Have you noticed a surge in overnight oat recipes recently? They are the latest trend for quick and easy breakfasts, and for good reason. Overnight oats have significant health benefits that make incorporating this simple breakfast into our daily routine advantageous!
Hey there, this is Nancy, Andrea’s student. As a dietetic intern I couldn’t be more excited to share with you the benefits of oats. I know, I know that sounds pretty nerdy, but when I think about how simple oats are as a food, but also how much potential they have to support our health, I get a little excited!
So what exactly are oats?
Oats are a type of whole grain cereal product. As a whole grain, oats still contain all three parts of its original kernel grain (endosperm, germ and bran) once processing is complete! Why is that important? Well, the germ and bran components, which are lost in the processing of more refined grains, like white flour, are where a lot of the nutrients are contained. As a whole grain, all three components are still intact. That means that you get to benefit from a source of fibre, some B vitamins, and phytochemicals that are found within the bran and germ components of the kernel.1
When you go to buy oats at the grocery store, you might notice that there are a large variety. Steel cut, old fashioned large oats, or quick oats… so which one is best? On a nutritional level, all forms contain very similar nutritional contents. Processing these oats simply alters how broken down the kernel is when you consume it. This alteration will affect how long they take to cook, and also how long it takes for your body to process. Therefore, what does differ between each oat form is the impact on blood sugar levels.2
Oat forms that are less processed, for example steel cut oats, will take your body longer to break down, and as a result slowly increase blood sugar levels. In comparison, a grain that has already been more broken down, for example quick oats, means that your body doesn’t have to do this work and will increase blood sugar levels more quickly.2
Ultimately, incorporating any type of oat into your diet is a good choice. Depending on your lifestyle and the amount of time you have to cook oats, choosing less processed forms will take longer to digest keeping you full longer, and provide you with additional benefits of stabilizing blood sugar levels.2
What are the health benefits of oats?
A great health benefit of oats is its good source of fibre. Fibre is a non-digestible component in some foods, that passes through the GI tract undigested where it makes its way to the colon. Although we can’t digest fibre for fuel, the good bacteria in our gut can, therefore consuming adequate fibre supports our gut health.3 In addition, consuming adequate fibre can contribute to “keeping you regular” with normal bowel movements, keeping you full longer, lowering cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels, and reducing risk of heart disease and some cancers.2,4
Fibre is found in many different foods including fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and of course, whole grains.4 There are different types of fibre including soluble and insoluble fibres, as well as resistant starches.5
Resistant starches, a lesser known form of fibre, are a type of starch that also resist digestion in the gut. They therefore travel to the colon where they serve as a prebiotic, fuel source, for our good gut bacteria.5 Since resistant starches are slowly fermented in the colon, they are often a more tolerable fibre source for those with digestive issues.6 (You can learn more about resistant starches on the Let’s Gut Real Podcast, where Andrea Hardy interviews two leading experts that describe what exactly Resistant starch is, and how it supports our health).
Different foods contain varying amounts of fibre types, and as a result it is important to choose a large variety of food sources to receive all the health benefits of fibre. This fibre guide, from HealthLinkBC, is a great resource to start incorporating a variety of foods that contain fibre like oats!
What is special about overnight oats?
Overnight oats are a quick and simple breakfast. Overnight oats make breakfast easy when it is way too early and you have no energy for food preparation. I can definitely relate to that! With overnight oats you do the prep right before bed but let me assure you it is very minimal prep! In the morning, you simply take it out of the fridge and dig in or grab it to go! By eating raw, uncooked oats you not only get all the benefits of cooked oats, but also incorporate some resistant starch into your day. Plus, since this recipe contains some yogurt, you also get an additional source of probiotics, which are good bacteria for our gut!
Overnight oats are a source of soluble fibre, insoluble fibres, AND resistant starches! Soaking the oat in milk, or a milk substitute, overnight softens the oats so that you can eat them but leaves the oat kernel uncooked and unprocessed. In this way, you consume a source of resistant starch that is embedded within the oat kernel, that would have been lost if the oats were cooked with heat.
This Cinnamon Raisin Overnight Oats recipe is one of my go-to recipes because of its dessert like taste from the cinnamon and raisin in combination with its creaminess from the milk and yogurt. Of course, if you don’t eat dairy, you can easily substitute the milk with milk substitute and omit the Greek yogurt. There are endless combinations of flavours and ingredients to incorporate with overnight oats and I invite you to try this one out and then get creative and alter this recipe to suit your preferences! Just think, how simple oats are, but how much potential it has for a variety of dishes and health benefits. Overnight oats keep it both simple and delicious!
Cinnamon Raisin Overnight Oats (Low FODMAP)
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 1 Tbsp raisins
- 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup milk, or milk substitute (choose lactose free if low FODMAP)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl with a lid or mason jar before bedtime (Note: make sure the bowl is not completely full as the oats will expand overnight).
- Let sit in your fridge until morning
- Take out of the fridge and enjoy cold.