Oats – so much more than just comfort food

Oats –the Whole Grains Council grain of the month

Science continues to show how smart our mothers were back when they told us to eat our oatmeal just because it was good for us. Now decades later, a breakfast bowl containing oatmeal, which is chock full of soluble fiber and other top-notch nutrients, may be even be more healthy for you than when you balked at your mother’s wise words.

Here are a few of the health perks you can reap by having oatmeal for breakfast:

Blood cholesterol and blood pressure lowering effects
Don’t focus only on what you shouldn’t eat when aiming to reduce your blood cholesterol and blood pressure readings. Research shows including soluble fiber-rich options like oats is a much smarter strategy.

Better blood sugar regulation
The soluble fiber in oats helps to regulate blood sugar readings, particularly for those with diabetes. But for maximum benefit, choose rolled oats or steel-cut varieties over instant oatmeal, even the unsweetened kind. Instant oatmeal, with its chopped up grains, has a higher glycemic index (raises blood sugar levels more quickly) than does steel-cut or rolled oats.

Easier weight management
Practicing girth control can definitely become a harder task as you get older. Including soluble-fiber packed selections such as oats not only improves bowel regularity but can also help to tame your appetite and consume fewer calories.

Stimulate and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut
Many of us are familiar with probiotics, the introduction of beneficial bacteria into the body, which provides a range of benefits including better immune system functioning. But prebiotics are also key. These are foods such as oats which contain indigestible fibers these healthy bacteria like to feast on.

If you’re gluten intolerant, be sure to choose a brand of oats labeled gluten-free as the grain can be contaminated with gluten in the fields where they grow.

If you’re on the hunt for a healthy oatmeal recipe, let your imagination be your guide. Instead of sweeteners like brown sugar and honey, boost the nutrition ratings by adding fruits such as bananas, mangos, blueberries or even grated apples. Spice it up with cinnamon, grated nutmeg or vanilla extract. Cook it on the stovetop or for a speedy preparation, prepare it in the microwave but use a large container so it doesn’t boil over, leaving you with a sticky mess (I warned you!).

Another option is to bake your oatmeal with a mixture of milk, eggs and whatever fruit and spices you like. Make it in individual ramekins or in a larger pan so you’re all set with breakfast for a few days.

If you’re not a morning person or if time is short, consider an overnight oats recipe: mix together in a jar or large glass, equal parts of oats and milk – either cow’s or a non-dairy variety- or yogurt or kefir and top with fruit and nuts and/or seeds like chia seeds. Frozen fruit right out of the freezer will add more liquid and soften the oats. Then refrigerate overnight. If you like crunchy foods, add toppings such as the chopped nuts right before eating.

If a bowl of oatmeal is not your thing, try oat groats which the whole grain product before it is flaked or rolled to become oat flakes or meal. Enjoy it as you would use barley or rice in a savoury pilaf or with vegetables in a cold summer salad.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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