Food

Why Oats Are A Miracle Cereal And Easy Ways To Hack Them Into Your Diet

Disha Bathija
If you are even slightly diet and health conscious, you have already heard a lot about the miracle cereal called oats and its ten thousand benefits. So much so, that it's gotten a little confusing and you're left wondering if it's just another health food fad? Actually it is not. Oats are an extremely healthy breakfast cereal and hands down a much better option than the ready to eat, sugar laden cereals that are passed off as nutritious but are really nothing but empty calories.

So what makes oats so special? Here's a low-down on all things oats-

· Oatmeal and oat bran are significant sources of dietary fiber. This fiber contains a mixture of about half soluble and half insoluble fibers. One component of the soluble fibre found in oats is beta-glucans, a soluble fiber which has proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol.

· Oats are also a source of many otherwise sparsely available yet very important minerals- manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Oats are also a good source of essential vitamins such as thiamin, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid and vitamin E.


· Eating oats can spread the rise in blood sugars over a longer time period. Control of blood glucose and insulin levels is essential in preventing many of the complications associated with diabetes.

· A diet that includes oatmeal helps reduce high blood pressure. The reduction is linked to the increase in soluble fiber provided by oatmeal. Oats contain more soluble fiber than whole wheat, rice or corn.

A high fiber diet (mainly from whole grains and cereals like oats) is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. For every additional 10g of fiber in someone's diet there is a 10% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer.

· Also, antioxidant compounds unique to oats, help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Oats, like other grains and vegetables, contain hundreds of phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Many phytochemicals are thought to reduce a person's risk of getting cancer. Phytoestrogen compounds in oats have been linked to decreased risk of hormone-related diseases such as breast cancer.

· The soluble fiber in oatmeal absorbs a considerable amount of water which significantly slows down your digestive process. This result is that you'll feel full longer, i.e. oatmeal can help you control your weight.

· Adding oats to a gluten-free diet may enhance the nutritional values of the diets, particularly for vitamins and minerals, as well as increasing antioxidant levels.

Buying oats-
When you are buying oats, make sure to buy either steel cut oats or rolled oats. Steel cut oats, also called Irish or Scotch oats these are cut, not rolled. They look like chopped up rice, take the longest to cook, and have a slightly chewy consistency.

Rolled oats these look like flat little ovals. When processing these oats, the kernels are steamed first, and then rolled to flatten them. They take longer to cook than quick oats, but are quicker than steel cut oats.

However the third variety, instant oats are least in nutrional value, even though they cook quick and easy.

The food label on your package of oats should list one ingredient: whole grain oats. Avoid pre-packaged oatmeal that may be high in both sodium and sugar and lower in beneficial fiber.

Preparing oats-
To make breakfast oatmeal you need:
1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick oats)
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water

Directions:
Combine oats, milk and water in a medium pan. Turn the stove on medium to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until oatmeal reaches desired thickness. Spoon oatmeal into a bowl and add toppings.

A few other ways you can add oatmeal to your diet-

Add oatmeal to your soup: adding oatmeal makes everything from tomato soup to corn chowder creamier and heartier; it also helps you get by with eating less.

Oatmeal cutlets: Roll oatmeal into a golf-ball sized sphere, dip in bread crumbs or sesame seeds and pan fry in an inch of heart-healthy olive oil. You can even add a bit of Parmesan or fresh herbs to the oatmeal to ramp up the flavour.

Oatmeal smoothie: You can go on to add apple, banana, pear, roasted walnut or almonds to 2 cups milk/yoghurt and ½ cup oats to make a delicious smoothie, anytime during the day to give your body a healthy punch.

Oats pancakes: Mix 1 egg and 1 egg white with milk, 1 pack of instant oatmeal and little sugar. Cook in a pan in the shape of pan cakes and enjoy.

Mix together oats, natural yogurt and a grated apple with a pinch of cinnamon and leave to meld overnight in the fridge. The oats will soften perfectly and breakfast is ready in an instant in the morning (just remove from the fridge and drizzle with honey).

A note on oat bran-
Oat bran is the outer husk of the oat grain. The bran of grain is normally discarded during the milling process, which is unfortunate, since it contains the bulk of the dietary fiber of the grain, along with a large amount of useful minerals.

Technically, oat bran is not a whole grain (since it's actually only one part of the oat grain). But because of its exceptionally high fiber content, it can be considered a whole grain. A bowl of oat bran contains about 50% more fiber than the same size bowl of oatmeal, making it more effective at lowering cholesterol and in its weight loss properties.

Oat bran can be cooked as a hot cereal by mixing 1 part oat bran to two parts water and cooking it the same as you would cook oatmeal. Or add a tablespoon or two to your yogurt, cottage cheese or a smoothie, add it to an omelette, sprinkle it on salad, mix it in a soup or stew or make flourless muffins and pancakes with it.

The easiest way to include oat bran in your diet is to reduce or eliminate other grains in the diet, especially wheat, and put oat bran in their place.
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