A more climate-friendly option for rice

When comparing the environmental performance of cereal grains, rice is at the bottom of the list. Indeed, rice has as much as four times the carbon footprint of domestic oats. Many Finns don't know that oat grain is a great substitute for rice.

To the surprise of many Finns, rice can be replaced in the diet with a completely domestic alternative: oats. The taste and texture of oat grain is very similar to rice, but oats are much more environmentally friendly than rice.

 Few people have thought that oats can be used as a side dish for chicken sauce or vegetarian curries instead of rice, for example. If you are used to eating oats only in porridge form, it is difficult to imagine oat grains replacing rice on your plate.


For domestic oats, the carbon footprint is less than 1 kg CO2 eq/kg, four times less than for rice, which has a carbon footprint of 3.8 kg CO2 eq/kg. In addition, rice is a very thirsty grain and only thrives in water or very wet conditions. Indeed, its cultivation causes soil erosion and nutrient leaching.

- There are big differences in rice cultivation between Asia and Europe, but problems include the use of pesticides, soil pollution and nutrient leaching into the environment. On top of this, there are transport emissions. Oats grow all over Finland. Although the share of freight in total food emissions is relatively small, oats produced nearby still have a clear advantage, says Veli Hietaniemi, chairman of the Finnish Oats Association and a special researcher at the Natural Resources Institute Finland.

In addition to its low cultivation emissions, oats are a nutrient-sensitive crop. Oats use water and nutrients very efficiently and do not cause nutrient leaching.

Kana resepti kaura


Oats and rice are related plants, and both are made up of small starch grains: when cooked, they behave in the same way. Like rice, oats are also naturally gluten free. Otherwise, from a nutritional point of view, oat grain beats rice hands down.

- Oats have insoluble and soluble fibre, the health-promoting beta-glucan, and a very good protein and amino acid composition. Oats actually have a more varied amino acid composition than other cereals; oats also include lysine, which cannot be produced by the body. Oats also have a good fatty acid composition," says Veli Hietaniemi.

Nowadays, oat products are readily available in shops, making them easy to prepare as side dishes or even complete meals. Helsinki Mills’ pre-seasoned Pastry Mixes and Long Groat Oats work like rice. Interest in the use of oats in cooking has also increased considerably recently. Awareness of the climate impact of rice is slowly growing, and there is a demand for domestic, sustainable alternatives.

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