The common oat (Avena sativa) is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed,
which is known by the same name (usually in the plural, unlike other grains).
While oats are suitable for human consumption as oatmeal and rolled oats, one of
the most common uses is as livestock feed.
Oats are grown throughout the temperate zones. They have a lower summer heat
requirement and greater tolerance of rain than other cereals, such as wheat, rye
or barley, so are particularly important in areas with cool and wet summers.
Oats are an annual plant, and can be planted either in autumn (for late summer
harvest) or in the spring (for early autumn harvest).
Oats have numerous uses in food; most commonly, they are rolled or crushed into
oatmeal, or ground into fine oat flour. Oatmeal is chiefly eaten as porridge,
but may also be used in a variety of baked goods, such as oatcakes, oatmeal
cookies, and oat bread. Oats are also an ingredient in many cold cereals, in
particular muesli and granola. Oats may also be consumed raw, and cookies with
raw oats are becoming popular.
Oats are also occasionally used in several different drinks like for brewing
beer. A cold, sweet drink made of ground oats and milk is popular refreshment
throughout Latin America. Oatmeal caudle, made of ale and oatmeal with spices,
was a traditional British drink.
Oats are generally considered "healthy", or a health food, being touted
commercially as nutritious. The discovery of the healthy cholesterol-lowering
properties has led to wider appreciation of oats as human food. Oat bran is the
outer casing of the oat. Its consumption is believed to lower LDL ("bad")
cholesterol, and possibly to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Oats contain more soluble fibre than any other grain, resulting in slower
digestion and an extended sensation of fullness. One type of soluble fibre,
beta-glucans, has proven to help lower cholesterol.
Oats, after corn (maize), have the highest lipid content of any cereal. Oats are
the only cereal containing a globulin or legume-like protein, avenalin, Oat
protein is nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which has been shown by
the World Health Organization to be equal to meat, milk, and egg protein. The
protein content of the hull-less oat kernel ranges from 12 to 24%, the highest
Coeliac, or celiac disease, is often associated with the ingestion of wheat, or
more specifically, a group of proteins labeled prolamines, or more commonly,
gluten. Oats lack many of the prolamines found in wheat; however, oats do
contain avenin. Avenin is a prolamine that is toxic to the intestinal mucosa of
avenin-sensitive individuals, and can trigger a reaction.