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What are Oats?

Oats are a nutritious grain, revered for their rich fiber content and heart-healthy benefits. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, they're a versatile staple in many diets. From traditional oatmeal to innovative recipes, oats offer a world of culinary possibilities. Curious about how oats can transform your meals and health? Let's explore their incredible potential together.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Oats are among the many annual grasses that produce grains consumed by humans. They have been in cultivation for over 4,000 years, beginning to carve a niche for themselves in Europe approximately 3,000 years ago. Very popular in the health food movement because of their high nutritional value, they have been used in breakfast porridge for centuries for much the same reason. They have a nutty flavor that is an excellent supplement to bread and other foods.

Like other grasses used for food, oats grow on stalks with the kernels more widely distributed along a looser tree-like framework. When harvested, the grains must have their extremely hard hulls removed before they can be sold, either whole as oat groats or milled as rolled oats. Groats are said to be quite tasty, although they require a long cooking time. Sometimes, they are loosely cracked and used in breakfast porridge. Rolled oats play a starring role on the table in oatmeal, although they are also used to add texture to bread, cookies, and other baked goods.

Field of oats.
Field of oats.

Oats are more tolerant to extreme conditions than some of their grassy relatives, like wheat, and it is probable that they began to be cultivated in Europe for that reason. This grain continues to be farmed all over the world in areas that are not suited to more finicky grains. The grass is often used to feed livestock and provide bedding, especially in resource poor regions where the straw can be used for livestock bedding while the grains are eaten by humans. Some animals eat it as a forage crop, while others eat the grain in a wide variety of commercial animal feeds. Particularly in Europe, this grain has been used to supplement the diets of livestock for centuries.

Oatmeal cookies.
Oatmeal cookies.

At first, oats were not highly valued for human consumption because they have no gluten content, which made them unsuitable for bread. Although gluten free, they are frequently processed in facilities that share wheat and therefore may not be safe for individuals with extreme gluten intolerance. With time, farmers began to realize the value of the nutritious grain and adopted it into their diets, although traditionally, they were looked down upon as a food for the lower classes who couldn't afford wheat.

Bowl of oatmeal.
Bowl of oatmeal.

Oats are a good source protein, calcium, fiber, and vitamin E, among many other nutritional benefits. They are an excellent dietary supplement for this reason. This grain is eaten by all classes, commonly in the form of oatmeal and granola bars. It frequently appears as an accent in baking as well. They are also used in cosmetics and skin care, especially colloidal oat extract, which has many skin soothing effects. Oat extracts are used in facial cleansers, masques, and creams to help prevent skin damage, enhance general skin health, and soothe irritation and inflammation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments


Oats Laddoos

Ingredients: 2 cup roasted and crushed oats, 1 cup powdered sugar, 8-9 chopped almonds, 1 cup roasted and grounded groundnut, Ghee 3/4 cup.

Method: Take 2 cups roasted and crushed oats, add crushed groundnut into it, chopped almonds and put ghee into it and by pressing them into round shapes, you can form laddoos.


I like granola bars that are made with oats and glued together with honey. I feel like I'm eating something nutritious when I snack on one of these.

I recently learned how to make my own loose granola. I combine oats, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, pecans, and rice crisp cereal with cinnamon, honey, and maple syrup and bake it on low heat until it starts to turn brown and crisp up.

This stuff is amazing on top of yogurt. It's also good to eat by the handful when you get the urge to snack. This is a great way to get your daily grains without feeling like you are munching on cow food!


My friend's daughter had bad eczema, and the only thing that made her feel better was a colloidal oatmeal bath. After prescription medications had failed, my friend tried this as a desperate last attempt, and it worked so well! I think it's awesome that something so simple and cheap can provide better relief than expensive medicine.


@nextcorrea – That is a great breakfast. I eat my oatmeal with blueberries and sweeten it with honey.

All I have to do is boil the oats in water for one minute and they are done. I add the cold blueberries and honey to the bowl before I eat the oatmeal.

It is rather filling, but I do manage to have room for a piece of buttered toast on the side. This just helps me go an extra hour or so before getting hungry.


I put a dash of quick oats in the blender with the other ingredients when I'm making a fruit smoothie. This is a great way to get a dose of fiber without sacrificing taste.

I mix strawberries, bananas, vanilla yogurt, and milk with maybe an eighth of a cup of oats. The blender will chop them up and no one will even know they are in there.


How do you guys feel about steel cuts oats vs rolled oats? Personally, I am a steel cut guy, but I know people who hate them and swear by rolled oats. I think the steel cut just tastes more interesting and substantial. Rolled oats are too much like a slurry for my tastes.


Are oats actually gluten free? I have a friend who eats a gluten free diet and I know that she avoids oats. Is she crazy?


I eat rolled oats almost every morning for breakfast. Nothing fancy, just mix them with boiling water and a handful of raisins. My wife thinks it is the most boring breakfast a person can eat but I have grown to like it over the years. And it is so satisfying. I never get hungry before lunch rolls around.


@momothree: This one sounds like some kind of weird food but it works well. Take a ripe tomato (leave the skin and seeds) and chop it up into small pieces. In a bowl, add 1 Tbsp. oatmeal and 1 tsp. lemon juice to the tomato. Put the mixture in a food processor or blender until it is the consistency of a paste.

Cleanse your face with your regular facial cleanser. Apply the paste to your skin (not the eyes) evenly. Leave it on for ten minutes and then rinse with warm water.


@momothree: I use an oatmeal mask and it works great. I got this concoction out of a magazine:

Take ½ cup oatmeal and put it in a food processor or blender. Blend it until it is a smooth powder. In a bowl, mix together ¼ cup plain yogurt (or buttermilk) and 2 Tbsp. honey. Add that to the powdered oatmeal. It will make a paste.

Apply the paste to your face and neck, being careful to avoid the eyes. Leave it on for 12-15 minutes and then use a wash cloth and warm water to remove it.


I have been wanting to try the facial cleanser made out of oats but I don't know how to make it. Any suggestions?


@oceanswimmer: I love boiled cookies! It took me a long time to get it right, though. Mine used to turn out kind of gooey. After many attempts, I finally make great cookies! This is the recipe that I use:

2 cups sugar, 3 ½ Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ cup butter, 3 cups instant oatmeal, ½ cup peanut butter, 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring, ½ cup milk, and a pinch of salt. Line a pan with waxed paper.

In a boiler, mix the sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil for one minute. Add the oatmeal, peanut butter, and vanilla. Mix very well. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the wax paper and let cool.


Does anyone have the recipe for boiled cookies? I know that they have oatmeal and cocoa in them but I lost my recipe.

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    • Field of oats.
      By: yellowj
      Field of oats.
    • Oatmeal cookies.
      By: sassyphotos
      Oatmeal cookies.
    • Bowl of oatmeal.
      By: Africa Studio
      Bowl of oatmeal.
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      Oat florets.
    • Uncooked oats.
      Uncooked oats.
    • Oats are commonly found in granola bars.
      By: alexghidan89
      Oats are commonly found in granola bars.
    • Bread made with oats.
      By: Eric Gevaert
      Bread made with oats.
    • Cooked oatmeal is filling and contains high amounts of soluble fiber.
      By: minadezhda
      Cooked oatmeal is filling and contains high amounts of soluble fiber.