If you have been craving oatmeal in the past year, then you are not alone.  During the pandemic, Americans have been eating more of this hearty whole grain, and research has taught us the benefits of oatmeal, and there are good reasons to continue this trend. Oatmeal is comfortable and delicious, but it is also very beneficial for you; it is more versatile than you think. Here are five reasons to make oatmeal a staple in your diet, and healthy ways to add oatmeal-even outside of breakfast.


Oats are rich in nutrients

Half a cup of dry instant oats contains about 150 calories, 5 grams of vegetable protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of filler fiber, and a few grams of fat. Oats also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B, and small amounts of calcium and potassium. This is an impressive package of vitamins and minerals, suitable for relatively low-calorie foods, making oats a nutritious ingredient.




Oatmeal provides antioxidants

According to a study published in the journal International Food Research in 2018, the polyphenol antioxidants found in oats have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. At the cellular level, polyphenols have been shown to help fight aging and disease by reducing oxidative stress. (Basically, oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals that damage cells and the body’s ability to resist its harmful effects.) Because of its role as a bodyguard, polyphenols are also related to the prevention of heart disease and stroke such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. 



Oatmeal helps control weight

If you avoid oatmeal because of its carbohydrate content, you may be happy to know that this healthy starch actually supports weight management. Studies have shown that consumers who regularly consume oatmeal are lighter, have a smaller waist circumference, and have a lower body mass index. They also scored higher on the Healthy Eating Index (a measure of overall diet quality).


Oatmeal's status as a whole grain is one of the reasons it supports healthy weight management and better overall nutrition. This is because, unlike refined grains where the bran and germ are removed, whole grains remain intact, which means they retain fiber and key nutrients.


According to a small study published in the journal Appetite, satiety, the feeling of fullness that persists after eating, is another benefit of weight control-oatmeal can have a positive effect on this feeling. Researchers compared people's feelings of hunger and fullness after eating oatmeal or oranges, another breakfast food. Result: Not only do people who eat oatmeal feel more full, but they are also less likely to eat snacks within a few hours after breakfast.


The β-glucan fiber of oats has a health protection effect

Half a cup of oatmeal provides approximately 14% of the daily fiber value, but the type of fiber in oatmeal has a unique protective effect. Oatmeal contains β-glucan, which has been shown to not only support healthy immune function, but also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. For these reasons, regular oatmeal consumption may help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 


Beta-glucan can also act as an antioxidant. 

In this role, it is related to fighting arteriosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease). Beta-glucan also helps maintain proper digestion, prevents intestinal inflammation, and acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics essentially feed the protective microorganisms in the intestines and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.


Regarding blood glucose regulation, a report published in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes in 2020 focused on the use of oatmeal as a short-term intervention for patients with type 2 diabetes. Eating oatmeal can significantly reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. The researchers said that this effect was partly due to β-glucan, and concluded that oatmeal can be used to prevent and control diabetes.


Oatmeal can help you live longer

A meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2019 found that consuming oatmeal may reduce the risk of all causes of death, including heart disease, the country’s number one killer. Researchers reviewed 33 previously published studies to determine the relationship between specific foods and overall mortality or cardiovascular disease. They found that consumption of whole grains, including oatmeal for breakfast, was associated with a reduced risk of death from various causes such as heart disease.




All unsweetened oatmeal are good choices

I am often asked whether steel cut oatmeal is better than other types of oatmeal. Steel cut oats, sometimes called Irish oatmeal, are hulled oats or oat kernels cut into two or three pieces with a sharp steel blade. This type of oatmeal is denser and takes longer to cook. As for other types of unsweetened oatmeal: Scottish oatmeal is a coarse stone-ground oatmeal; old-fashioned oatmeal is steamed and rolled into thin flakes. Instant or instant oatmeal is even thinner, instant oatmeal is a chopped version of oatmeal.


Although steel cut oats are less technically processed, each variety is composed of whole oats. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, 40 grams (a quarter cup) of steel cut oats have almost the same nutritional content as 40 grams (half a cup) of old-fashioned oatmeal. In other words, as long as you don't add sugar, you can get similar benefits from any type you choose. 
Buying unsweetened oatmeal also allows you to choose the type and amount of sweetener (if any) to add.


Healthy ways to eat oatmeal

If you start your day with a bowl of warm oatmeal, add healthy supplements. 
Season the oatmeal with a pinch of maple syrup, anti-inflammatory cinnamon or ginger, and fresh fruit. Add nuts, seeds or nut/seed butter for healthy fats and extra vegetable protein. You can even add chopped or chopped vegetables. 
Zucchini oatmeal, often called "zoats", is one of my favorite breakfast trends. 


Just use a box grater to chop the raw zucchini and fold it directly. If you need to further increase the protein content of your meal, please mix vegetable protein powder with dry old-fashioned oatmeal before adding hot water. For overnight oats, refrigerate your favorite combination while you sleep and enjoy refrigeration.


Oatmeal is also suitable for salty ingredients. 

Cook directly, then top with sautéed or oven-roasted vegetables and herbs, eggs, beans, lentils or tofu as protein, sliced avocado or pesto as healthy fats.


Old-fashioned oatmeal can also be used as an ingredient in many dishes. I like to mix them with almond butter and cinnamon as a crumb of hot fruit. Oatmeal or oatmeal is also great for making energy balls, pancakes and baked goods, including biscuits, bars, banana bread and muffins. More delicious ways to use oatmeal include in veggie burger patties, and as an alternative to breadcrumbs, from meatballs (or no meatballs) to casseroles. With all the delicious ways to enjoy oatmeal, it is easy to take advantage of this beneficial carbohydrate.


If you have been craving oatmeal in the past year, then you are not alone.  During the pandemic, Americans have been eating more of this hearty whole grain, and research has taught us the benefit.

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