We all know that oatmeal is good for you and can be a great way to start the day. But it wasn’t until my daughter started eating it and then got her younger brothers to eat it, that I took a second look. I was aware, like most of us, that oatmeal had fiber, and I had seen all those commercials about it lowering your cholesterol. But I thought a lot of this was just overblown advertising. However, when my kids started asking for it as a snack after school, I decided it was time to do a little more research.
As a child, I ate the instant maple brown sugar kind in those little brown packets. At the time, I thought it was tasty and sweet. But as I got older, it was too sweet and uninspiring for me to keep eating it. It wasn’t until recently that I had the ‘real stuff’ – the slow cook rolled oats or the steel cut version. What a difference! Before trying it, I was under the impression that the ‘real’ oatmeal took forever to cook. But it takes maybe 10 to 15 minutes – quick enough for most crazy rushed mornings.
I listed many of the nutritional information and health benefits of slow cooked oatmeal below. One half cup of oatmeal uncooked (which about doubles after cooking) has the following nutritional content.
Protein: 5 to 6 grams of protein depending on the type. Oats have one of the highest protein levels of any grain, even beating out today’s favorite, quinoa. Oats, like many other whole grains, is a complete protein – meaning it contains all 10 essential amino acids. Oats have a one of the highest levels of these amino acids, again, beating our other whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.
Fiber: 4 grams of fiber. Women need between 21 and 25 grams of fiber per day and studies show that the majority of Americans get only about 15 grams a day. If you add fruit, such as bananas or apples, to your oatmeal, you will pump your fiber intake up to by an additional 3-5 grams of fiber. This one meal will meet 1/3 of your recommended daily fiber needs.
Beta glucan: This is a type of fiber that appears to be the all-star compound in oatmeal. There have been hundreds of studies published on beta-glucan and how it naturally boosts your immune system. Beta-glucan stimulates immune cells that ingest and demolish invading pathogens and stimulates other immune cells to attack. In addition, beta glucans stimulate lethal white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy it. And to top it off, our bodies do not produce beta-glucan, so you have to ingest it to get it. Hello oatmeal!
Low in fat and calories: Approximately 3 grams of fat and 150 calories per serving.
Whole Grains: Oatmeal is a whole grain, and eating whole grains can lower your risk for several diseases, including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Oatmeal also contains lignans, a plant chemical that has been found to prevent heart disease.
Low Glycemic Index (GI): Oatmeal has a low glycemic index (Steel Cut have an index of 42, standard rolled oats have an index of 55.). (Instant has 83 – NOT a low GI food.) GI measures the actual impact that a carbohydrate food has on blood sugar. Foods with low GIs provide sustained energy and do not spike insulin levels. As such, we feel full longer which can aid in dieting and fat loss. In addition, low GI diets are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stoke, depression and certain cancers, to just name a few.
Lower Cholesterol: Since 1963, study after study has proven the beneficial effects of oatmeal on cholesterol levels. Yes, the commercials are actually true! Studies show that in individuals with high cholesterol (above 220 mg/dl), consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (an amount found in one bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant since each 1% drop in serum cholesterol translates to a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.
Iron: 10% of recommended daily amount
There are so many ways to dress up oatmeal and add variety and nutrients. Our favorite way is to add peanut butter, banana and a teaspoon of honey. We eat the natural peanut butter so the honey gives us a little sweetness. You can also add any kind of nuts or seeds to get a little crunch. Another favorite is to add nonfat Greek yogurt – it adds a little creaminess and pumps up the protein. Fruit is also a popular option – we usually use bananas at this time of year, but any fruit works beautifully. Cinnamon and flax seeds are other options to jazz up your oatmeal. The possibilities are bountiful and each one only increases the healthfulness of the meal. If you had relegated oatmeal to the back shelf, it may be time to give it a second look.
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