A bowl of piping hot oatmeal is perhaps a healthy way of starting your day. Though, this cereal is most commonly eaten for breakfast, it has multiple uses and benefits. Oat (Avena sativa), is basically a cereal whose seeds are edible and are known by the same name. This cereal originated in Scotland and was a staple diet of the Scottish whose meals comprised of cooked oats. Apart from consumption by humans in the form of oatmeal and rolled oats, this cereal is also used as livestock feed. Oats are mostly purchased in January which has been declared as the National Oatmeal month.
Oats are different from wheat in the sense that oats are largely grown for their seeds while wheat is a type of grass. Besides, wheat products are only used for baking, whereas oats are eaten by humans as oatmeal and rolled oats. Most of the cereal grains contain gluten and oats is no exception. However, the gluten in oats, known as Avenin, is different from that in wheat as it can be tolerated by some people with celiac disease. Oats are generally contaminated with gluten at the farm where they are produced. Moreover, oat grouts hardly contain gluten and can be ground to make flour.
The benefits of oats are so many that for your convenience we have split them into skin and hair benefits.
Oats: Skin Benefits
Apart from consumption, wild oats have an important role to play in skincare. They were used as early as 2000 BC by the Egyptians and Arabians to beautify their skins. Oat baths were largely used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for healing skin ailments. Some of the benefits of oats for skin are as follows.
1. Treatment of Acne:
Cooked oatmeal is a great natural remedy for treating acne. For this purpose, boil some oatmeal till it softens and let it cool for 15 minutes. Apply it on the affected area and rinse off after 10 minutes. This will absorb and remove excess oil and bacteria from your skin and exfoliate dead skin cells, thus helping to combat acne.
2. Removes Dryness:
Oats are effective in fighting dull, flaky dryness as they contain polisaccharides, which become gelatinous in water, thus forming a fine protective film when applied on skin. Besides, this cereal is effective in addressing dry skin symptoms like itchiness, rashes, scales, peeling etc. To get rid of dryness you can make a facial mask by mixing a smashed banana with a cup of ground oatmeal and adding some lukewarm milk. Stir it properly to make it smooth and apply it all over your face for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off with cold water. This will help in replenishing the skin moisture, thus keeping it soft and hydrated.
3. Skin Moisturizer:
It acts as a natural moisturizer by removing the dead skin cells. It contains beta-glucan that forms a fine film on your skin as well as penetrates deep into the skin to provide much needed deep moisturizing to your skin. Besides, it enhances wound healing and shallow abrasions and improves collagen deposition and activation of immune cells within the skin. You can add a cup of milk, two cups of oats and a tablespoon of honey to moisturize your skin as well as relax your body.
4. Relieves Itchiness:
Oats have anti-inflammatory properties and are suitable for all skin types. They are clinically effective in healing dry and itchy skin. Oats ground into powder are known as colloidal oatmeal. This powder can be mixed with warm water to form a thick paste and applied over itchy skin to get immediate relief form intense itching. An oatmeal bath is also effective in healing a number of skin conditions including dry itchy skin. Thus, oatmeal can be used in curing neurodermatitis, a skin disease characterized by itchy or inflamed skin.
5. Skin Lightening:
Oats are known for their skin lightening effects as well as improving the skin tone and texture and smoothing out blotchy areas. It is increasingly used in cosmetology in various skin care products such as body scrubs, soaps, exfoliation creams and general body lotions of reputed brands.
6. Treatment of Poison Ivy or Chicken Pox:
Oatmeal has been used for thousands of years for treating eczema, poison ivy, insect bites and skin infections due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-itch properties. For relieving the itchiness caused by poison ivy or chicken pox or even sunburn, grind oats or oat flour into a fine powder and pour it into a cheese cloth. Tie it around the bath tub faucet and squeeze out water periodically to have a tepid bath. You can also rub the pouch on the itchy skin.
7. Natural Cleanser:
Oats contain natural cleansers called saponins that can remove dirt and oil from the pores without causing irritation, thus leaving behind soft and silky skin as well as reducing pore size. Instead of facial scrubs, oatmeal can form part of your skincare regimen as it is effective in getting rid of dead skin cells that build up in the pores. Oats can be soaked in water to prepare oat milk which is a natural toner and cleanser. You can store this milk in a bottle in your fridge and apply it on your face with a cotton pad after face wash to smoothen and soften your skin. Oat bran bath is also effective in cleansing your skin and pores. Place ½ cup of oat groans or rolled oats in some cloth and tie it to make a small bag. Place it in your bath tub and press the bag until the oatmeal milk comes out. This can be used on your body or face instead of soap for mild scrubbing.
[ Read: Evening Primrose Oil Uses ]
8. Skin Protection:
The proteins in oatmeal help in maintaining the skin’s natural barrier function and protect your skin from harsh chemicals as well as skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and rashes. The lubricating fats in oats are a great moisturizer that makes a protective layer over the skin to fight UV rays. In this way oatmeal helps in relieving symptoms of ageing skin.
Oats: Hair Benefits
Oats are good for hair as well. When applied topically, they can make your hair soft and strong. Some of the ways in which oats can be beneficial for your hair are as follows.
9. Treatment of Dry and Itchy Scalp:
As stated earlier, oats are beneficial for dry skin and the same goes for hair care as well. Being a natural moisturizer, it can be applied on hair to get rid of dryness and itchiness and make your hair soft and shiny. It is often used as an ingredient in shampoos.
10. Treatment of Dandruff:
Oatmeal can be combined with other ingredients and applied on your hair before shampooing to get rid of dandruff.
