A smoothie is a fresh and delicious option for breakfast or any time of the day really. They’re so easy to make and versatile, there’s bound to be many options that will satisfy you.
The obvious choice of ingredients when it comes to smoothies is fruit. Although super healthy and delicious, fruit on its own isn’t always the most filling. This got me thinking about my favourite ingredients to help bulk out my breakfast smoothie and keep me full until lunchtime.
I was surprised when I started to do my research into breakfast smoothies that a lot of people haven’t heard of adding oats to smoothies. A friend was taken aback when I asked her if she had any smoothie recipes that called for oats.
“Can you put oats in a smoothie?!” She was astounded at my question, and this made me realise many other people out there may be wondering the same thing.
Yes you can add oats to your smoothie! They’re super healthy, filling and can be added raw or cooked. To help you understand how to use oats in a smoothie and why they’re such a good idea, read on.
Oats first arrived in North America in the 17th Century having been imported from Scotland. Oats used to be seen as suitable only for animal consumption due to their (supposed) bad taste and tendency to spoil.
Despite this bad rep, oats steadily grew in popularity and became a major crop until mechanisation took over the trusty horsepower in the early 1900s.
Today oats are recognised as a popular breakfast cereal (oatmeal, porridge, museli etc) and snack in the form of granola and other breakfast bars. They benefit from being naturally gluten-free and otherwise very good for your health overall!
5 BENEFITS OF OATS
Oats are frequently advertised for their heart health benefits. This study points to a link between whole grain consumption (especially oats) and lower risk of heart attack. Oats have long been known to reduce blood cholesterol levels (and other blood bourne markers or heart disease) and it seems to be due to a compound called beta-glucan. This study backs this statement up and discusses how whole oats seem to give a better effect than processed ones.
Another amazing property of oats is its ability to help control your blood glucose levels. If your blood sugar levels spike after eating and remain high for too long then this puts you at risk of developing insulin resistance. This in turn leads to type 2 diabetes. This study has looked into the link between blood glucose and oat consumption and they found a beneficial effect. Again the beta-glucan seems to be the good guy here as its slow release carbohydrate form prevents those dangerous glucose spikes.
The slow release fibre in oats draws in more water around the food you eat and so this increases the volume in your stomach. It slows the passage of food through your gut and the effect is you feel fuller for longer. Fatty acids found in oats have also been shown to help regulate the hormones that control your appetite. If consumed as part of a balanced diet, oats can help aid you on your path to losing weight and feeling happier and healthier overall.
In order for your guts to work effectively, you need an optimal balance of healthy bacteria there to help digest your food, produce hormones and vitamins and regulate your immune system. Just as you need to be fed daily these bugs also require plenty of food to keep them working hard. Fibre is the essential ingredient that they need to keep up their momentum and oats are perfect for this. See this complete analysis to find out more about your gut microbiome.
Oats contain lots of beneficial antioxidants. These are substances that travel around your body removing reactive oxygen molecules that arise during normal metabolism. If left to their own devices these oxygen species can cause damage to cells in a variety of ways. Polyphenols and avenanthramides are the antioxidants found in oats and these have been shown (check out this study here) to help reduce inflammation, itching and growth of certain types of cancer.
TYPES OF OATS
Oat grouts are the whole oat kernels, almost entirely intact with just the tough, inedible hulls removed. These are tough and fibrous but surprisingly can be used in a smoothie. I would recommend cooking or soaking them overnight first to soften them. Healthy and full of good fibre they are great for your gut but do give a grainy texture to your smoothie which some people may not enjoy.
Steel cut oats (or Irish oats) are the oat grouts that have been cup into 2-3 pieces using a steel blade. Although they have been cut up if you add them raw to your smoothie you will experience hard little kernel pieces. Best cook or soak them first as with oat grouts.
Scottish oats are oat grouts that have been stone ground into a fine meal. The finer consistency of Scottish oats means you can add them raw to your smoothie or cook them first if you prefer.
