Oatmeal is easy to love. It’s a warm, filling whole grain that is easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. You may be wondering, what’s the difference between rolled or steel cut oats? Rolled oats have simply been steamed and rolled-over to flatten before packaging. Steel cut oats, on the other hand, are just oats chopped up into smaller pieces with a sharp blade. Both maintain their whole grain status, so choose the one you like best because they’re both healthful choices!
In fact, a few things will happen if you start eating oatmeal everyday. For example:
1. You’ll manage (or maybe lose!) weight
Oatmeal fills you up so you can make the most of your morning without distracting hunger pangs (or reaching for a donut in the break room). A study comparing a breakfast of oatmeal to cornflakes found that oatmeal leaves the stomach more slowly, keeping hunger at bay longer. In fact, those who ate an oatmeal breakfast consumed less at their next meal for overall fewer calories, especially if they were already overweight. It’s believed that oatmeal’s beta-glucan content attributes to these satiating effects.
2. Your heart will be healthier
You have probably heard that oatmeal is a heart healthy food — it says so on the packaging — but there is hard science to back that up. Oats offer cholesterol-lowering properties associated with better overall cardiovascular health. Adding just 2 ounces of dry oats (or 1 cup cooked) to a “typical American diet” can offer a beneficial impact on cholesterol levels.
Oatmeal can also help with glycemic control, aka keeping blood sugar levels stable, which is highly relevant for people with diabetes since they’re at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. As a whole grain food, oatmeal has 26 grams of carbohydrates in a one-cup serving, a great breakfast choice for someone with our without diabetes.
3. Your gut will thank you
An important way to support your gastrointestinal (GI) health is to include prebiotics in your diet. Prebiotics are types of fiber that human intestines can’t digest but that feed the good bacteria in your gut. The beta-glucan found in oatmeal is a great way to keep your friendly gut bacteria happy and healthy.
In addition to its prebiotic properties, the fiber in oatmeal helps to keep you regular. Cooked oatmeal contains a total of 4 grams of dietary fiber per cup, which adds bulk to the contents of your gut and helps you (ahem) eliminate waste so you don’t feel bloated.
4. You’ll get a nutrient boost
We already touched on oatmeal’s carb content, but what about protein and fat? Oatmeal is low in fat (only 2 grams per cup) and virtually saturated fat free. Surprisingly, one cup of oatmeal has 5 grams of protein! It’s also packed with micronutrients, including copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc as well as antioxidants. And one cup of oatmeal will only set you back 143 calories (before you add toppings).
Enjoying oatmeal in the morning will set you up to make great choices throughout the day.
5. You’ll never have a boring breakfast again
Your body thrives on a variety of foods, and oatmeal is the perfect blank canvas to mix-up your breakfast routine with different toppings. You may like to prepare oatmeal each morning, but you can also make a large pot for the week ahead and portion out a serving to reheat each day. (I recommend adding a bit more milk or water before microwaving for a minute.)
Ideas to flavor your new morning regimen:
- Throw in some fruit slices (fresh, frozen or canned works great!) are always a good idea (try apples, strawberries, kiwi)
- Stir in a spoonful of pumpkin puree and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon
- Top oats with a drizzle of honey and a few nuts or seeds
- Add chopped dried mango and coconut flakes for tropical oatmeal
- Use applesauce to sweeten, then toss in a few raisins
- Soak rolled oats overnight in milk, top with peanut butter and banana in the morning and enjoy chilled or reheated
Oatmeal is truly a delicious and nutritious breakfast or snack option you should feel good about. So, try to incorporate it into your meals and reap the benefits of this “whole”-some food!
Kelda Reimers, Dietetic Intern at the University of Maryland, College Park contributed to this piece.