Oats – A native superfood?
A while ago I was asked about ‘superfoods’, and why they all seemed to be from the other side of the world. This started me thinking – what are our native ‘superfoods’, if any? What I came up with was Oats and Nettles.
In the terms of Chinese Medicine, Oats are a warming, nourishing tonic. They are strengthening and grounding on may levels. As well as strengthening Qi and Blood they are one of the few plant Jing tonics (many of the Jing tonics are animal based.) This makes them suitable for building our strength, energy levels and resistance.
Oats ability to move stagnant Qi is what earns them a reputation as a nerve tonic. They are a gentle but effective food to help us withstand stress. Taken over a long period they strengthen the nervous system and help us to maintain a calm relaxed state of mind.
As most of us could use more energy, and we all lead stressful lives, Oats are an ideal staple food!
Raw oats are harder to digest, so the best way to take oats is as a porridge, especially as we move into winter and the temperature drops. Oats are somewhat moistening (or ‘Damp’ in Chinese terminology) – even more sore if porridge is made with cow’s milk. People with excess Damp and/or Phlegm (eg catarrh, phlegm on the lungs, heavy, muzzy head) would be best off using water to make porridge rather than milk.
A note on gluten: Oats contain a gluten-like protein called avenin. The jury is still out as to whether this causes problems for people who are gluten intolerant, however my feeling is that most people will be fine with the avenin in oats. HOWEVER, almost all oats are processed in facilities which also process gluten containing grains, and so are contaminated with small amounts of gluten. This probably explains why some gluten-intolerant individuals react to oats. Guaranteed uncontaminated oats are available, but can be hard to find in the UK. Ask at a health food shop or search online.
I saw an allergy therpaist last year, and she said I was intollerant to Oats and would have to use alternatives. Unfortunately I can’t remember what the alternatives were and which would be best.
Any ideas? Are there natively grown superfood alternatives?
Hi Doug. As I mentioned in the post, my other recommendation for a native British superfood is Nettles, but they’re not really an alternative to oats!
There is no other grain to my knowledge which has the same properties as oats, but other grains all have their own uses. The Chinese eat rice porridge, sometimes called jook or congee, which is very strengthening and easy to digest. I’ll be posting about this soon, so watch this space!