Rolled oats have been steamed and then rolled out flat. This causes the oats to become flaky, soft and they will absorb more liquid. They are dried out before being packaged and sold and make a great addition to any smoothie. As they have already been steamed you don’t need to pre-cook them (unless you prefer a very smooth texture).
Instant or quick oats are steamed for a much longer period of time and rolled out super flat to allow quick cooking. These are often sold in pre-flavoured packages which can be high in sugar and preservatives. If you want to keep your smoothie healthy and enjoy all the benefits of using oats then check the label first!
SHOULD I COOK OATS BEFORE ADDING THEM TO MY SMOOTHIE?
A big question a lot of people ask is do I need to cook my oats before adding them to my smoothie? The debate of cooked vs uncooked oats in smoothies is a long standing one.
The answer is that oats are completely safe to eat raw, you do not need to cook oats first. That being said, uncooked oats (especially steel cut or oat grouts) have chewy kernels still attached so can be quite unpleasant if used raw. Best cook first or soak overnight to allow these to soften.
If you’re using Scottish oats or rolled oats raw then letting them sit in the smoothie for 20-30 minutes before drinking allows them to soften adequately.
Instant oats will soften very quickly in the smoothie so are a good option if you’re in a rush.
If you prefer a very smooth texture to your smoothie you can grind the oats in the blender into a fine oatmeal and then cook them. This will give a creamy paste that will seem to disappear once blended into the smoothie whilst still packing in all those health benefits.
OAT NUTRITIONAL VALUES
Oats have a lot to be praised for when it comes to nutrition facts. I’ll start with the macro nutrients (carbs, fat and protein) and then we’ll look at the micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
A typical serving size of raw oats is 40g. This filling amount of oats packs in around 150 calories, 3g of fat, 23.6g carbohydrate (3.6g of fibre) and 4.8g of protein. They also contain 0g of sugar!
For the average person on a 2000 calories a day diet, this equates to 7.5% of your total calories, 5% of your fat, 8% carbs (14% of your fibre) and 10% of your protein daily values.
Basically, oats are packed full of healthy carbs in the form of fibre, low in fat and high in protein and zero sugars are present. All this and only 150 calories makes them sure to fit in to any smoothie recipe.
Vitamins and Minerals
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, oats do not fall short. Here are just a few examples.
Important for strong teeth, managing your bodies energy stores and essential for muscle recovery after exercise.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Essential for a healthy nervous system and important for electrolyte flow (this is an essential process in muscle and nerve tissue).
Important for muscle contractions, nerve health and your immune system. Magnesium is needed to keep your brain healthy and may even help fight anxiety.
Needed for a healthy immune system and overall metabolism and growth.
BANANA OAT SMOOTHIE RECIPE
This is my all-time favorite oatmeal smoothie recipe. It’s delicious, filling and easy to make. Perfect for busy mornings as a healthy breakfast or as a mid-morning snack. The total time to make this recipe is less than 10 minutes from start to finish!
To make this smoothie you’ll need half a banana (frozen is best), 40g of oats (I normally used rolled oats), 1 tablespoon of smooth peanut butter (I normally buy a brand that contains only 1 ingredient – peanuts!), half tablespoon maple syrup (if you want to keep it vegan) or honey (you can add this to suit your own taste!) and 1 cup of milk (I like to use vanilla almond milk but any milk option works fine). You can also add a pinch of ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to really round off the flavors.
First add the rolled oats to the blender and blitz them until they form an oatmeal powder. Next add the milk and the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have frozen bananas to hand just add a cup of ice cubes to thicken the smoothie.
Blend until smooth and then enjoy!
Not a fan of banana? Try frozen strawberries or blueberries instead!
If you’re enjoying this smoothie post workout then a scoop of vanilla, banana or chocolate protein powder blends in nicely.
SUBSTITUTES FOR OATS
If you’re not a fan of oats or just keen to try something new then there’s plenty of other grains you can use as a substitute. Try barley, wheat, rice, quinoa, spelt or millet.
Oats are versatile and easy to use when it comes to smoothie making. They are packed full of health benefits and will keep you full and satisfied. Whether you like to cook the first or add them raw, anything goes when it comes to oat smoothies!