Oatmeal is an ancient grain, but it’s not just your grandma’s breakfast! It’s popping up on restaurant menus, even at chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s, and we’re jumping on the oatmeal bandwagon too! Here are four reasons to celebrate and enjoy this hearty, versatile, nutrient-packed grain.
1. Oatmeal Is Chock Full of Protective Nutrients
Oats are a whole-grain nutritional powerhouse. Unlike other cereal grains, which typically get refined fully or partially during processing, the outer shell of the oat grain is preserved in the final product, making oatmeal rich in dietary fiber. Oatmeal contains a plethora of essential minerals including magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. These are all key nutrients for maintaining our daily processes and functions. Oatmeal is also a source of important vitamins and phytonutrients including vitamin E, folate, B vitamins, antioxidant carotenoids and choline.
Compared to other cereal grains, oats are also high in protein and low in calories: one cup of cooked old-fashioned oatmeal contains approximately 166 calories and six grams of protein.
Oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, so it’s generally safe for individuals living with celiac disease or those with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. But if you’re on a gluten-free diet, make sure to check your oatmeal’s label to find out if it was processed in a gluten-free factory.
2. Oatmeal Is Great for Your Belly and Smart for Your Heart
Oatmeal is a gift that keeps on giving. Hours after you’ve finished enjoying your bowl, it’s still working its magic, especially when it comes to digestive and heart health. Oatmeal is a source of both of the major types of fiber — insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps keep you regular, and keeps your gut and its microbial inhabitants healthy and active. The soluble fiber in oats, specifically beta-glucan, acts like a gel in your small intestine, working to decrease blood cholesterol, maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce a variety of toxic compounds associated with digestive cancers. According to the Food and Drug Administration, because of its soluble fiber content, choosing oatmeal as part of a balanced diet can help lower your risk of heart disease.
3. Oatmeal Fits into Every Schedule
Oatmeal comes in several varieties, so it can be cooked slowly, quickly or in an instant. All you need to make oatmeal is a small saucepan, water (or milk) and a dash of salt.
Whole Oat Groats and Steel-Cut Oatmeal
If you have time to spare, go all out and make a big bowl of whole oat groats or steel-cut oatmeal. Whole oat groats are the whole kernels of the oat grains and take the longest amount of time to cook, about 50 to 60 minutes. Steel-cut oats are whole oat groats that have been mechanically cut into smaller pieces with a metal blade so they cook a bit more quickly, in about 10 to 20 minutes. Though all types of oatmeal have an equivalent nutrient profile, both whole groats and steel cut oatmeal rank the lowest on the glycemic index. This means that they take the longest to digest and have the lowest impact on your blood sugar levels. These more fibrous, nutty varieties also take the longest to chew, which helps maximize satiety (and gives your jaw muscles a better workout).
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
You’re probably most familiar with this type of oatmeal. Old fashioned rolled oats are prepared by steaming, rolling and toasting whole oat groats into flakes. This processing increases their surface area and makes them faster to cook, only 5 to 7 minutes. Old fashioned rolled oats are a great, nutrient-dense breakfast or snack option if you don’t have much time to spare.
It’s all in the name: instant oats are quick to prepare. They’re made by rolling the oats thinner and steaming longer so they can be ready almost instantaneously. All you need is access to hot water and some fun toppings for a satisfying meal or snack. The major difference between instant oats and the other varieties is the texture. They lose a bit of the nutty, chewy quality of steel-cut oats and are softer to the palette.
4. It’s Easy to Spice Up Your Oatmeal
Oatmeal never has to get boring because there are countless delicious ways to spice it up, and you can customize your bowl to fit your tastes and dietary needs. For example, you can prepare oatmeal to have either a chewy, hearty mouthfeel or a porridge-like consistency, depending on how much liquid you use during the cooking process. You can enjoy oatmeal sweetened with fresh berries, cinnamon, dry fruits and nuts, or savory with spices, herbs, a poached egg or even topped with some greens. The possibilities are truly endless!
If these oatmeal ideas have you thinking about breakfast, try our Better Breakfast Challenge! It’s ten days of nourishing mornings that will make a difference all day long.