Oh, how I loved oatmeal as a child. Back then it was all about the flavors. My favorite was cinnamon with sugary raisins that came in handy pouches and cooked up magically in the bowl when you added hot water. Looking back, it was not particularly healthy - more like over-sweetened junk - but at least it gave me tons of playground energy. Today, I still start a lot of days with oatmeal, especially gym days. Only nowadays I buy the plain rolled oats and add my own extras. Oats are a whole grain packed with nutrients and are a great source of sustained energy minus the blood sugar spike you get from energy drinks and many breakfast cereals.
There are actually multiple types of oatmeals that you can get. For starters, there’s the basic Groats, which sound very unappealing, but the worst things about them is that they can be harder to come by and they take a good while to prepare. Oat groats are the whole grain version that includes the germ and bran of the grain. In England, they historically viewed oats as horse food, but today the English people enjoy porridge made from Rolled Oats, which are groats that have been de-husked, steamed and rolled flat. Rolled oats are also the most common type available in America (they made the Quaker a major breakfast brand mascot). England’s neighbors, Ireland and Scotland, each prefer their own style of oats. Irish Steel Cut Oats are basically groats that have been sliced into pieces, while Scottish Oats are ultimately ground down to tiny bits or even powder. Then there’s Quick Rolled Oats, which are steamed and flattened a bit more extensively so they cook much faster. Instant Rolled Oats are steamed and flattened even more, plus they are dehydrated. Instant oats are hard to find plain and the flavored varieties are typically far less healthy because of sodium, sugar and other additives.
Whether you go for the quick or regular rolled oats, or the more complete steel cut or whole groats, the nutritional values are fairly comparable. Oatmeal is an all natural whole grain that features a wide array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. Oatmeal is low in fat, plentiful in protein, and high in soluble fiber. You may already know that Oatmeal can lower your cholesterol and help prevent heart disease, but did you know it can also lower blood pressure and slow digestion to make you feel fuller longer?
Pure oatmeal is gluten-free, however oats can easily be contaminated just by being processed in plants that also process wheat, barley or rye. There are some brands that promote gluten-free oatmeal so if you have a gluten sensitivity be sure to do some research.
Oatmeal is also a great choice for those with type-2 Diabetes. Oatmeal has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause jumps in blood sugar levels and stabilizes insulin production. At the same time, be aware of the high levels of carbohydrates, which many diabetics need to watch.
Oatmeal is magical. Need some pre-workout energy? Chomp down some oatmeal for a nice dose of complex carbs and protein. Save a little for your post-workout as well, because the carb-protein mix is ideal for recovery. But guess what? Oatmeal is also a great natural source of melatonin, which can help promote drowsiness. Skip the sugar and add some milk, with its vitamin D, and you’ll be asleep before you know it dreaming about the perfect punch combination! Energy provider and sleep aid? Seriously, ain’t that magic?
Oatmeal is pretty easy to make, especially if you go for the quick rolled variety. Personally, I like to fill a bowl about halfway with quick oats, add a spoonful of whey protein, pour in a little whole milk and then add in as much water until I get the consistency I prefer, maybe a splash more so the oatmeal doesn’t become too thick and gummy. Throw the bowl in a microwave and cook for a couple minutes, stir, and then add in the extras. For me, I’ll usually either go for vanilla protein powder with blueberries, which tastes kinda like a blueberry muffin, or I’ll do chocolate protein powder with bananas, which is just awesome. I also like to stir in a quick drip of honey. Then I’ll zap it for another 30 or 40 seconds, sprinkle on some pecan pieces and enjoy.
Oatmeal cookies are superb, but not exactly training fuel. If you want a great post-workout re-fueler try mixing up some rolled oats along with some chocolate protein powder and peanut butter (and maybe some more of those pecan pieces). Use your hands and mush it all up, like you would prepare a meatloaf, and roll into little balls. Wrap the balls in wax paper and stick in the freezer before you head to the gym and when you return you’ll have some tasty protein-carb snacks that will help you recover from your training.
Or, if you love smoothies, toss in some rolled oats next time to give your shake a thicker consistency that is more filling and loaded with goodness. There’s a ton of oatmeal recipes online so do some exploring.
You don’t have to wait until morning to consume your oatmeal. We all know the pleasure of having breakfast for dinner, and oatmeal fits the bill nicely. In fact, oatmeal doesn’t have to be served sweetly, it does nicely as a savory base for an anytime meal. Oatmeal is super versatile and a good choice for those trying to keep their appetite under control. Great recipes are just a Google search away!
Oatmeal is pretty perfect. Far superior to most breakfast cereals, relatively inexpensive, and supremely satisfying. And best of all, they sell it in giant tubs for people like me who eat it all the time!!