Oatmeal is a breakfast favorite at our house.  I serve it at least once a week, and up to 3 times a week during winter.  I most often use organic, rolled oats, as they are quick to prepare.  I often add grated apple, raisins, chopped pecans or sliced bananas.   Oats can even be eaten raw, as is commonly found in the Swedish cereal Meusli, or tossed into the blender with other ingredients for a smoothie.

Oats gained popularity here in the U.S. in the 80s and 90s for its’ soluble fiber and “heart health” benefits.  But as new research continues to be published, and our understanding of nutrition grows, opinions can change.  So how about now?  Is oatmeal still “healthy?”

I recently took a second look, and was glad to find several reasons to keep the humble oat on the menu.

Beta-Glucan

The fiber content of a single serving of oats, about half a cup, is 4-5 grams.  While that may not sound like much, 55% of that fiber is in the form of soluble fiber called beta-glucan.  Beta-glucan helps lower your cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke (you probably knew that.)  But did you know that this kind of fiber also turbo-charges your body’s response to infection, boosting your immune system?  This was welcome news to me, especially in winter when we are doing our best to avoid colds and flu.

Low-Glycemic

Oats have a very low glycemic load.  They have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, so you enjoy steady energy throughout your morning instead of the “sugar rush” peak and plummet caused by refined carbs and sugary cereals.

Avenanthramide

Ave-what?  Avenanthramide is an antioxidant unique to oats.  It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties important for overall health.  Many researchers and health experts believe that chronic low-level inflammation is the root cause of most chronic disease – everything from diabetes to arthritis to heart disease.  Tamping it down could help you live a longer, healthier life.

Protein

There are about 5 grams of protein in ½ cup of oats.  That’s quite a bit for a cereal!  Depending on how you prepare it, the overall protein content of a serving of oatmeal can actually be higher.  Getting some protein with your carbs may help you get from breakfast to lunch without hitting the snack machine.

So how do you pick a good quality oat for your breakfast?  Generally, the less processed the better, as the oats will have a higher fiber content and a lower glycemic load.  Steel-cut oats are a great choice, as are old-fashioned thick rolled oats.  Skip the “minute oats” and instant packs.  Don’t add too much sugar, or you negate the health benefits.  And if you are buying a convenience packaged oat cereal product, be sure and read the label.

This recipe is one of my son’s favorites.  Cook up a pot tomorrow and fill your house with the scent of apple pie!

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal

Ingredients

1 cup milk or non- dairy replacement
¾ cup water
1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats, old fashioned standard
1 small apple, grated
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1 pinch allspice
1 tablespoon brown sugar or coconut palm sugar

Directions

In a medium saucepan, stir together the milk, water, oats and apple.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until oatmeal is cooked and you have the desired consistency.  Divide evenly among two rimmed plates or bowls.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and garnish with apple wedges if desired.

What’s your favorite way to prepare oatmeal?  Share it by adding a comment below.

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