How does common milling and cooking affect oat phytonutrients?

We all know we’re supposed to eat more whole grains. Whether as whole wheat bread or whole grain cereals – whole grain products contain all of the naturally occurring parts of the grain seed and provide us with energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.

So what exactly are these ‘phytonutrients’? Phytonutrients are naturally occurring substances in plants (phyto is Greek for plant) that give plant foods their color and flavor. Phytonutrients include a wide array of substances – anything from the anthocyanins that give blueberries their characteristic blue color to the phenolic acids in oats that contribute to their flavor. Not only do they color and flavor our foods, there’s also emerging research that these phytonutrients contribute to the health promoting properties of plant foods – including whole grains!

But what happens to these phytonutrients when whole grains are processed? This is what our latest research project set out to discover! Partnering with Purdue University, we looked at how common milling and cooking processes affect the phytonutrients in oats. We took whole oats and turned them into flours, flaked oats, bars, and cereals, and measured their phytonutrient content during several steps of milling and cooking. We also studied if these phytonutrients were released during tests designed to mimic the process of digestion. And what we found was exciting! The study results demonstrated phytonutrients present in whole grain oats were well recovered through traditional grain processing and cooking. And, that making oats into a ready to eat cereal may have a positive impact on the release of oat compounds during digestion. While we still have additional research to do, this study suggests positive results for the effects of milling and cooking on oat phytonutrients!

Check out this new research!


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