11. Removes Excess Oil and Dirt:
Being a natural cleanser, it clears the scalp by removing excess sebum, oil and dirt accumulated in the scalp.
12. Combats Hair loss:
Hair loss can occur due to a number of reasons such as alopecia, harsh chemical treatments, hormonal imbalance or unhealthy lifestyle. Malnutrition, that is deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals, is the most common cause of hair loss. Oats contain high amounts of zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium that promote hair growth. A meal comprising of oats, berries and pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A as well as other nutrients. Vitamin C prevents scurvy, a disease that can also cause hair loss. Vitamin A, on the other hand, promotes hair development and maintenance.
[ Read: Red Cherry Fruit Benefits ]
13. Great for Blond Hair:
Ground oats can be an excellent dry shampoo for blond haired beauties. All you need to do is rub some ground oats over your scalp and brush out excess oats with a boar bristle brush.
How to Select and Store?
Selection: Proper selection is essential to ensure that you get the maximum benefits from this cereal. It is advisable to buy oats in small quantities because this grain has a higher fat content than other grains and hence, goes rancid more quickly. Nowadays, oats are available in pre-packaged containers as well as in bulk bins. While purchasing oatmeal, always look at the ingredients list on the packet to ensure that the product does not contain salt, sugar or other additives. Always prefer to buy rolled oats or oatmeal from health shops. When purchasing bulk bins, ensure that the bins are covered and free from debris and moisture. Moreover, the store should have a good product turnover to ensure that the product is fresh.
Storage: Proper storage is also a vital factor to ensure that the product retains its freshness and flavor till it is used. As far as oats are concerned, rolled oatmeal like all other grains, should be kept in an airtight container to prevent moisture and vermin intrusion. It should be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to three months or refrigerated for up to six months. Oat bran has high oil content and therefore, should be refrigerated. Oat flour has a slightly longer shelf life in comparison to wheat flour as oats contain a natural antioxidant that discourages rancidity. Oat flour should be refrigerated and used within three months. Make sure that you use your oatmeal within the expiry date stamped on the package.
[ Read: Pomegranate Peel Uses ]
Tips for Usage (Eating/Cooking)
Oats are quite versatile and can be eaten both in cooked or raw form. Uncooked oats are rather difficult to chew and cooking softens them. Alternatively, you can achieve a softer texture by soaking a cup of raw oatmeal in two cups of water and leaving it for 2 hours. This raw oatmeal can be blended in a blender along with water and consumed. Given below are other tips for eating and cooking oats.
- Steel-cut Oats: Considered most suitable for breakfast, these are basically whole oat groans that have been steamed and cut into pieces. These non-flattened, steel cut oats are coarse and so they can be soaked overnight in hot water and cooked in the morning to make a pearly, chewy whole-grain breakfast. They can also be blended in a blender and are the most nutritious of oats.
- Rolled Oats or Muesli: Muesli is basically rolled oats that have been soaked in milk whole night. These are quite easy to prepare and are extremely nutritious and delicious.
- Instant Oats: These are widely available in stores in small packets and are considered the least nutritious due to sugar and additives. They have a flour-like consistency and have been heavily processed, steamed, rolled, dehydrated and toasted. Being easy to blend, they can be cooked in a minute or two. Always prefer plain instant oats as the flavored ones have a high content of sugar. Moreover, plain oats have added nutrients as they have been stripped of their original nutrients.
- Oatmeal Bread: Prepared form oat flour, oatmeal bread is extremely nutritious and as good as regular toast. You can try making oatmeal bread at home.
- Oatmeal Cookies: These yummy cookies are a perfect combination of taste and nutrition. They can be consumed with peanut butter or chocolate bits and make for a filling snack. They are a favorite of kids.
- Oatbran: This is basically ground oats with the husk still attached. It is difficult to digest and should be soaked before use. These are generally added to smoothies and are very fibrous and nutritious.
Cooking: Cooked oats are relatively sweeter than the uncooked ones. Different varieties of oats require different cooking methods and take different duration to cook. Rolled oats take approximately 15 minutes whereas steel cut oats can be cooked in about 30 minutes. Oat groats, being harder, require more time and water and can be cooked in 50 minutes. The best way is to add oats to cold water and simmer. Moreover, they can form part of many dishes.
- Filling Meal or Snack: Oats can be added to your smoothies or green smoothie to make a filling meal or snack.
- Nutritious Breakfast: A piping hot bowl of oatmeal with fruits and nuts can be a tasty and nutritious breakfast.
- As a Soup Thickening Agent: Oat flour can be used instead of corn flour to thicken sauces and soups. It can be added while the soup is being heated so that it becomes thick. Breadcrumbs can be replaced with oats.
- Coating for Tofu: It can be used as a coating for tofu. Tofu can be dipped in milk and then in oatmeal and fried to make it more crispy.
- Making of Pancakes or Porridge: Oatmeal can be used to make pancakes or porridge. For this purpose, you can soak your porridge oats in the fridge overnight and eat your porridge the next day straightaway.
- As a Sprinkling Agent on Cereals: Oat bran can be sprinkled on your hot or cold cereal.
- Making of Bread, Pastas or Muffins: You can use whole oats or oat flour to make bread or muffins. Being extremely flexible, oats can replace fast and processed food and can be easily used in making pastas, muffins and croissants.
Hence, oatmeal is a super food and can be a nutritious choice for all meals as well as snacks. Moreover, due to its nutty taste it can even be eaten raw without any adverse effects.
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