Vegetarian Food Pyramid – A Series

Monday, January 19, 2009

Posted by DK

In recent years, with words like Diabetes, Cholesterol and Blood Pressures becoming commonplace in many households, we all are turning to crash diets, low-carb foods and probably to Jenny Craig’s. And no – I dint leave out the obvious “exercise” by mistake. The fact is, that anything worth taking effort, is thrown into the back burner by many of us. I am not going to elaborate on the benefits of exercise, it has been insisted at Daily Tiffin often enough. I am going to concentrate more on foods which not only help to us get healthy but also help to reduce the unnecessary bulk efficiently, without having to go through yo-yo dieting.

Vegetarian foods need not be bland or boring. Consuming whole foods mean that our intake has not been heavily processed by way of chemicals, additives or unnecessary flavorings. Such foods are loved by our body and regular ingestion of these will purge our system of harmful toxins. The purpose of this series is to talk about such foods, expand our knowledge base more about these ingredients with some basic recipes, which are delicious and colorful to boot, so that we can start adding them in our day to day meals. One doesn’t have to become a vegetarian to be healthy – it simply requires us to include some good food options to make a difference to our lifestyle.

I. Grains.

Let me kick start this series with the staple of all foods - Grains. They are available in so many forms from whole grains, rice, cereal grains to flours and the options are endless. They have been cultivated all around the world and are a staple in most of the countries. Each one of them have their own value added benefits which make them one of the most sorted out food groups by health gurus.

1. Oats

This is commonly seen in almost all our pantries. Oats are warming, filling and are popular grains in many places around the world esp. Scotland, where they are usually enjoyed as pancakes, oatcakes and as hot oatmeal. They are available in a variety of forms – as regular oatmeal, rolled, flaked or as oat bran. Here are the various types and their ways to cook and benefits.

Types of Oats

a. Oat Groats.

These are whole oat grain - the hulled whole kernel. They have a nutty flavor and a very chewy texture. They are best in breakfast cereal although from my experience they are an excellent rice substitute too. Have you ever tried to make patties with these? They are excellent – taste wise as well as nutrition wise.

How to Cook Oat groats?

Clean the groats well with cold water. Soak Oat Groats overnight. One can use any of the following methods to cook them.

Stove top method:Simmer 1 cup of groats with 2 cups of water, salted. One can also use milk or broth instead of water. It takes about 45min to 1 hour

Rice Cooker method: The process is similar to cooking rice. Use 2 cups salted water/broth to 1 measure Oat groats. It usually takes me a little more than 45 minutes.

Crockpot method: Although I have not tested this method personally, this works very well for an acquaintance of mine who uses 2-1/2 cup to 3 cups salted water for 1 cup of oat groats for cooking in her crock pot on low overnight.

b. Oat Bran

Image courtesy : Purcell Mountain farms

This is the outer coating of the oat grain and is rich in fiber. These are mostly available in your local health markets. The bran is an excellent addition to cookies, muffins, breakfast, breads, pancakes, cereals or as topping. I have sometimes used them even in Roti’s (Indian flatbreads) to good effect. It is better to buy Oat bran in small quantities since they go rancid quickly. Freezing them prolongs the shelf life.

c. Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are nothing but groats which have been pressed flat by heating. Rolled Oats are found in different forms and one would often find these common types in the market:

1. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats:

They are made by heating groats and flattening them with a roller. The very thin rolled version of the same produces very creamy oatmeal than thickly rolled ones. The Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats are thinly rolled and theirs is considered the industry standard and considered to be the regular Old fashioned rolled oats. The thicker ones are referred to as Thick Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.

How to Cook Old Fashioned Rolled Oats:

Stove Top Method: Bring required quantity of water or milk to a boil. Stir in the oats and stir occasionally for about 5-8 min over medium heat until done. Use sugar or salt as per taste.

Microwave Method: Combine the oats with either milk or water along with salt(or sugar) in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 3-5 min. The cooking time varies depending upon your microwave. Stir well and then serve , topped with fruit of choice, with honey or raisins etc.

2. Quick- Cooking Rolled Oats:

Just as the name emphasizes, these are quick cooking variety of Oats and this is because these are made by flattening the pre-cut groats and rolled very thinly using the rollers. Although it is called as Quick cooking, it takes more or less the same amount of time as that of Old fashioned Rolled Oats. Cooking Instructions are same as that of Old Fashioned Oats. I find that it takes about 2-4 min to cook these quick cooking oats.

