If you’re anything like us, you constantly wonder where your food comes from. For example, that package of oatmeal you had for breakfast.
Oats are nearly as popular as rice worldwide but many of us have no idea how they grow, are processed, or where they come from. One common question, especially with the rise of gluten-intolerance, is:
Do oats come from wheat? No, oats do not come from wheat, but they are a distant relative. They actually come from the Avena sativa plant, which is a type of cereal grain. Raw oats also do not contain gluten like wheat does.
To put your mind at ease, in this article we’ll explain exactly what oats are, where they come from, and how they are different or similar to wheat.
There are plenty of benefits to adding oats to your day, and the more you know, the more you’ll love them.
Where Do Oats Come From?
Oats are the seed of the Avena Sativa plant, which is a type of grass grown specifically for the cereal grain seed. Fields of oat look much the same as fields of wheat or even barley.
When the plant is mature and ready to harvest, the seeds are collected, protected by an outer hull. Inside this husk is the bran and germ (the seed itself), and beneath those layers is the oat.
The hull is essentially inedible and removed from all types of oats commercially sold. Whole grain oats, including steel-cut and traditional, rolled oats, include the bran and germ.
The different types of oats are either cooked or flattened to different degrees to effect the final cook time. Many types of oat flour, however, have the outer layers removed.
What’s the Difference Between Oats and Wheat?
As mentioned, oats grow from a type of grass known as a cereal grain. Wheat is also a type of cereal grain grass, but they are different species.
There are many different strains of wheat, which is a type of grass that releases a seed similar to oats. The most common variety is from the Triticum family, specifically, Triticum Aestivum, or common wheat.
Oats are also gluten-free, as opposed to wheat. Oats have a protein called avenin which is related to wheat gluten, but it is not the same thing. It is also only a minor protein in oats.
Raw oats are typically considered safe for people with gluten intolerance or sensitivities. If you have a severe allergy, it is always crucial to check the package of the specific product you buy.
Oats may be naturally gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean they are all processed or packaged in a facility free from gluten.
Benefits of Oats
When you think of oats, you probably imagine one of the most time-honored hot breakfasts of all time: oatmeal or, as some may say, porridge.
While oats make a hearty breakfast, they’re quickly becoming popular as a substitute for other whole grains in a wider variety of recipes as well.
If you’re avoiding rice or wheat, oats can feature in your lunch or dinner just as easily as breakfast. And oats are good for more than just filling your stomach.
If you’ve ever bought any skin, hair, or beauty products, you may have come across products that contain oats or oat milk in their ingredients, as oats strengthen and moisturize skin.
The Nutrition Content of Oats
There are many benefits to praise when it comes to oats, but we’ll start with the protein and fiber content, which is high on both counts.
Protein and fiber are both known for helping you to feel full for longer. This can help reduce your daily caloric intake and curb hunger pains between meals.
It’s not hard to see why so many people count on oats to help them reach their weight goals.
The fiber in oats is also beneficial in balancing cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and improving digestion.
Oats also have a variety of vitamins and minerals that work together to keep your body in optimal health.
Oats and wheat are quite similar in their nutritional profile, but oats come out ahead in nearly every aspect, with the sole exception of being slightly higher in overall calories.
That is outweighed by the significant improvement in fiber, healthy fat, and protein content though.
Both grains are good sources of B-Vitamins, though oats have a slightly higher concentration in all the ones that are most difficult to get through your food.
Wheat has more B2 and B6, but those are more widely available in foods, making it easier to reach your recommended daily intake.
Conclusion: Are Oats and Wheat the Same Thing?
Oats do not come from wheat, and they are not the same thing.
Oats are more commonly consumed as a whole grain, whereas wheat is usually ground into flour to make wheat products.
One of the biggest current concerns with consuming wheat is the presence of gluten.
Oats are naturally gluten-free, as are products made from oats like oat milk and oatmeal, though of course they still need to be produced in a facility that is certified gluten-free to be completely safe.
Nutritionally, oats and wheat are similar, though oats tend to have a beneficial edge over wheat. They have higher protein, fat, and fiber content and more vitamins and minerals to help keep you healthy.
Now that we’ve answered your biggest questions, we invite you to read a few of our answers to some related questions below.
Is Oat Milk Gluten Free?
Oat milk is primarily made from raw oats, which, as we’ve just covered, are naturally gluten-free. Once again, that doesn’t guarantee all oat milk is gluten-free.
Different manufacturers will include different additives and flavorings, which may not be ideal for the gluten-intolerant.
The facility and machinery also must be certified gluten-free for the product to truly be safe for anyone with a serious allergy.
The most delicious, certified gluten-free oat milk is made by Oatly. It’s so perfectly balanced that it’s designed for baristas to use as a milk alternative in coffee.
What Do Oats Look Like?
The oat plant, Avena sativa, is a tall grass stalk that grows in fields much like wheat. As it matures, it creates feathery seed fronds, also similar to what you expect wheat to look like.
When first harvested, oats still have their husk intact, which is a somewhat papery protection. Inside, the individual grains look similar to tan-yellow rice, with pointed ends.
The oats you buy from a store have been either crushed, cut, or rolled. Crushed oats and steel-cut oats are tiny chunks of oat, which may be irregular even to the point of being partly powdered depending on the type of oat.
Rolled oats have been flattened into small, off-white discs. How thick the oats are depends on the type of oats you purchase, with instant oats being the thinnest.
Do Oats Contain Protein?
Oats do have protein and are generally considered a good plant-based protein source, making them particularly popular with vegans and vegetarians.
Oats have a higher protein content than most other grains, providing almost 17 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving size.
Those 17 grams can reflect up to 35% of the recommended daily value of protein for some people, depending on individual variables.
The main type of protein found in oats is very similar to the protein found in legumes. They’re not considered a complete protein, but they have a more varied amino acid profile than any other grain.
Does Wheat Germ Go Bad?
Wheat germ can go bad and turn rancid if it’s not properly stored.
The most important factor in the safe-keeping of your wheat germ is protecting it against humidity and temperature fluctuations that may create condensation around your germ.
To store what germ, transfer it to a glass or steel canister with an airtight seal. You can use an airtight bag if you prefer, but something more solid will help extend the life of your wheat germ.
Once it’s in an airtight container, store it in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight, or in your fridge. It should last for up to 1 year.
You can also freeze wheat germ to extend the lifespan even longer.
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