Processing Oats to Preserve Nutrient Dense β-Glucans

Oats: A Nutrient-Dense Food

Oats (Avena sativa) are a very healthy and nutritious food. Most people know that oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, they are vegan, and because they naturally do not contain gluten, oats are easier to digest (as long as oats are not cross-contaminated with wheat). For these reasons and more, oats can be found in a wide variety of foods within the grocery aisles. 

Regulate Blood Sugar, Stabilize Energy, and Lower Cholesterol

One of the components of oats that contributes to its healthful qualities is β-glucan, a form of soluble fiber strongly linked to improvement in human blood-lipid profiles when consumed regularly. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a heart-healthy label for foods such as oats that have high amounts of β-glucan, based on scientific evidence. β-glucan can help regulate blood sugar levels and is known to stimulate the human immune system.

Are Oats a Sustainable Crop?

Oats are a low-input crop, requiring fewer resources to produce than other grains, making them a sustainability powerhouse. As Tamara Haspel writes for the Washington Post:

“Seems to me that, to be a superfood, a food’s got to deliver more than nutrients. It has to be cheap, versatile, good-tasting, not too onerous to prepare, and not so perishable that you end up tossing it. It also has to perform on the environmental front. It has to be able to play in the kind of responsible, productive agricultural system we’re going to need if we expect to feed almost 10 billion people by 2050. That’s a long list and a tall order. And it is met by one of the most prosaic of foods: oats.”

Oat Processing: Preserving the Natural Goodness

The milling of oats is somewhat different than that of other grains. This is because the oat hull is not connected to the endosperm and they have higher fat and soluble-fiber content than many other grains.

Proper oat milling and processing techniques must be utilized to concentrate and preserve the β-glucan content. The β-glucan is largely found in both the outer and inner layers of the oat groat, internal to the hull of the grain.

Oat processing involves cleaning, grading, dehulling, and drying the grain. After that, oats may be steel-cut, rolled, flaked, rendered into flour, or processed for their bran content to produce the various foods that we find in our grocery stores.

Several techniques can be used to specifically process oats into high-β-glucan fractions. These include:

  • Dry milling, rolling, and grinding, followed by air classification to separate oat starch from oat bran
  • Solubilizing the β-glucan with water, then sieving or centrifuging the slurry to concentrate the high-β-glucan fraction

Prater Sizing and Separation Equipment: The Perfect Solution for Oat Processing

Prater Industries carries several commercial-quality fine grinders, air classifying mills, rotormills, and air classifiers that are ideal for oat processing in a way that preserves and concentrates the β-glucan components.