The other day I was talking to my dad on the phone and he told me he had been eating oatmeal for breakfast lately. I was excited because I love oatmeal and I hate that it gets such a bad rap! I have a theory that most people who think they hate oatmeal actually hate instant oatmeal. That stuff’s nasty, but there are other (better) kinds!
Oats have been around for centuries. They were a staple in Scotland because of the short, wet growing season which suits the grain. Today you can buy oats in many forms: Scottish (or Irish, or Steel-cut) oats, rolled oats (come in varying thicknesses depending on machine settings), quick-cooking oats, instant oats, and even oat flour, whole groats, and oat sprouts.
Scottish oats are made by removing the outer husk of the whole oat grain (groat), then toasting it and cutting it into two or three smaller pieces. They have a longer cooking time, but are less processed than rolled oats and some people prefer the texture over rolled oats. Rolled oats are just whole groats that have been steamed and flattened by a roller. By cutting the groat into smaller pieces, then rolling, the cooking time can be reduced (such as with quick-cooking oats). Instant oats are cut even smaller yet, and are often packaged with added sugar and other ingredients. I recommend staying away from instant! Most people who say they hate oatmeal are thinking of this type!
Oatmeal is a healthy whole grain food and is considered by The Mayo Clinic to be one of the Top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol.
Health benefits of whole grain oats:
- Contain 7 B Vitamins
- Contain Vitamin E
- Contain 9 minerals including iron and calcium
- Contain soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol
- all that fiber also helps fill you up!
- Contain healthy unsaturated fats
- Contain Gamma Linolenic Acid, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and potential to supress tumor growth and metastasis [research into these claims is ongoing].
You can use oats to make oatmeal, or you can use them in recipes ranging from smoothies to savory pilafs to muffins and pancakes. I like to make my oatmeal with old fashioned rolled oats, using about half water and half soymilk, with a splash of vanilla and cinnamon. I usually add fruit like banana, apple, or pumpkin, and sometimes nuts or granola or a little crunch.