Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Feeling your Oats

Avena sativa, the Unexpected Superfood

Large glumes of Avena sativa plant enveloping 2-4 glabrous and mostly awn less florets characterizes the spikelet of cultivated oats. Image: Matt Lavin/Flickr

Larry Plesent

When I think of superfoods (ingredients that are especially high in vitamins, minerals and other botanical goodies), I think of exotic red berries from Brazil or peanut-like legumes that grow on vines in the rainforests of Peru. Trust me. Oatmeal is not what most of us imagine when we think about superfoods!

And yet, the lowly oat, formerly relegated to be the food of choice for one’s horse, is now recognized as a valuable food and cosmetic ingredient. That’s right, plain ole ordinary low-cost oats are amazing for your health both inside and out.

The key is a water-soluble carbohydrate fiber called beta-glucans which make up about 4% of your breakfast mush. Turns out that 4% is enough to make a significant contribution to your overall health.

That’s right! Oat beta-glucans are very healthful and anti-inflammatory, whether you eat them or wash with them.

Inside, oats are a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. Think bones, teeth, blood and immune system. They provide good overall nutrition but are low in calories. Oats are a good source of antioxidant polyphenols that may help to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation in stressed out Americans. Beta-glucans’ fibers are anti-inflammatory to your arteries, as well as helping to modulate insulin production, lower overall cholesterol levels and helping LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) to keep from reacting with free radicals and causing even more trouble for your arteries.

A bowl of oatmeal. Photo: TheCulinaryGeek,

Eating oatmeal regularly (once or twice a day) helps your gut “biome” to remain healthy and balanced. A healthy gut IS a healthy immune system, so the benefits here cannot be overstated.

Oats fill you up without adding a lot of calories; important for those of us battling with the sugar- and fat- heavy American diet. Even more surprising, oats encourage the production of the so-called satiety response which tells your brain that the belly is full, and it’s time to stop eating.

Two cups of oatmeal in a hot bath as part of a regimen will help to soothe the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis, reactive rashes and poison plant contact. First, be sure to thoroughly wash off toxic plant oils (think poison ivy, oak, sumac, parsnip and carrot) with castile liquid soap. A half and half mixture of tea tree and peppermint castile soap works especially well. Work it in from several directions and in a circle, and then rinse it off with warm water. Repeat two to three times and again when the itches return; up to four treatments may be required. Afterwards take a long soak in oatmeal to soothe everything out. Vermont Soap makes a product called “Plant Itch Fast Relief” which is specifically made for this. Use as directed for best results.

Oatmeal can be eaten sweet with real maple syrup and fruit or savory with tamari soy sauce and nutritional yeast. I’m not super crazy about oatmeal, since I pretty much lived on it during the starving hippie teenage years. But I still try to eat oats every day. My favorite source is a large oatmeal raisin cookie from Sandy’s Books and Bakery in Rochester, Vermont. A cookie a day keeps the doctor away!

Remember, it’s the habits we make in life that to a large extent determine our medical outcomes. Make it a habit to make oats a part of your life and enjoy the benefits of this amazing superfood for just pennies a day.

Larry Plesent is a writer, philosopher and natural products formulator living and working in the Green Mountains of Central Vermont. Read more at

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