Delicious & Nutritious Oats
Whether you are looking for something warm and comforting or quick and filling, oats make the ideal breakfast – or snack, or brinner (breakfast for dinner 😊). Cold or hot, sweet or savory, plain or loaded with mix-ins or toppings, nutrient-packed oats are the perfect canvas for any taste and diet.
A good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, oats have multiple health benefits, including:
Provide digestive support
Can lower cholesterol
Stabilize blood sugar
Keep you regular
Protects heart and colon health
Are full of important vitamins and minerals
Are a source of carbohydrates and protein to provide energy
Are a good source of antioxidants
Oats are a type of cereal grain from the grass family of plants. The oats we eat are the edible seeds of the oat grass. Oat grass seeds must be cleaned and hulled to produce groats, which are then minimally processed into the forms we have readily available in a market – ‘old fashioned’ rolled oats, instant oats, and steel cut oats. Old fashioned rolled oats are whole oat groats that have been steamed, rolled, and then dried into a flat, disc-like shape. Instant, or quick, oats are like old-fashioned oats but have either been rolled thinner, steamed longer, or both. Steel cut oats are whole oat groats (try saying that ten times fast!) that have been cut into smaller pieces, usually using a steel blade, thus their name. Depending on your recipe and the amount of time you have, you will want to use one kind over the other, but overall, the protein, fiber and fat content, as well as the nutrients of all three types, are very similar. The different types of oats have different cook times and textures, so try each one and see which you like the best.
One cup of cooked oatmeal, from ½ cup of dry oats, is surprisingly nutritious! With only 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein, oats offer more protein and fiber than other grains, leading to slower digestion, increased fullness, and appetite suppression. Oats also contain B vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. With a low glycemic index (GI) of 55, steel-cut and rolled oats are a good option for people with Type 2 diabetes. Full of both soluble and insoluble fiber, oats are recommended for people with high cholesterol, as the fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol. Naturally gluten-free, oats are safe for people on a gluten-free diet. However, because oats are often processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, and barley, people with celiac disease should opt for gluten-free oats.
One of my favorite ways to eat oats is as Overnight Oats - a quick, easy, no-cook solution for a nutrient-dense breakfast or snack. This is perfect for a busy work-from-home day when you don't have too much time. I make a couple on Sunday afternoon and have them for the beginning of the week. The basic recipe for Overnight Oats is simply to combine ½ cup old-fashioned, rolled oats (not instant or steel cut) with ½ cup liquid in a container, such as a medium glass jar or bowl. My preference is almond milk, but any dairy or non-dairy milk will work, as well as plain water. Put a lid on the jar or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours. The oats will soften, and the mixture will thicken. In the morning, open the jar and add some fruit and nuts for a quick, delicious, and healthy breakfast.
If you have more time, try preparing oatmeal on the stove. Stove-top oatmeal is a great option for any variety of oats, and while regular steel cut oats can often take up to 25-30 minutes to cook, there are also quick cooking steel cut oats available. Depending on whether you use steel-cut, old-fashioned, or quick oats, the ratio of liquid to oats will be different so follow the recipe on the package.
Oatmeal is also an easy way to include ground flaxseeds and chia seeds in your diet. Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are loaded with nutrients, omega-3 fats, cancer-reducing antioxidants, dietary fiber, and protein. Try adding a teaspoon or two of each to your oatmeal or overnight oats to boost their health benefits.
Here are my favorite recipes for Overnight Oats and Stove-top Oatmeal:
Mix ½ cup old fashioned oats, 2 teaspoons ground flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon with 2/3 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk in a glass jar. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add mixed berries and some chopped walnuts. Makes 1 serving.
In a quart-size pot, mix ¼ chopped green apple, 1/3 sliced banana, ½ cup steel cut oats, 2 teaspoons ground flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon with 1 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until thickened. Makes 2 servings.
As I mentioned earlier, oats are like a canvas and the options for ingredients are endless. Here are a few ideas that will work for both Overnight Oats and Oatmeal:
Fresh fruit: berries, bananas, pears, apples
Dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, dates, apricots, raisins
Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds. You can also add a spoonful of any nut or seed butter.
Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice
Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, even chocolate chips!
How do you enjoy your oats? Share a picture and your favorite recipe on the Swan Wellness Facebook page.