Oatmeal: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

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In a word association game, if you said OATMEAL, you’d probably hear the response QUAKER, and the other players would probably have a mental image of that powder-wigged guy on the drum-shaped box.

For centuries, oatmeal has been one of America’s favorite breakfast staples and friend to raisins and cinnamon alike, if for no other reason than that oatmeal, especially when partnered with brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, or fresh fruit, tastes pretty darn good. It’s probably why you have some oatmeal in your cupboard right now.

But oatmeal is SO much more.

Today, besides their taste, oats are hailed for two other redeeming qualities no one ever thought about years ago.

Oats are appreciated both for what they have a WHOLE lot and for what they have very little of.

What oats have an abundance of is fiber (and a particular type of fiber to boot, which is called beta-glucans). In fact, oats have more soluble fiber than any other grain going. As little as 3 grams of oats per day (which is less than a half cup of oatmeal) is all you need to give you improved digestion and help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Oats can even help reduce the risk of heart disease!

What oatmeal has very little of is the protein (gluten) that’s found in wheat.

Oat’s major protein is avenalin, not gluten as found in wheat. As a result, many people who can’t tolerate wheat-based products can, in fact, enjoy oats. Of course, everyone should consult with his or her doctor for specific recommendations.

Avenalin protein is nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which World Health Organization research has shown as equal to meat, milk, and egg protein. That’s good stuff.

Today, besides the beloved bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast or an oatmeal cookie for a snack, oats are in a lot of other great things like breads, scones, cakes, and even beverages like beer. It’s even in a new beverage called Sneaky Pete’s.

Beverages?

Actually, yes! Soluble oat fiber (tasteless but oh so good for you) is finding its way into lots of good things nowadays. Sneaky Pete’s, a fruit-flavored beverage is just one of them. At only 40 calories per 12-ounce bottle and full of fiber and great flavor, it’s a sneaky way of introducing the goodness of oats into your diet.

Oats have historically been in other beverages too. The most famous is beer, but oats have also been used as thickeners (think of tapioca, barley, or rice) and even in medicinal goods and cosmetics.

Oats are pretty versatile, I’d say.

This past year, I had the opportunity to share with Fox 2 Detroit a recipe for Strawberry Oatmeal Bars, just one of the many delicious and nutritious things you can make with oatmeal. It’s a very simple recipe.

Everyone is getting into the “oatmeal act,” including, as you might imagine, health magazines and diet cookbooks.

The SparkPeople folks, who also author a dailySPARK healthy lifestyle blog, and of course, the SparkPeople Cookbook, have lots of good recipes for oatmeal. Below is one I think you might enjoy.

Oatmeal Creme Brulee

Submitted by: ELAINEHN to the dailySPARK

Number of Servings: 8

Ingredients:

2 1/4 Cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats (dry)
1/3 Cup Splenda
1/4 tsp Salt (optional)
3 1/3 Cup Skim or 1% milk
2 Eggs or equivalent amount of egg substitute
2 tsp Vanilla extract
To Taste Cinnamon (optional)
1 TBSP Brown sugar (more or less to taste)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray 8” X 11” dish with cooking spray.
3. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl.
4. Add oats, Splenda, and salt. Mix well. (Add cinnamon to taste, if you wish.)
5. Pour into baking dish. Spread oats if needed.
6. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until center is jiggly but not runny. Edges should be lightly browned and may pull away from dish slightly.
7. Remove from oven.
8. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the top.
9. Return to oven and bake till sugar is melted.
10. Turn oven to broil and heat until sugar bubbles and browns slightly (about 1 to 2 minutes).
11. Allow to cool slightly. Cut into 8 servings.

You can use more brown sugar on top if you want a sweeter dish or a more solid crust like with typical creme brulee. For a more filling breakfast, serve with cut-up fruit, berries, Cool Whip Free, or fat-free yogurt.

What is your favorite oatmeal recipe? Share in the comments below!