Oatmeal is one of my favourite and easy go-to heart healthy breakfast choices.
Many think oatmeal is boring and plain, but really it doesn't have to be!
Oatmeal is like a blank and neutral canvas that you can customize and craft to make it your very own masterpiece.
Keep on reading to find out why oats are so great for the heart, what kinds of oats to choose and how to customize your oatmeal to your own personal liking.
WHY CHOOSE OATS?
What about oatmeal makes it so heart healthy?
Number one reason is because of its high fibre content. Oats have a whopping 8 g of fibre per 1/2 cup portion of steel-cut oats (1). Women need 25 g of fibre per day, and men need 38 g of fibre per day. That means that having 1/2 cup of oats allows you to already meet about 20-30% of your fibre needs in a day. If you also add other toppings high in fibre (read below sections), you can easily bring that percentage to 50% or more.
Oats are especially high in a specific type of fibre called soluble fibre, specifically beta-glucan. High quality research has shown that consuming beta-glucan from oats regularly helps to significantly lower LDL-cholesterol, also known as "bad" cholesterol (2). Fibre is also great for keeping you full throughout the day, stabilizing blood sugars, promoting healthy digestion and increasing the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
WHAT KIND OF OATS DO I CHOOSE?
Instant oats? Quick oats? Rolled old-fashioned oats? Steel-cut oats? Which one do I choose?
It can be overwhelming with so many different kinds of oats to choose from in the market. The difference among the kinds lies in how processed the oats are. The least processed version of oats is steel-cut oats, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, the most heavily processed version is instant oats. Often times, instant oats also have additional flavourings added as well.
With more heavily processed foods, what we end up losing is the nutritional value of the food. With oats in particular, we lose that beneficial fibre and protein content. Although steel-cut oats do take longer to cook on the stove (20-30 minutes), they are the least processed version and would be the best choice in terms of cholesterol-lowering and gut-loving fibre content.
If you are baking or making overnight oats, rolled old-fashioned oats are a great option as well.
UPGRADING YOUR OATMEAL
Don't skip out on the protein
Oatmeal although has some protein in it already, it is often not enough to make it a full and balanced meal. Adding additional protein to the oatmeal helps give your body the energy it needs throughout the day to keep it going. It also stabilizes your blood sugars, helping to prevent those mid-afternoon crashes. It is important to choose kinds of protein that you personally like. Some examples include, 2 tablespoons of nut butter, 1/4 cup of unsalted nuts or 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt. Feel free to mix different kinds.
Adding toppings like 1-2 tablespoons of chia, ground flax or hemp seeds help to add good protein as well, plus additional healthy fats and that beneficial fibre. For example, 2 tbsp of chia seeds provide about 10 g of fibre and 5 g of protein. If you add this with your 1/2 cup of steel-cut oats, you can easily meet up to about 50-70% of your daily fibre needs in just one meal!
If you do not like to have protein mixed in with your oatmeal, feel free to have a protein of your choice on the side.
Add your favourite fruit Fruit is a fantastic oatmeal topper, because it adds even more beneficial fibre and contains important vitamin and minerals. It also adds a natural sweetness factor.
Choose your favourite kinds of fruit to add. Check out what is currently in season. Always choose the same fruits or switch it up to keep it exciting. Frozen or fresh are both great options.
Similar to the note above, if you do not like fruit mixed in with your oatmeal, feel free to have it on the side or later in the day as part of a snack or with another meal.
Add additional flavour factors
This is where you can get really creative because with a blank canvas, the world is your oyster. Remember, this step is optional because if you are satisfied with just the oatmeal itself without additional flavours that is totally fine. I personally love the taste of plain oatmeal. Some examples of flavourings you could add include cinnamon, vanilla extract, matcha powder, cacao powder and more. Feel free to also add honey, brown sugar or sweetener of your choice in moderate amounts. The options are endless. You can even go savoury with your oatmeal!
Use these tips and the recipe below to help make your personal favourite version of oatmeal!
STOVE-TOP OATMEAL RECIPE
Base Ingredients 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup milk (or more if you prefer the oats runnier)
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 or 1 banana
1/4 cup unsalted toasted walnuts
1-2 tbsp chia seeds or ground flax seeds
*Choose your own favourite toppings. Add your favourite protein. Feel free to also add a flavour factor that you personally love.
Yield: 1 serving
Add all base ingredients into pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes until desired texture reached. Stir occasionally to prevent the oats from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
Transfer oats to a bowl, add your favourite toppings and enjoy!
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