Since 1997, whole oats have been approved for a health claim on product packaging based on the association between soluble fiber and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The labeling claim, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is based on 30 years of scientific evidence that the type of soluble fiber found in whole oat products (b-Glucan soluble fiber) may lower blood cholesterol levels. The term “whole oat products” includes oat bran, rolled oats and whole oat flour.
Oats, like other cereal grains, are valued primarily as a source of carbohydrates to provide calories for energy needs. Oats contribute both starch and dietary fiber to the diet. Because of a higher concentration of well-balanced protein than other cereals, oats have greater potential value to provide protein, especially for vegetarians. Oats also contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Finally, oats contain phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that have been associated with protection from chronic disease.
Oats and oat products fit well into dietary guidelines and consumers need more ways to incorporate oats into their diets. Ready-to-eat cereals, hot cereals, and granola bars are widely accepted and consumed in the U.S. Oats are also used in baked products, especially cookies. Improved processing techniques to include oats in more convenience foods and snacks could increase consumption of this highly nutritious food.