Full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, oats truly deserve their status as a breakfast staple. Good for your body and your soul, they make the perfect ingredient to kick off a healthy, productive day.
Incorporating these grains into your routine in any way is a positive step—but if you want your oats to support your health and wellbeing as best as they possibly can, you might want to consider going organic.
Here’s what to know about the growing conversation around the importance of how our oats are produced—plus five delicious ways to get more of the grainy goodness into your diet.
Ever Heard Of Glyphosate?
If you’re tuned into the latest on nutrition and the food system, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about a chemical called glyphosate that’s found in certain weed killers.
The concerns about this chemical are many and growing. The World Health Organization’s International Agency on the Research for Cancer (IARC) classifies glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Meanwhile, as of 2017, the state of California includes glyphosate in a list of chemicals known by the state to cause cancer.
The effects of glyphosate on human health go even further. “Glyphosate is known to be linked to cancer, but that’s not all,” says Emily Achey, M.S., R.D., I.F.N.C.P., of the Central Coast Center for Integrative Health. “It has also been shown to disrupt the gut microbiome, which can promote a variety of diseases in the body such as autoimmunity, depression, Alzheimer’s and more.”
Glyphosate And Oat Products
Alarmingly, many oat products contain glyphosate residue. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a watchdog non-profit organization dedicated to promoting human and planetary health, “although glyphosate is used primarily as a weed killer on GMO crops, it can also be sprayed on crops such as wheat, barley, and oats to kill them and dry them out so they can be harvested earlier.”
While the EWG sees the safe upper limit of glyphosate as 160 ppb (parts per billion) for all crops, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets different tolerable limits for different crops. For oats, the limit is 30,000 ppb, leaving many products with remarkably high amounts of the chemical in them. And, in direct disagreement with the WHO’s IARC, the EPA claims that “residues of glyphosate on any food or feed item are safe for consumers if they comply with the established tolerances.”
Read More: 5 Foods You Should Try To Buy Organic
So how can we make sense of the differences of opinion on glyphosate? “Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” says EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “Studies regularly find that the legal limits on contaminants in food, air, drinking water, and consumer products fall short of fully protecting public health, particularly for children and other people more sensitive to the effects of toxic chemicals. Federal government standards for pesticides in food are often outdated and not based on the best and most current science. The EPA’s standards for pesticides and other chemicals are also heavily influenced by lobbying from industry.”
With that in mind, get this: Through a series of tests on oat-based breakfast products marketed to children, the EWG found that two-thirds contained glyphosate in amounts higher than the organization’s 160 ppb limit.
How To Shop For High-Quality Oat Products
So what does that mean for you and your bowl of oatmeal? Well, you might want to double down on your research and be extra picky about the oats products you consume.
A good place to start: Seek out oats products that are certified organic. Since glyphosate is a synthetic herbicide, its use on organic crops is prohibited. “Our research has found that foods made with organic oats had significantly lower glyphosate levels than products made with conventionally grown grains,” says Temkin. “Trace amounts of glyphosate were found on a few samples, probably because of wind drift from non-organic crops.”
Since even some organic oat products may still contain small amounts of the herbicide, if you’re passionate about avoiding any and all glyphosate, Emanuela Taioli, Ph.D. M.D., director of the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai, recommends looking for products specifically labeled as “glyphosate-free.”
One brand in this space, Bob’s Red Mill, has long been responsive to consumer demand for the highest food safety standards. In 2016, they released a statement saying, “in response to our customers, we worked with our oat suppliers to put an end to their use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant for all varieties of Bob’s Red Mill oats.” (The Vitamin Shoppe carries a variety of oat products from Bob’s Red Mill, FYI.)
That doesn’t mean you have to purge your fridge and pantry ASAP, though. The EWG advises families to switch to organic foods when possible (and also when budgets, access, and personal circumstances allow) in order to minimize overall pesticide exposure, according to Temkin. “Reassuringly, research has found that levels of glyphosate in people’s bodies drop quickly just a few days after beginning to transition to an organic diet,” she notes. So, it’s never too late to start subbing in organic and/or glyphosate-free oats into your favorite recipes.
