The Benefits of Oatmeal
Oatmeal, also known as avena sativa, is derived from oat grains and is a type of cereal grass. In its raw form, harvested oats are generally used as animal feed. Oats are also commonly consumed by humans in cooked cereal and other products.
Types of Oats
These oats have been cleaned, toasted, hulled, and cleaned again. They tend to be chewy and take a long time to cook. Rolling or pounding oat groats may reduce cooking time.
Oat groats that are steamed, pressed, and dried are called rolled oats. These are also knowns a old-fashioned oats. They take approximately 15 minutes to cook.
Quick-cooking Oats/Instant Oatmeal
Quick-cooking oats are rolled oats that have been cute into smaller pieces and rolled thinner. This allows them to be cooked quicker. For instant oatmeal these are mashed and nearly powdered.
Oat flour is ground oat groats. Oat flour is gluten free, contains natural antioxidants that helps to increase the shelf-life of baked goods.
Oat bran is the outer coating of the oat grain. It is higher in fiber than other areas of the oat.
Unrolled oats that have been cut pieces are referred to as steel-cut or scotch oats. These type of oats tend to be very chewy.
At one time oatmeal was considered to be suitable as animal feed only.
Is Oatmeal Healthy?
With their high water-soluble fiber content, oats and oatmeal products, have become recognized as a natural wonder food amongst many doctors and dieticians since the 1980s. Because of this, the question of, "is oatmeal healthy?" may seem like a silly one. In actuality, however, the answer to this questions is yes... and no.
There are a number a benefits to eating oatmeal. The fiber found in oats can help to regulate blood sugar levels. Oats are also a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates and contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Though this may sound like a great deal, not many of us eat plain oatmeal. Instead, most of us opt for oatmeal that contains additives such as sugar, syrup, salt, and fruit. The oatmeal served at many breakfast tables equates to dessert rather than the healthy breakfast choice you may believe you're enjoying.
In 2007, Quaker Oats agreed to tone down exaggerated health claims on their oatmeal under pressure of lawsuit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
With all the "heart healthy," "cholesterol lowering", and other claims most products wear today, reading labels is the biggest key to maintaining a healthy diet. Take the case of instant oatmeal for example. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Strawberries & Cream is made of 100% whole grain oats and is marketed as "heart healthy." This may be true. But, if you look closer at the nutritional label, you will find that the second ingredient is sugar. In face, the nutritional label tells us that there are 12 grams of sugar in this oatmeal and half the fiber that is found in regular oatmeal. Furthermore, there are actually no strawberries (and, surprisingly, there are dehydrated apples).
In addition to additives and sugar, oatmeal consumers should also be aware that instant oatmeal has been processed. This allows it to cook more quickly, but it also allows it to be digested quickly within the body. The glycemic index (the measurement of how quickly a food increases the blood sugar within a two-hour period) of instant oatmeal is, therefore, higher than that of slower cooking oats. Choosing the lower glycemic option may be more effective to improving such factors as the cholesterol. Another option to combating the higher glycemic index of instant oatmeal, is to eat a little lean protein along with it. Adding low-fat or fat-free milk, a scoop of protein powder, or topping your oatmeal with some chopped nuts are great options.
A Healthier Option: Steel Oats
Though instant oatmeal is far more convenient, steel oats are far more nutritious. One serving of steel oats contains 0 grams of sugar and over 2 grams of soluble fiber. It is the fiber in the steel oats that requires the longer cooking time. But it is also this fiber that makes steel oats so very healthy.
With a cook time of approximately 30 - 45 minutes and the frequent need to stir, many of us will not even consider these oats as a breakfast alternative. There are techniques, however, that can seemingly speed up this time and make steel oats almost as convenient as instant.
Steel Oats Option #1: The overnight prep
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan
2. Stir in 1 cup of steel oats. Allow this to cook for about one minute
3. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit overnight.
4. In the morning bring the oatmeal to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 7 - 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Add your desired spice or sweetener.
6. Scoop into a bowl and add any other toppings you may deisire.
Steel Oats Option #2: The Slow Cooker Technique
1. Add 6 - 8 cups of water to you slow cooker (Use 6 cups if you intend to slow cook for less than 8 hours and 8 if more).
2. Add 2 cups of steel oats
3. Add any other additions you may desire.
4. Cover and cook on low overnight or throughout the day
5. Serve and enjoy
6. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for several days and easily reheated.
Delicious Additions to Steel Oats
Mixing and matching spices and toppings can be a great way to spice up your morning oatmeal. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Fresh or Frozen Fruit: Add as much as you want. Bananas, blueberries, and even pumpkin puree are great options.
Dried Fruit: Try cherries, raisins, dates, figs, or cranberries.
Nuts: These are best used after cooking to maintain crunch. Adding before cooking will make the nuts soft but still delicious.
Seasonings and Spice: Try cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla
Sweeteners: Mable syrup, brown sugar, honey, or any other natural sweetener is great
- Oatmeal is rich in fiber
- Oatmeal is low in cholesterol, sodium, and calories
- Oatmeal contains phytochemicals which may help to lower the risk of cancern
- Oatmeal contains Vitamin B which helps the brain and the nervous system to fuction properly
- Oatmeal contains natural fats that are good for skin
- Oatmeal contains Carbohydrates for increased energy
Oatmeal Benefits for Skin
The skin soothing properties of oatmeal have been known since 2000 BC. Today, the FDA describes it as effective for the relief of dryness, inflammation, rashes, and eczema. There are four main reasons why oatmeal is so beneficial for the skin and for certain skin conditions. These are:
1. Oats contain polysaccharides which leaves a fine protective film on the skin to guard against dryness.
2. Oats are full of lubricating and healthy fats that are very moisturizing for the skin
3. The proteins found in oatmeal helps the skin to function as a natural barrier
4. Oats are filled with saponins. These are natural cleansers that gently remove oil and dirt from the pores.
Due to these many benefits, oatmeal can be used in scrubs, masks, lotions, and other skin care products. In addition, oats are great to sooth skin irritations, insect bites, and even helps with acne.
Simple Oatmeal Mask
With all the benefits that oatmeal can bring to the skin, finding ways of incorporating this grain into your healthy skin regimen is essential. Oatmeal can be used for cleansing, absorbing excess oils, and even for exfoliating. Here is a simple oatmeal mask recipe to get you started.
1. In a small pan boil 3/4 cup of water.
2. Mix in a 1/2 cup oatmeal.
3. Reduce heat and allow the oatmeal to simmer for one minute.
4. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of honey. Mix well.
5. Allow mixture to cool. When it is slightly warm apply to the face and smooth it into one even layer. Keep away from eyes.
6. Leave the mask on for 20-30 minutes then wash off with warm water.