|Oats | kateshortforbob | Wikimedia Commons|
Bob wrote in and asked “I have heard that not all oatmeal has the same nutritional value, and I'm confused. There are so many types of oatmeal, steel-cut, instant, etc, etc. What is the most nutritious type?“
This comes up a lot. We're told that oats are really good for us, they are, and that we should eat more of them for reducing cholesterol, to help reduce cardiovascular disease and to stabilize blood sugar. Oats are a wonderful food. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is easily digested and helps the body by slowing down how quickly it can process simple starches and sugars. Soluble fiber also breaks down within the digestive tract, binding with cholesterol and thereby escorting it out of the body. Insoluble fiber cannot be digested and helps to create bulkier stools which move through the system more quickly. They also help mitigate certain bile acids.
More than just fiber, oats also provide manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, and magnesium. They even provide a modest amount of protein (6 g per cup).
Quick or instant oatmeal is not as good a choice since it is broken down; your body can get through it too quickly. It's also it's more highly processed and the more processed a food is is the less nutritious it typically is. Oat groats and steel cut oats are generally considered to be the best. The groats are the whole grain, containing all of the fiber, bran and the beneficial germ. Old fashioned or rolled oats are also very good although they don't have all of the bran since some of that is removed during the rolling, or flaking, process. I keep all three, oat groats, steel cut oats, and thick rolled oats, in my pantry all the time. They're very versatile and are great for a wide range of recipes.
One cup of oats per day is considered to be very beneficial, especially if you have high cholesterol or are looking for foods to help stabilize blood sugar. Making it with milk will add more protein and some calcium. Adding fresh ground flax seeds, about one tablespoon, will further increase the fiber content and add a healthy omega 3 boost. Adding fresh berries, my favorite is blueberries is great, a dash of cinnamon on top and you've got a really great meal to get you going in the morning.