Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Bowl of oatmeal offers healthy start to day

February 2, 2005


Q: I know that oatmeal is good for you. How can I make hot oatmeal more nutritious?

A: A steaming hot bowl of oatmeal provides a delicious -- and healthy -- start to a day. Eating oats may help protect against high blood cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Here are three ideas to boost the nutrition:

  • Make oatmeal with calcium-rich milk instead of water. Follow the same directions given for water, just use milk instead.
  • Kick up the nutrition up another notch by serving oatmeal with antioxidant-rich berries, either fresh or frozen. Quickly thaw frozen berries and cool the oatmeal at same time by tossing the berries directly into each dish of hot oatmeal.
  • Sprinkle oatmeal with cinnamon for sweetness and possible health benefits. Cinnamon is one of the sweeter spices and adds flavor without calories. With a dusting of cinnamon, a smaller amount or perhaps none at all of caloric sweeteners may be needed. Some research indicates as little as one-fourth teaspoon to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon a day may help lower blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. It also may improve insulin function, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. Large doses, however, could be harmful. If you're under treatment for high blood sugar, check with your health-care provider before self-treating yourself with cinnamon as it could affect the level of medications you need.

Q: What's the difference between old-fashioned oats, quick oats, instant oatmeal and steel-cut oats?

A: Old-fashioned oats, quick oats, instant oatmeal, and steel-cut oats, are all whole-grain oat products because all three parts of the grain remain after milling. Each of them provides the same nutrients in the same amounts. The only difference is how the grain is cut, steamed and rolled -- and this only affects cooking time and texture of the cooked oatmeal.

Choose your oatmeal based on the time you have to prepare it and the texture you prefer.

  • Steel-cut oats: whole oat groats sliced into thin pieces; cook in about 20 minutes with a chewy, coarse texture.
  • Rolled oats (old-fashioned): whole oat groats that are rolled to flatten them; cook in about five minutes.
  • Quick oats: rolled oats cut into smaller pieces; cook in about one minute.
  • Instant oats: whole oat groats that are rolled thinner and cut finer; pre-cooked, just add boiling water or heat in microwave for about 90 seconds.

Q: Are the flavored oatmeals as nutritious?

A: The flavored instant oatmeal products have added calories, sodium, and sugars to an otherwise healthy oat. One-half cup of quick oats has 150 calories, no sodium, and one gram of sugar. Compare that to a packet of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar, which has 160 calories, 270 milligrams of sodium, and 13 grams of sugars. You're better off adding your own toppings.

Q: What can I make with oatmeal besides hot cereal and cookies?

A: The Quaker Oats Web site at has an abundance of oatmeal recipes. Here are three recipes using oatmeal and one using oat bran cereal that you may also find appealing.

Swiss oatmeal

1 red apple, cored and coarsely chopped

1 yellow apple, cored and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

2 tablespoons raisins

Into a large bowl, combine apples and apple cider. Toss the apples to moisten. Stir in the oats and honey. Add yogurt, almonds, and raisins. Stir to mix well. May be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Yield: 6 servings

Oatmeal soup

1 1/2 cups regular oatmeal (not quick-cooking or instant)

4 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Toast the raw oatmeal in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is browned but not burned (about 10 minutes). Set aside. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan, add the onions and saute until softened, adding the garlic for the last two minutes. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, and toasted oatmeal. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook

Apple crunch snack mix

5 cups oat bran cereal squares

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/3 cup margarine, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup coarsely cut dried apples

1/2 cup raisins

Combine cereal and nuts in baking pan. Pour melted margarine over cereal mixture while stirring. Stir together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over cereal mixture, stirring to coat evenly. Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes. Gently stir every 15 minutes. Stir in apples and raisins. Be sure to cool before storing in container with tight lid.

Yield: 12 servings

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