You’ve probably been hearing for years that eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is a healthy way to start the day — but do you know why? What is it that makes oatmeal so special, and how much of it should you eat? And does instant oatmeal count?
Oats are a whole-grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa.
Oat groats, the most intact and whole form of oats, take a long time to cook. For this reason, most people prefer rolled, crushed or steel-cut oats.
Instant (quick) oats are the most highly processed variety. While they take the shortest time to cook, the texture may be mushy.
Oats are commonly eaten for breakfast as oatmeal, which is made by boiling oats in water or milk. Oatmeal is often referred to as porridge.
They’re also often included in muffins, granola bars, cookies and other baked goods.
Oats make an easy, balanced breakfast
One cup of cooked oatmeal contains about 150 calories, four grams of fiber (about half soluble and half insoluble), and six grams of protein. To boost protein further, my favorite way to eat oatmeal is with a swirl of almond butter nestled within. This powerful combo will keep you away from that mid-morning visit to the vending machine.
Oats provide important minerals and fiber
Oats are whole grains, which means they haven’t been stripped of their nutritious bran and germ. Different processing methods will affect the cooking time and texture of the cooked oatmeal, but not the nutrients of the oats themselves. Nutrient-rich oatmeal contains thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron. Soluble fibers form a viscous gel that helps to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels. The insoluble fiber in oats helps provide a “moving” experience by curtailing constipation and improving intestinal health. What a delicious way to make your heart and colon smile.
Oats are naturally gluten-free
However, check with manufacturers to ensure that their products are not made using the same equipment as other potentially contaminating grains. (Always purchase gluten-free products from reputable companies and read food labels carefully.)
Oats could help you control your weight
Oatmeal keeps you feeling fuller longer. Sadly, carbs are often shunned and feared by those looking to drop a few pounds, yet choosing whole grains could squash hunger and simultaneously provide that pleasant “ahhhh” feeling carb-lovers crave. But, as with any other food, be mindful of portion sizes. Soluble fiber, specifically beta-glucan, is the real star of the show when it comes to the health benefits of eating oatmeal. As it goes through the digestive system, it turns into a gel that slows digestion, keeping you feeling fuller longer. It’s also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
So, how much oatmeal should you eat?
The experts do have some guidance on how much oatmeal you should eat to reduce your cholesterol: 3 grams of beta-glucans per day from oats is the amount that has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. You can find that amount in one-and-a-half cups of cooked oatmeal, or three packets of instant oatmeal. So, go ahead and enjoy that bowl of oatmeal in the morning!