Oats: fibre-filled superfood

My dad starts every day with a bowl of oatmeal. I used to think it boring but now I have begrudgingly come to realize there is a lot of wisdom in his actions.

Oats are a superfood because of the fibre content. As a whole grain, oats are high in both insoluble and soluble fibre and both are needed for a healthy diet.

Insoluble fibre is the bulky fibre found in vegetables, bran and whole grains like oats. It helps prevent constipation.

Soluble fibre is the sticky fibre found in pulses, nuts, flax, barley and oats that helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Oats have also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and promote a healthy blood pressure. They are also an excellent source of iron and a good source of plant protein.

Confirming oats superfood status is a health claim from Health Canada based on research findings that the soluble fibre in oats called beta glucan helps reduce cholesterol.

Beta glucan is found in all cereal grains but is particularly rich in oats and barley.

For those with celiac disease, oats are naturally gluten free. However, they are often harvested and processed using the same equipment as gluten containing grains like wheat, barley and rye.

There are now several farmers and processors that are implementing practices to ensure cross-contamination with cereals containing gluten does not occur.

These pure oats are safe for most people following a gluten free diet, providing dietary fibre, B vitamins and iron, which are often hard to get on this diet.

Oat risotto

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1 c. steel cut oats 250 mL
  • 3 c. low sodium chicken broth, heated 750 mL
  • 1/2 c. white wine 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. frozen baby peas, thawed 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, dill, etc. 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. ground flaxseed 25 mL
  • 1 tbsp. grated parmesan 25 mL
  • cheese

In a medium pan, over medium heat, saute diced onion in oil for one minute. Add oats, cook and stir three minutes until starting to lightly toast and smell nutty.

Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot broth, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed. Repeat with another 1/2 cup (125 mL) doing the same until you’ve added a total of 2 1/2 cups (625 mL).

Add peas and herbs.

Stir in wine, cook and stir until wine is absorbed.

Risotto is served el dente. Taste and check texture, adding more both and cooking a few more minutes if needed.

Remove from heat, stir in ground flaxseed and parmesan.

Yields four servings of about 3/4 cup (175 mL) each.

Variations:

Add at the fourth addition of broth:

  • 1/2 c. (125 mL) diced zucchini, edamame, etc.
  • 9 1/2 c. (125 mL) sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) chopped sundried tomatoes.
  • Wine may be substituted with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of chicken broth.

Note: Risotto should be served on the soupy side, not thick like porridge.

Source: Prairie Oat Growers Associ-ation (poga.ca) and HealthyFlax.org.

Oat energy balls

This recipe is from my friend Tilly Wiens, who works at Avena Foods in Regina. It produces pure whole oat products under the brand name Only Oats for the gluten free market.

  • 1 c. pecans 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. quick flake oats 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. cocoa 60 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. salt 0.5 mL
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds 30 mL
  • 1/3 c. chocolate chips 75 mL
  • 3/4 c. Medjool dates (pitted) 180 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL

Toast pecans and oat flakes for three minutes in 350 F (180 C) oven, stirring often.

Place all ingredients except dates and vanilla in food processor. Pulse until pecans are finely chopped. Add dates and vanilla and process until the mixture is sticky enough to roll into balls.

If the mixture is too dry, add one to two tablespoons (15–30 mL) water and continue mixing to desired consistency.

Roll into small balls, about one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. If you want to dress them up, press balls into shaved chocolate, toasted coconut or finely chopped nuts. Store in fridge and serve chilled. Serves 25.

Note: Instead of Medjool dates, add three tablespoons (45 mL) water to regular dates and microwave for three minutes, stirring after 1 1/2 minutes. Stir again and allow to cool. – Source: AvenaFoods.com.

Soft and chewy
Lentil Granola Bars

This yummy snack combines oats with lentils, another Canadian superfood, for a double dose of fibre goodness.

  • 1/4 c. dry red lentils 60 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. old-fashioned large flake or quick oats (not instant) 375 mL
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar 125 mL
  • 1/3 c. oat flour 85 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon 1 mL
  • 1 c. raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, chopped dried apricots or figs, or a combination 250 mL
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a combination 250 mL
  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. pumpkin seeds 60 mL
  • 1/3 c. canola oil 85 mL
  • 1/3 c. peanut or almond butter 85 mL
  • 1/3 c. liquid honey, maple syrup, or golden syrup 85 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 10 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a nine x 13 inch pan with nonstick spray. In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook the lentils for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Drain well and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, oat flour, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, peanut butter, honey, egg and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients along with the cooked, drained lentils and stir until well combined and crumbly. Press into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and golden around the edges.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Makes 18 bars. – Source: www.lentils.ca.

Chewy Cinnamon Oat Cookies

A chewy, heart-healthy cookie that is easy to make and yummy. To make this recipe gluten free, make sure to buy gluten free rolled oats and oat flour.

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar 75 mL
  • 1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil 45 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. rolled oats 300 mL
  • 1/3 c. oat flour 75 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 7 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. salt 0.5 mL
  • 1 c. golden raisin (250 mL)
and dried cherry blend or 2/3 c. (150 mL) golden raisins and 1/3 c. dried cherries or cranberries 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. sweetened flaked coconut 75 mL

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and oil. Using an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat until well blended, about 30 seconds. (The mixture will have a grainy texture at this stage.) Add the egg and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add the oats, flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and beat until blended. Add the raisin mixture and coconut and beat until blended.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon measure, spoon teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake five minutes or until puffy and slightly golden on edges. Do not bake longer. They will not look done when removed from oven. Place cookie sheet on wire rack and let stand three minutes. Carefully remove paper and cookies from cookie sheet and set aside to cool completely (on parchment paper.) Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Store completely cooled leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yields 48 cookies. – Source: canolainfo.org.

Cherry Crisp

I always use a matrimonial square type topping for my crisps. The flour and baking soda make a thicker, crunchier topping. I also add ground flaxseed for a nutty flavour and more fibre.

  • 1 3/4 c. quick cooking oats 425 mL
  • 1 3/4 c. flour 425 mL
  • 1/4 c. ground flaxseed 60 mL
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar 250 mL
  • 1 c. butter 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • grated rind of one lemon (optional)
  • 3 c. fresh or thawed sour cherries with juice, pitted 750 mL
  • 1/2 c. white sugar 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice 15 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease one nine x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) baking pan.

Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, butter, salt and baking soda. Add lemon rind if using. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the flour until mixture is crumbly.

In a saucepan, combine cherries with juice (about 1/2 c./125 mL of juice), sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Heat and cook until mixture is thickened and resembles a pie filling.

Add cherries to baking pan. Cover with oat mixture.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until top crust begins to brown.

Yields 10 servings. – Source: Dorothy Sandercock.

Dorothy Sandercock is a home economist in the agrifood trade and former greenhouse grower from Lloydminster, Sask. She writes a blog at prairiekitchencompanion.blogspot.ca. Contact: food@producer.com.