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A cereal grass, belonging to the Avena family, which can grow in more marginal environments than other cereals. Johnson"s Dictionary of 1755 lists it as "a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people".
In Britain and Europe, its importance has diminished because of the rapid decline of the working horse population, and of greater preference for higher-yielding barley as an animal feed.
Oats have exceptional nutritional value, and are a few times richer in protein and fat content than any other cereal and are also rich in vitamin E vitamins and minerals, particularly zinc, mangangese and silica.
They are high in fibre and, prepared as a porridge, can help to prevent constipation, soothe the digestive system, reduce cholesterol and strengthen the heart. Oats don't contain gluten, but still upset some coeliacs.