Ever since Oliver asked for another helping of watery gruel (“Please, sir, I want some more!”), oatmeal has had a bad reputation. It’s the food your mom made you eat despite morning arguments and was careful hidden under a napkin, bite by bite.
Today, health-conscious consumers are realizing the incredible health benefits of oats and creating inventive recipes to make oatmeal a breakfast treat, not a punishment.
The more processed oats are, the less nutrition they contain.
Oat groats are the least processed but take a long time to cook and are not common in the United States. Choose steel-cut oats for a nutty flavor and chewy texture, or old-fashioned oats. Either can be made on the stovetop or in the microwave. Instant oatmeal, while simple to make, contains lots of added sugars, preservatives and sodium, so choose oats in its most basic form.
Top 5 Benefits of Oats:
- Oats and oat bran contain a type of fiber that has been strongly shown to reduce cholesterol. Eating foods rich in this specific fiber, beta-glucan, can lower cholesterol by up to 20 percent. High-fiber foods have also been linked to the prevention of heart disease, cutting rates of coronary heart disease by up to 15 percent over 19 years. The beneficial effects of oats are most profound when 1/2 to 1 cup of oats is eaten daily — the ideal amount for a breakfast bowl!
- If you are concerned about diabetes and blood sugar, oats can alleviate these fears as they help control blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. Beta-glucan slows the rise of blood glucose levels before a meal and, after you’ve eaten, delays its decline, preventing post-meal sugar spikes.
- You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and there’s no better way to start your day than with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. A Harvard study revealed that a diet rich in whole grains can prevent long-term weight gain. Oatmeal keeps you full longer in the morning and provides essential nutrients to fill your nutritional needs.
- What are those nutrients? Oats are packed with magnesium, selenium, Vitamin E, zinc, potassium, iron and protein. Not too mention all that fiber mentioned before!
- Fiber has natural cancer-fighting properties and oats can help battle against breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. Some studies show that women who eat more dietary fiber have lower estrogen levels, which has been linked with a lower risk of breast cancer.
How to eat all these oats?
If you like bananas, try cooking a banana in the pot with your oats. Measure out 1/2 to 2/3 a cup of oats, add twice as much water, and stir in a banana. Cook either over the stove or in the microwave until the oats have absorbed the water. Once you have this creamy base, add whatever toppings appeal to you. Peanut butter, nuts, raisins and cinnamon are all delicious additions.
Alternately, try overnight oats. Mix equal parts oats, yogurt and milk and leave in the refrigerator over the night. The next morning, add whichever extra toppings you want and eat cold. Overnight oats are delicious and refreshing on a summer morning.