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Oats Demystified!

Posted May 01 2010 6:58pm

When you go into any supermarket or grocery store, you are bound to see many types of oatmeal on the shelves. All oatmeal is not created equal, therefore it is important to know the different types of oatmeal that are available as well as to read (and understand) your labels!

Oatmeal is chock full of soluble fiber and can be instrumental in helping one (along with a diet low in saturated fat) lower their cholesterol and reduce their risk of heart disease.

Beta-glucan, is the type of soluble fiber in oatmeal that is responsible for it's cholesterol-lowering properties. Oats also contain an antioxidant called avenanthramides which has been found to protect blood vessels from the damaging effect of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine shows that oats may assist in lowering high blood pressure, prevent type-2 diabetes, and lower blood sugar levels in those who have diabetes. Oats may also have anti-inflammatory benefits and can assist in weight control. In one cup of cooked oatmeal, there are approximately 4.8 grams of protein.

Oatmeal is classified as a whole grain. This means that it has all the parts of the grain: bran, endosperm, and germ. While oats do not contain gluten, many oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat. As a result, they cannot be labeled as gluten-free. In some cases, oats are processed in a wheat-free facility and therefore will be labeled gluten-free.

Rolled Oats: oat kernels that are steamed and rolled to flatten them into flakes. This will decrease cooking time to about 5 - 10 minutes. Also called "old-fashioned" oats or flaked oats.

Steel-Cut Oats: oat kernels cut into thirds instead of rolled. Cooking time is approximately 30 minutes. Texture is heartier and chewier. Also called "Irish" or "coarse-cut", "pinhead", or "Scotch".

Quick Cooking and Instant Oats: These start out as steel-cut, but instead are rolled into a thin texture in order to cook faster (3-5 minutes). Generally, instant oats contain sugar and flavorings. If you are pressed for time and need to choose a quick-cooking oatmeal, look for one with lower sugar per serving and one that is fortified with B vitamins and iron. Some may even be enriched with calcium.

**Some quick-cooking and "instant oats" are so processed in order to cook quicker that they are not considered soluble fiber. Once again, read your labels.....

Oat Bran: Outer layer of the oat kernel. Usually added to cereal products in order to increase the fiber content.

TIPS:

Use longer cooking (and less processed oatmeal) and cook it in large batches. Pre-portion and freeze for use throughout the week.

Prepare it using low or non-fat milk for a creamier texture and added calcium.

Add dried fruit (cranberries), slivered almonds, or fresh fruit for added texture and nutrition. When using dried fruit and nuts, watch your portion to not overdo it with added calories.
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