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Benefits of Whole Grain Oats -- Thinking Beyond The Cereal Bowl

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:46pm

Even if you are only occasionally turning your television on you’ve probably seen those widely popular commercials for Cheerios that challenges the viewer to eat two 1 ½ cup servings of Cheerios every day for 6 weeks to effectively reduce bad cholesterol by up to 4%. While the 4% drop is impressive, speaking personally, I’m not sure I could consume two bowls of Chunky Monkey every day for six weeks straight without losing my mind and rendering my taste buds useless -- then my cholesterol would be the least of my problems. However, this challenge does demonstrate the dietary value of Cheerios’ key ingredient -- whole grain oats -- and the importance of getting more of this good stuff into our diets daily.

So here at The Educated Plate, I’m setting up my own challenge. Challenging you and me to find great-tasting and super easy ways to incorporate healthy oats into our diets without feeling like our only solution can be found at the bottom of a cereal bowl.

But first…

Whole Grain Goodness
In general, oats are not tinkered with very much during normal processing, which means when you see the word “oats” on the product label you are almost always guaranteed to be getting the benefits of whole grains.

It’s All In The Fiber
Because oats are a great source of soluble fiber, eating oats can:

  • Protect against heart disease

  • Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol

  • Protect against certain cancers, such as colon, breast and prostate cancers

  • Keeps the digestive system healthy and running smoothly

  • Stabilizes blood sugar in diabetics

Naturally Antidepressant
Some believe that eating oats will make “you feel calmer and are normally used to treat depression, anxiety and nervous disorders.”

How To Get More Oats In Our Diets
There are plenty of ways to include oats in our diets – Cheerios Challenge, anyone? The first recipe I’m going to share with you this week is one I make every week for my family – Granola.

You will not believe how easy this recipe is to make and how versatile it is to use. We put our granola in mainly yogurt with fruit for a healthy breakfast or after school snack. You can also mix it in with your other cereal, use it as a fruit cocktail topper and sometimes we sprinkle it on fruit crisp, baked apples or even pudding or ice cream.

What I particularly love about this recipe is that unlike many store bought granola and a couple of homemade ones I’ve tried in the past, this recipe does not have any added oil, limiting the fat to the heart-healthy kind found in nuts.

Use this recipe as your canvas – mix in whatever nuts and dried fruits your family prefers – a handful of mini chocolate chips after baking always perks my kids up too.

The Educated Plate’s Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped nuts (choose from walnuts, almonds, pecans or a mix of all three)
½ cup unsalted, shelled pumpkin or sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 T molasses
¼ t salt
½ ground cinnamon
½ diced dried fruit or raisins*

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Spray a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2. Combine oats, nuts & seeds, salt, maple syrup, molasses, cinnamon in medium sized bowl. Stir well to coat.
3. Spread oat mixture on sheet and bake 15 minutes.
4. Mix in dried fruit or raisins. Give granola a good stir and bake another 15 minutes or until granola is golden brown.
5. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks – It never lasts that long in my house!

*Note: Since I make this recipe every week I try to change up the flavor by adding different dried fruits like dried cranberries, diced apricots, dried apples, dried cherries, etc.

**New Note: In my original post I forgot to include 1/4c flaxseed meal. I like to mix flaxseed in with the other ingredients in Step 2. Flaxseed is a great source of fiber and Omega-3. I usually buy Bob's Red Mill Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal in the health food section of my food store.

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