What’s So Great About Oats

What’s So Great About Oats

I don’t know about you, but I ate my way through the holidays this year.   I had more than my share of shortbread and award winning cheese to say nothing of the pancakes, French toast, hollandaise and other unmentionables. It wasn’t just a big dinner on the big day, I had a house full of people for several days, two full Christmas dinners and somehow cake for breakfast felt entirely justified. So now on to a New Year, and a list of resolutions that don’t seem all that new – chief among them, getting my family back to some healthier eating. Where better to start than with a hearty breakfast.

And, for breakfast, I’m going to suggest oatmeal. Oatmeal is a whole grain, it is unprocessed, has no salt, fat and is very low in sugar (my brand has 1g) and is high in soluble fiber. But it really is the fiber in oats that gets it on all the super food lists. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research “the oats’ fiber (beta-glucan) is established as effective in lowering cholesterol…The best research linking oatmeal consumption and cholesterol levels shows drops of about 10 mg/dl in LDL cholesterol with a daily serving of 3/4 cup of quick or old-fashioned oats as measured before cooking.”

In addition to eliminating LDL and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, the soluble fiber is important to those with Type 2 Diabetes or watching their weight. Soluble fiber slows digestion and therefore has a low ranking on the glycemic index. Slower digestion means you feel full longer and blood sugar levels will remain even throughout the day. Up until now, I thought that steel cut oats were lower on the glycemic index than rolled oats. But according to Monica Reinagel, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist’s website nutritiondiva.com there is only a marginal difference in glycemic load between the two. She does however suggest staying away from instant oatmeal, as it is the most heavily processed of oatmeal cereals and has a significantly higher glycemic ranking and often has added sugars and salt. Again and again we see fast food means that something is lost.

Heart health, weight management and reducing Type 2 diabetes risks are all very good reasons to eat oats in the morning. Add to this its chart topping fiber content and there is evidence that whole grains, like oats will help prevent certain cancers such as colon and breast.

Finally, oatmeal is a great base to add other super foods to. I use it as a vehicle to get a sprinkling of cinnamon, crushed nuts and a spoonful of chia into my kids. With all that wholefood goodness, I don’t mind using a touch of maple syrup to sweeten the deal. If you’re feeling really virtuous applesauce or fresh fruit will do the trick. No matter how you top it off, oatmeal is a great way to start the day…or year.

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4 Comments

  1. eila / full plate
    January 03, 08:52 Reply

    we eat oatmeal at least 3x/week during the school year. i have a method for making it ahead (http://fullplatecookinglessons.blogspot.com/2009/08/4-make-ahead-breakfast-ideas-for-busy.html) which means we can enjoy the steel cut variety even on busy school mornings. on special days, i will put out a “toppings bar” which includes: cut up fruit (already stored in my fridge, just pop the lid off the pyrex bowl) + cinnamon + a slivered nut OR coconut (from our snack drawer, again pop the lid off) + a fruit “syrup” or agave. but most days we just enjoy the hearty goodness of a warm bowl of oatmeal studded with dried cranberries….

  2. Terra
    January 05, 10:48 Reply

    Heidi – great post! Inspired breakfast this morning. Two questions: 1. Are the 3-5 minutes oats better for you than the 1 minute oats (not instant, just super quick)? 2. This might be a question for another post, but is one “sugar” the same as another? What’s the difference in putting a tsp of brown sugar vs honey vs agave vs maple syrup vs cranberries on your oats?

  3. Heidi Pyper
    January 05, 11:08 Reply

    Hey Terra!
    Glad to hear you were inspired. From what I gleaned the steel cut and old fashioned rolled oats were in the same ball park for glycemic index rating. When you move into quick cooking or instant you get a much higher rating – it comes down to the processing of the oat – the old fashioned (take about 10 – 20 minutes to cook) are only rolled flat so they cook faster than the steel cut which are mostly unprocessed and take about 30 – 40 minutes to cook. I admit to having the quick cooking (5 mintues) on hand for emergency breakfasts – I still think they are better than most breakfast cereals, especially if you top them with chia, nuts and cinnamon – all good for you and no salt and yes, I do add some maple syrup. As for sugars – I did write a post

    http://www.sweetpotatochronicles.com/wordpress/2011/03/immune-boost-week-whats-so-bad-about-excessive-sugar/

    maybe that has the answer for you.

    My kids eat Maple syrup, dried fruit like raisins and cranberries. They eat cookies made with white sugar though. I just try to keep it home made and as a treat and not an every day thing.
    Hope that helps!
    Heidi

  4. Terra
    January 05, 11:59 Reply

    Very helpful! Those sugar recommendations are great to know and will keep in mind. Thanks for all your excellent advice!

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