Did you know that oats are gluten-free, but only labeled as such when produced in a gluten-free [GF] facility? Unless you have a wheat allergy or Celiac disease (in which case you’ll need to look for a GF label) you can consider any oats (regular, quick, or steel cut) to be a wheat-free staple in your diet!
Oats are a whole grain.
Quick oats and instant oatmeal packets are the processed version of the whole grain, but still have many health benefits. Look for low-sugar varieties and choose rolled or steel-cut oats when possible. Making oats at home costs less than buying packets from the store and can be lower in sugar (see suggestions, below). Try making a batch on Sunday to have in the fridge all week.
Oats contain avenathramide, a unique antioxidant.
Oatmeal is also high in soluble fiber, which can help maintain normal LDL and cholesterol levels in addition to overall gut and digestive health. Like all whole grains, oats contain a multitude of micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, folate, and thiamin.
Carbohydrates: Quality matters
Although carbohydrates have gotten a bad rep recently, a healthy diet can contain 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and starchy foods- so there’s clearly a range. For those foods that we generally think of as “carbs”- bread, pasta, grains, etc.- at least half of what is consumed should be whole grain. The fiber and moderate levels of protein found in whole grains help to balance the carbohydrate load from starchy foods. A balanced meal results in better blood sugar control– better for the body, helps you feel fuller, longer, and can prevent a mid-morning crash.
To further balance the carbohydrates found in oatmeal, consider the following:
- Cook with milk instead of water
- Add quinoa to oats during cooking
- Add raisins or craisins during or after cooking for natural sweetness + fiber
- Mix in plain Greek yogurt after cooking for a tangy richness + protein
- Use nuts and seeds as crunchy toppings with healthy fats + fiber
- Mix in almond or peanut butter after cooking (healthy fats + fiber)
Oatmeal can be prepared using hot or cold methods. 3 versions are included, below!
- 1/2 - 1 cup regular rolled or steel cut oats
- 2 - 3 cups water, milk, or non-dairy milk
- Optional: Fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut or seed butters, Greek yogurt
- Combine 1 cup rolled oats with 2 cups water or milk in a pot over medium-low heat.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Once mixture has thickened, add fruit and nuts if desired (do not add yogurt until mixture has been removed from heat).
- Add liquid if needed, cook to desired consistency. Serves 4, or keep a batch in the fridge for quick week-day mornings
- Boil 3 cups of water in a saucepan.
- Stir in 1 cup steel-cut oats.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check throughout cooking process and add more liquid if needed. Milk can be added towards the end of the cooking process, once desired consistency has been achieved.
- Add toppings once oats are soft.
- 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
- 1/2 - 1 cup milk
- Optional add-ins: Fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, vanilla extract, cinnamon, maple syrup, honey, Greek yogurt
- Combine oats, milk, and any other ingredients in a wide-mouth ball jar. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
- Try this great combination: 2 tablespoons almond butter, 2 teaspoons chia seeds, 1/2 cup chopped banana, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
- Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ullisandersson/32699783015