MANY people know oats as breakfast cereal; and many still regard it as foreign food, a preserve of the rich. But oats is a cereal that is suitable for all, regardless of age, race or status.
It is also affordable and available in almost all supermarkets in the country.
A packet or tin of oats costs between sh5,000 and sh15,000 in supermarkets.
â€œThe benefits derived are tremendous. Nutrition experts all over the world regard oats as a powerhouse for any type of people,â€ explains Rebecca Namagembe, a paediatrics dietician in Kampala.
â€œOats are an excellent source of essential nutrients and vitamins that are highly needed by the body to generate energy,â€ says Namagembe.
The minerals found in this cereal include magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and manganese. These minerals give the body energy and ability to renew worn out cells, she adds.
Oats are also a good source of dietary fibre and vitamin B1. Dietary fibre eases digestion. Fibre also builds up and revitalises exhausted tissues in old people and fosters growth in children.
â€œProteins in oats can be compared to soy protein and with the dietary fibre, the cereal becomes a perfect food to start the day with,â€ Namagembe says.
â€œHowever, it is important to note that oats are more nutritious when eaten raw or prepared with milk but at a low temperature. Over-processing or over-cooking rids the cereal of its essential nutrients,â€ she advises.
Because they fall under the whole grain category of foods, oats play a significant role on weight management. Consumed daily, they help alter some body metabolisms that trigger weight gain.
Therefore, oats can be a healthy option for those working on losing weight. This is because the dietary fibre in oats is rich in beta-glucan, an element that helps lower cholesterol and check overweight and its related complications.
â€œDietary fibre does not only lower the amount of cholesterol but also low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the particles that carry cholesterol into the arteries and in the blood causing illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke,â€ says Namagembe. â€œIn fact, beta-glucan found in oats performs more effectively than any other soluble fibre in other foods,â€ she adds.
A reduction in serum cholesterol levels decreases the risk of developing heart diseases in people who are overweight.
Dr. Hussein Tyaba, a nutritionist at Kampala Organic Centre, also says the fibre found in oats produces fatty acids that control the production of cholesterol in the liver.
â€œEating whole grain cereal routinely eases digestion as such grains digest gradually, thus producing a gradual rise in the level of sugar in the blood. Therefore, the body will seek less insulin to control blood sugar, checking type 2 diabetes,â€ Tyaba explains.
He cites a study of adults with type 2 diabetes who consumed foods high in oat fibre and experienced a much lower rise in blood sugar than other participants who ate rice or bread.
Tabya adds that the beta-glucan in oats increases the thickness of the contents of the stomach, thereby slowing down digestion and prolonging the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
One serving of oats gives the body energy worth 1,628kJ, carbohydrates66g, dietary fibre.
Oats: An easy way to check your weight