the seed kernel that has been separated from the hulls and stalks - can be simply cleaned up, boiled and eaten. But very few of us want to watch a pot of bubbling oats for a couple of hours. Oats can be cut into small pieces with a sharp metal blade and eaten as "steel cut oats." The result is a chewy, nutty tasting oatmeal with a corresponding cooking time that is still too long for some people. When the groats are steamed and compressed into flakes by rollers, rolled oats are produced. If more pressure is applied, and the flakes are made thinner and then steamed longer, instant oats result. Rolled oats and quick oats are both popular because of their shorter cooking times.

Fortunately, the variety of processes that oats are subjected to does not negatively impact the nutritional value that is in raw oats. Oats are probably the best source of soluble fibre of all the grains. Oats are high in a soluble fibre known as beta-glucan, and it is this fibre that is believed to be the source of the health benefits attributed to oats. To-day we know that eating soluble fibre has a cholesterol lowering effect. The high fibre in oats also explains the satiety effect observed after eating oatmeal. Since oatmeal is digested slowly, it results in a feeling of fullness after a meal.

Starting the day off with a bowl of oatmeal is a wise decision and you can do that even if you don't have a lot of time.

Nutrient Composition of Instant Oatmeal Cereal (g/100g)
Protein: 16.0
Fat: 6.3
Carbohydrate: 67.0
Total dietary fibre: 9.8
Energy (Kcal/ 100 g): 367


The Oatmeal-Cholesterol Connection: 10 Years Later
AJLM 2008,2:51-57

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