Oats

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OATS continue to be an important crop in the north central states where 65% of the oats harvested for grain each year are produced. Most oats grown in the U.S. are used for animal feed and never leave the farm or immediate area. Oats used for human consumption are primarily utilized as rolled oats and whole oat flour. The premier use of oats is in hot breakfast cereals, but other specialty applications include cold cereals, bakery products, granola bars, and baby foods. Oats are highly nutritious with the highest protein quantity and quality of the cereal grains, the oil from oats has a highly desirable fatty acid composition, and the fiber (beta-glucan) is beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels. Oat bran contains about twice as much fiber as rolled oats making it an attractive ingredient for health-related products or utilized as cereal. Despite the fact that oats are very nutritious, their use in human food has not kept pace with other grains. Factors contributing to this include processing difficulties associated with the thick, outer hull and the need to thermally process oat products, low profits for farmers and the lack of identifying popular uses for oat products. Unique qualities of oats include taste and texture, excellent moisture-retention properties, stabilization of fat components related to the antioxidant properties of oats, and thickener and stabilizer of dispersions. The only significant industrial use of oats is in cosmetic products.