Great Reasons to Eat More Oats

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oatsA steaming hot bowl of oatmeal is THE ultimate cold weather food. And not only are oats comforting, they are also very good for you. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, thiamine, immune-boosting zinc and magnesium. And although they are typically a breakfast food, read on for an oat recipe that would be great at lunch or dinner!

One of the main benefits of oatmeal is that it is heart healthy! One study found that beta glucan, a soluble fiber found in oats, can help lower blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (this is the bad one), both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Eating high-fiber foods like oats slows down rates of digestion and rises in blood sugar, and may also help reduce the risk of type II diabetes.

When it comes to oats, which ones should you use? What are steel cut oats? What are oat groats? What are rolled oats? The type of oats reflects how much processing they have had, with the more processed usually requiring the least amount of cooking time. Here are some types of oats, ranging from the least processed to most processed.

Oat groats

This is the entire oat kernel minus the husk. Oat groats are the basis of every other oat product. An oat groat takes a little longer to prepare, but it is very versatile. It can be a chewy hot cereal or turned into a delicious salad (see below).

Steel cut oats

Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. They take longer to cook than a rolled oat, but have a wonderful chewiness  and in my opinion make the most whole and delicious oatmeal.  Soaking steel cut oats overnight will shorten the cooking time by about half.

Quick-cooking steel cut oats

These are steel cut oats that have had some pieces rolled flat. They are a hybrid between rolled oats and steel cut oats, giving them the chewiness of steel cut oats, while cooking a bit more quickly than traditional steel cut oats.

Rolled oats

Rolled oats are whole oat groats that have been steamed and flattened (or rolled) to varying thicknesses. They are the quickest to prepare.

Whether you go with a hot bowl of oatmeal, the oat and potato salad recipe below, or some other delicious oat recipe, incorporating more oats into your diet is a healthy thing to do.

Oat and Sweet Potato Salad

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil, divided
1 cup oat groats
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 -12 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup cranberries
½ cup diced feta cheese
3 tsp fresh thyme
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tsp honey
¼ tsp  black pepper
¼ tsp  red chili flakes

Heat 2 tsp grapeseed oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add whole oats and cook, stirring often, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add remaining grapeseed oil and onion; cook for 3 minutes more, stirring often. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 35 minutes, or until whole oats are tender but still chewy. Drain any excess liquid and let cool.

While oats cook, steam sweet potato until tender. You can do this in an Instant Pot or microwave, but I use the stove method, as follows. Place washed sweet potatoes into a steamer basket. Fill the pan with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and let the sweet potato steam for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size. When you can you pierce the skin easily with a fork, it is done.

In a dry frying pan over medium heat, toast hazelnuts, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss together oats, sweet potato, carrots, kale, black beans, cranberries, feta and thyme.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, pepper and chili flakes. Toss the dressing with the oat mixture. Serve garnished with hazelnuts and enjoy!

To make this vegan, substitute feta with vegan feta, and honey with maple syrup.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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