Oats: Groats, Rolled or Steel Cut — Why They're So Good for You and Your Bird

oatmeal in bowl

“Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wouldn't you?”
— novelty song composed in 1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston.

“OK, she’s lost it now.”

I’m sure I just heard someone say that when they saw the opening of this article. But I remember this song from when I was a kid. If you sing it, it sounds like: “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.” But I digress.

Oats. You know, oatmeal or rolled oats. Is it a superfood? My grandmother ate it almost every day for breakfast, She lived to be 89. What is it about this breakfast that lives on for centuries?

The Ins-and-Outs of Oats

In order to understand oats and their benefits, it might be helpful to explain them. Oats, known scientifically as Avena sativa, are one of those hardy species of plants like quinoa that can grow in poor conditions. I don’t know why these hardy types of plants that grow in such tough conditions end up being so good for you, but as I do research, this is looking to be the case. There is even a related plant, the species, Fagopyrum tataricum (Tartary buckwheat) that must be a pretty tough customer as it is cultivated in the Himalayas.

Oats are an annual grain-producing grass that has been cultivated for over 4,000 years, so it’s been an old, old friend of mankind.

Oats are a cereal that needs to be cleaned and hulled. Despite this hulling process, for some reason, this doesn’t strip away the nutritious bran and germ. This allows the oat groats to retain the concentrated area where the fiber and nutrients are located in the oats. They are called “groats” after they are hulled. You can cook these groats, but it takes a long time to cook them. So they are further processed by steaming them. Oats contain something called lipolytic enzymes. These enzymes break down the fat in the grain which frees fatty acids. This makes the grains rancid. Once the protective husk is removed the process of going rancid speeds up.

To avoid this, the oats are steamed in a process called kilning. Once this process is completed, the processors employ large metal rollers to flatten the oats and then they are flaked. Thus the term “rolled oats.” Steel-cut oats are these processed oats that are chopped up into little pieces by a steel mill. And “quick oats” are steel-cut oat groats that are flaked to .014 to .018 inches thick. They cook rapidly and that’s why they are considered “quick.”

Oats are a soluble high fiber cereal grain heavy in antioxidants and a healthy carbohydrate type called beta-glucan. They began studies on this fiber and many of these studies have shown that people with high cholesterol eating only 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (which is what is found in a bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent. Now that’s impressive!

They are a low-cost source of nutrition, about 13 cents per serving with only 124 calories per serving and are considered to be one of the least expensive high-nutrition foods that we have. 

Cook oats and then freeze them in a muffin tin. Once frozen, you can easily microwave them for a quick oat-inspired treat for your bird. 

Oatmeal treats for birds

Cook oats and then freeze them in a muffin tin. Once frozen, you can easily microwave them for a quick oat-inspired treat for your bird.

How to Serve Oats to Your Bird

I put it uncooked in grain bake and let the oven do the job of cooking it along with other healthy grains, vegetables and seed. I also put it in fresh Chop to be frozen.

An easy way to prepare it for a busy morning is to cook a batch, let it cool and place in oiled muffin tins. Then freeze the tin. Once frozen, you can pop out the oatmeal discs, place them in a baggie and place them in the freezer. When you're ready to use them, place one or two of the frozen discs in a bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes. Stir and enjoy after adding some walnuts or almonds, some fruit or a sprinkle of flax or chia seed.

If you want to share this with your birds for a breakfast change-up, be sure to allow it to cool before serving to them. Adding some chopped vegetables or fresh fruit would be a welcome addition to their morning routine.

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