3. Instant Oats:

Usually there is no cooking involved in these varieties and just adding it to warm milk/water is enough. These are precooked, hence the speed at which it is done. Although they are convenient, it is not advisable since it is loaded with preservatives and other additives. Instant Oats = Instant harm! :) Any recipe asking for Instant Oats can be substituted with quick cooking Oats.

d. Steel Cut Oats ( also referred to as Scottish Oats, Irish Oats or pinhead Oats)

These are immensely healthy since they unrefined and are closer to the natural oat grains. These are formed by cutting the oat groats into smaller pieces. As the name suggests they form the basis for making the Traditional Scottish porridge. They take a little longer time to cook than regular oats.

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats:

Stove-top Method : For 1 cup of Oats bring about 3-4 cups of water to boil in a saucepan and stir in the oats. Keep the heat on high and keep stirring until it thickens up – approximately 5-8 min. Once it becomes thick, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and let it cook for another 30-45 min until done. A little milk can be added once done.

Microwave Method: This is not the best method since its need stirring quite often so that the oats does not stick to the bottom. But if needed, follow the same method as mentioned for stove top method taking care to stir every 5 min. The cooking time, although is much lesser taking approximately 20-25 min, again depending on the microwave.

e. Oat flour

These are excellent alternatives to refined flours in baking, although it requires other flours to rise since it does not have any gluten required for bread to rise. If making quick breads, then no additional flours is necessary. Oat flours can be made at home very easily by grinding rolled oats in a food processor. It takes about 2 cups of old Fashioned Rolled Oats to make 1 cup of oat flour.

f. Oat Sprouts

One of the best ways to consume Oats is by sprouting them - which are much thicker than other sprouts. The benefits are countless and they are an excellent addition to – breads, soups, smoothies etc. Make sure you use unhulled Oat seeds for sprouting. Oat groats do not sprout.

How to Sprout Oats:

1. Rinse the oats in cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer into a wide-mouthed jar or sprouting vessel and cover it with twice or thrice the amount of water. Cover the jar and let it soak for 8 hours.

2. Drain and then rinse the oats. This time return them into a jar without any water and cover the mouth with a cloth. Direct sunlight should be avoided.

3. Repeat step 2 every 8 hours for 2-3 days until you see the sprouts. Rinse once again and store it in the refrigerator. They keep well for 10-14 days.

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats is one of the nutritious grains whose health benefits are immense. From helping to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL), to helping prevent certain cancers, Oats are especially considered to be a boon to people suffering from Celiac disease. They are high in fiber, phytonutrients, Vitamins E and B as well as iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Oat bran consists of bulk of dietary fiber of the grain. Oat Sprouts are rich in vitamins and minerals including essential amino acids and proteins. The whole grain oats is said to contain 7 B vitamins and 9 minerals and twice the protein content as that of wheat. Isn’t that amazing!

What better way to start a day,knowing that every spoonful of that simple oatmeal is loved by our body.

This post was written by Dhivya

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Wow, this is such an informative post Dhivya. I eat oats thrice a week, but didn't know that there are so many varieties of them. Hope to see many such posts in future too.


Siri said...
January 20, 2009 at 3:17:00 AM GMT+1  

A thorough and very informative post DK! I love the way you have listed the different varieties and how we can best prepare them. I am sure this is going to be very valuable!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
January 20, 2009 at 10:27:00 AM GMT+1  

Great Post! I love to use oats in granola, as a filler, in bread and muffins, even in soup! Oatmeal, it's not just for breakfast anymore!
Welcome to The Daily Tiffin!

Anonymous said...
January 20, 2009 at 5:47:00 PM GMT+1  

Very interesting! I'm a vegetarian but oats are not regularly on my food list - I always considered them breakfast food for people with more time than me! I'll be keeping this in mind for future use.


January 20, 2009 at 9:15:00 PM GMT+1  

Thank you siri

Thanks Meeta. Am glad to note that.

Thanks Donna and you are bang on when you said that oat has crossed the restriction of being a breakfast item anymore. And its totally worth it.

Hi jokergirl : I was very skeptical and lethargic about adding it to my diet earlier too..but once I started I never looked back. Hope it would for you too :)

DK said...
January 22, 2009 at 3:03:00 AM GMT+1  

very informative..

Shreya said...
January 23, 2009 at 1:10:00 PM GMT+1  

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