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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

A to Z Nutrition... O is for Oats!

One of my favorite things about oatmeal is that is it sooooo healthy for you and this is the perfect season for a hot bowl of it! But it’s good to know which ones are better for you. There are a few varieties out there, like the ones in the package that you add hot water to in a cup and microwave (blechh); the old-fashioned, rolled oats that you can cook in less than 5 minutes on your stove; and the grand daddy of all—the steel cut oats! The latter are the least processed, so your body digests them more slowly and turns them into “sugar” at a slower rate.

Let’s take a peek at what’s inside oats that makes them so healthy. No matter which way oats are processed, the bran and germ are left in tact, so they are always 100% whole grain. Oats have one of the highest sources of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber proven to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugars. In addition, they contain more than 20 unique polyphenols, called avenanthramides. These polyphenols help to protect your body and have most recently been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity, which may provide protection against coronary heart disease and have anti-itching properties that protect against skin irritation.

Let’s look at some of the commercially available products:

Instant Oat Packages and Commercial Overnight Oats (see labels below) can be loaded with sugar and sodium, let alone extra chemicals, so read the labels. The new nutrition label makes it easier to detect the amount of added sugars in foods. On the Quaker overnight oats, there’s 12 grams of sugars with 11 grams being “added” sugar (one teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams of carbs, which means there’s almost 3 teaspoons of sugar added to the container!). I know the overnight oats are popular, but avoid the store bought ones and make your own, please. Here’s a good recipe off of the Quaker Oats website:

Quick Cooking Oatmeal are rolled oats that are steamed, toasted, and then rolled by giant rolling presses. There are 150 calories and 4 grams of dietary fiber in a ½ cup of dry rolled oats with no sodium or sugar added in. They are used in making the overnight oats and are awarded my second place standing. Rolled oats are also a popular addition to smoothies, but make sure you have a super duper blender to mix them in.

Steel Cut Oats is my winner! The first time I had them was in Ireland-they are nuttier tasting and more filling than rolled oats (in my opinion). Like all the oats, they start as groats (the hulled kernel of the oat) but are coarsely ground to lend more texture. Because of this, they take longer to cook. Like the rolled oats, there’s 150 calories and 4 grams of dietary fiber but in ¼ cup dry serving.

To make breakfast an easier process in the morning, I make a big batch of steel cut oats in a crock-pot once a week. It’s easy to do: mix 6 cups of water with 1½ cups of steel cut oats, turn on high and in 3 hours your oatmeal will be ready. I add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into the mix about 30 minutes before it is done. This adds more fiber, as well as heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. But if you choose to add chia seeds in, you will also need to add more water to the pot. Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which means they loves to suck in water and poof up the Pillsbury doughboy!


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