5 Delicious Recipes Using Oats
Not sure how to tastefully incorporate organic oats into your life? Learn from the experts with these five recipes.
1. Hidden Veggie Oat Bowl
For a classic oats recipe with a veggie twist, Achey loves to add frozen riced cauliflower (she promises you won’t taste it).
- ½ cup organic oats
- ¼ -½ cup frozen riced cauliflower
- ¼ cup blueberries, cranberries, or both
- ½ cup water or unsweetened plant-based milk
- 2 Tbsp flax, chia, or hemp seeds (or a mix)
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 serving protein powder or collagen peptides
- sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger
- drizzle of nut butter, if desired
- Add frozen riced cauliflower to a bowl and heat until thawed.
- Then, add oats and water or milk.
- Heat in a saucepan for about five minutes (or in the microwave for about 90 seconds).
- Mix in berries and the rest of the ingredients.
- Top with a drizzle of nut butter, if desired and enjoy!
2. Blueberry, Dark Chocolate, & Cashew Granola Bars
Chocolate goes with just about anything, and oats are certainly no exception. Made with dark chocolate and blueberries, these granola bars from The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., are full of flavor and antioxidants.
- 1 cup raw cashews, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup raw almonds, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup dried, unsweetened blueberries
- 1⁄2 cup organic oats
- 1⁄4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1⁄4 cup dark chocolate chips
- ⅛ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp golden flaxseeds, whole
- 1⁄4 cup raw honey
- 1 Tbsp almond butter
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line an eight-by-eight-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, stir together honey and almond butter until combined, then gently fold into dry ingredient mixture until completely incorporated.
- Transfer bar mixture to the baking dish.
- Using an extra sheet of parchment paper, press down on the mixture to form it to the pan in an even layer.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Allow bars to cool completely in the pan on a wire drying rack, or lace in the fridge or freezer for faster cooling.
- Remove parchment paper and slice into 10 even bars.
- Wrap each bar individually and store in an airtight container on the counter for up to five days or in the fridge for up to two weeks.
3. DIY Granola
Can’t find quality granola at the store? Make your own. This simple recipe from Michels is sweetened with honey and features any dried fruit of your choosing.
- 4 Tbsp raw honey
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 4 Tbsp almonds, chopped
- ½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries (or chopped dried apricots, raisins, or dates)
- 6 Tbsp hemp hearts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl, whisk together honey, melted coconut oil, and cinnamon.
- Add oats and almonds and stir until well-coated.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly onto the sheet.
- Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring every five minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Transfer the granola into a medium bowl and stir in dried fruit and hemp hearts.
4. Pumpkin Pie Spice Protein Balls
Protein balls are the perfect on-the-go snack. Michels spiced these up with a blend of organic pumpkin pie spice that makes them infinitely cozy.
- 2 Tbsp vanilla plant protein powder
- 2 Tbsp gluten-free rolled oats
- 2 Tbsp organic almond butter
- ½ tsp organic pumpkin pie spice
- Pinch of sea salt
- Splash of vanilla extract
- stevia, to taste
- Mix all of the ingredients together, adding stevia last, to taste.
- Divide mixture into eight even amounts and roll into balls.
- Store the balls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
5. Vegan Baked Oats
Baked oats that looked (and tasted!) like cake recently went viral on TikTok. Want to try the trend? Check out this vegan recipe from food blogger Chocolate Covered Katie.
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1⁄4 tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ½ cup milk of choice
- 1⁄4 cup mashed banana or applesauce
- 1 ½ Tbsp sweetener of choice
- 1-2 Tbsp nut butter of choice (optional)
Check out Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog for the full instructions—and get ready to have your taste buds absolutely blown away.