The Beauty of Oats

Steel cut oats

Oatmeal has got to be one of America’s favorite healthy foods. Who doesn’t like a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter morning?  A 2/3 cup serving of oats contain 8 1/2 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, along with potassium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron.  Oats also contain beta-glucan, a polysaccharide which has been shown to significantly lower cholesterol levels and improve immune function through the activation of macrophages.  Oatmeal is a low-glycemic food which means that it is gentle on the pancreas and will not spike your blood sugar. And oats contain an antioxidant, avenanthramide, known to improve heart health and lower inflammation. (1)

Did you know that rolled oats are made by first soaking them in water to soften the kernel and then processing them into a flattened grain.  The flatter they are, the more processed they are.  From a health standpoint, the only oatmeal that I’d consider whole grain is old fashioned thick rolled oats – the kind that take 20 minutes to cook.  Instant oatmeal is partially cooked and then rolled very finely before the sugar and flavors are added. Remember back to my post, Eat RAW Food for Maximum Nutrition, that cooking, exposure to oxygen, water and light all deplete the nutritional content of your food.  If you want the whole grain benefits of oats, you’ll need to choose the thickest, longest-cooking oats you can find.  And remember, oats don’t have to be cooked.  You can make homemade muesli with raw old-fashioned oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  Muesli is usually served like a cereal in milk or juice.

Steel cut oats are an excellent whole-grain option (pictured above).  While whole oat groats are difficult to find and time consuming to cook (nearly 1 hour), steel cut oats are made by taking the whole oat groat and roughly cutting them Steel cut oats hot cerealinto smaller pieces.  I am able to find these in bulk at our local health food store, but also bagged by Bob’s Red Mill.

We made whole grain oat cereal on the stove this week, pictured at right.  Three cups water to 1 cup steel cut oats, and a few dashes of salt makes the basic recipe.  Put all ingredients in a saucepan and turn the burner on high and set your timer for 30 minutes.  Once the water is boiling, stir and turn the heat down to low, just enough to keep a simmer. Stir a few times during cooking. Once done, I added frozen fruit which cools the cereal down much quicker for eating.  I also added Sucanat®, an unrefined brown sugar.  I usually double this recipe so we have leftovers for the next few days. If you don’t have 30 minutes to cook your breakfast, try cooking your oats overnight in the crock pot:

Crock Pot Oatmeal Porridge

2 cups water

2 cups milk (diary or non-dairy)

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup sweetener (agave, honey, Sucanat®, an unrefined brown sugar)

1/2 tsp salt

*At this point, let your creativity take over!  Add 1 tsp of cinnamon, vanilla or maple extract, 1 cup of chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, dried fruit such as raisins, or try chopped apples, mangoes or peaches.

Lightly oil the bottom of the crock pot.  Mix all ingredients, cover and cook on low overnight, 6-8 hours. (If cooking longer than 8 hours, add extra liquid to recipe.)  You may also add fresh fruit or chopped nuts or seeds after cooking.

When reheating, add a little milk and reheat on stove.


Sources:

1. Bowden, J., The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Fair Winds (2007)

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