Although oats have been part of the human diet for centuries, the principal use of oats has been as a feed grain. Their superior nutritional content and ready availability made oats the feed grain of choice until the mid-1900s. However, changes in farming practices, improvements in knowledge regarding animal nutritional requirements, and increased availability of low-cost ingredients that could be blended to provide high-quality feed formulations have caused oat usage as a feed grain to fall dramatically. Additionally, the low nutrient density due to the high hull content has been a significant factor.
In contrast, oat usage in human foods has increased as information on oats' beneficial nutritional properties has come to light. The authorization of the heart health claim for oats in the United States by the FDA is especially significant. Additionally, recent investigations on the health implications of minor oat constituents such as avenathramides have raised hopes that the nutritional benefits of oats in human diets may go well beyond those currently recognized.
Oat products are used as ingredients in a wide variety of bread and baked products. These ingredients provide unique flavour and moisture retention characteristics, as well as enhancing the nutritional benefits of these products. It has been demonstrated that oat flour stabilized the fat component in breads. For the production of bread the baker can use different types of oat fractions, rolled oat, oat flour, whole oat and oat bran.
In conventional wheat bread processing, up to 10-20 % of wheat flour can be easily replaced with oat flakes. Even higher amounts of oats can be used by adapting optimized baking technologies (Flander et al. 2007). Thus it is possible to provide physiologically effective quantities of oat beta-glucan in oat bread. A special attention should be paid on to the fact that beta-glucan can be depolymerised during baking procedure due to action of endogenous enzyme activities.
Oat flour is a major component of infant foods. In many instances, this is a baby's first introduction to solid foods. Oat flour is also a major constituent in granola bars, South American beverage products, and pancake mixes. Additionally, oatmeal is used as a thickening agent in soups, sauces, and gravies and as a meat extender.
Cold cereals or ready-to-eat (RTE) products represent the other major use for oat products. The high fat and fibre content of oats limits the utilization of oats in this application, but a number of economically important products have been successfully introduced into the markets.
Examples of Innovative oat products
YOSA® (Bioferme, Finland, www.bioferme.fi). YOSA® is a, non-dairy oat product made from oat and oat bran. The oats are fermented with a combination of probiotic bacteria. These probiotics have scientifically proven benefits that can help regulate your digestive system. YOSA® has been granted the Heart Symbol the Finnish Heart Association and the Finnish Diabetes Association.
Provena (Raisio, Finland, www.provena.fi). Provena® is a line a various oat products that are certified to have an extreme low level of contamination with other cereals. Thus this product line is suitable coeliac disease patients who can tolerate oats.
Oatly (CeBa Food AB, Lund, www.oatly.com) is a range of dairy product made of oats instead of milk. The products are milk- and soya-free, and entirely vegetable-based. Oat kernels and water are mixed and ground and a patented mix of natural enzymes is added. This gives a milk-like consistency, and some of the insoluble fibres are withdrawn while leaving the water-soluble fibre in the product. Finally, the mixture is homogenised to make the product smooth and even.Oatly products can be used in the same way as traditional dairy products such as milk and cream.
New product development has the opportunity to expand oat utilization in the human diet. Oats have primarily been used as a component of breakfast. Development of oat products that serve as a side dish or main dish for other eating occasions could dramatically expand oat usage and the opportunities for consumers to increase their consumption of "oat soluble fibre." As usual, challenges are plentiful, for changing eating habits is "easier said than done."
Flander, L., Salmenkallio-Marttila, M., Suortti, T., Autio, K. (2007). Optimization of ingredients and baking process for improved wholemeal oat bread quality. LWT - Food Sci Technol 40, pp. 860-870.
Åman, P., Rimsten, L., Andersson, R. (2004). Molecular Weight Distribution of beta-Glucan in Oat-Based Foods. Cereal Chem 81, pp. 356-360.