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The Power of Oats

Whole Grains MyPlate posterWinter sets the stage for the yearning of warm, filling foods.  Ones that will not only keep you satisfied, but also provide a nutrient-packed punch.  What better way to start your winter morning than with a warm bowl of oatmeal?  January is National Oatmeal Month and is the perfect time to start to add this super grain to your eating repertoire.

Per the health claim, regularly consuming 3 grams of oat soluble fiber in addition to a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.  The soluble fiber found in oatmeal acts like a sponge in the body to absorb the cholesterol and carry it out of the body, thus reducing one’s cholesterol level and risk for heart disease.

In addition to its cholesterol lowering ability, oatmeal earns another gold star of being a whole grain, which means it contains all three grain components—the bran, endosperm and germ.  When all three grain components are present, you receive the maximum health benefits of the grain.  Below is a breakdown of each grain component (cited from

  • Bran. The bran consists of the coarse outer layers of the kernel. It contains the greatest amount of fiber and is a rich source of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Endosperm. The endosperm is the largest section and the middle layer of the kernel. It is the main energy source of the plant.
  • Germ. The germ is the embryo of the plant in its early stages. It is the heart of the grain and the smallest part of the kernel, but it is loaded with nutrients.

Whole grains are essential in a well-balanced, healthful diet.  Fiber set aside, whole grains also provide one with essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, magnesium, selenium, thiamin and riboflavin.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend adults to make at least half your grains whole and suggest choosing such foods as 100% whole grain cereals.  Oatmeal is 100% whole grain and can help meet this suggestion.

As I stated earlier, oatmeal is a satisfying way to start your day. You can boost the health benefits of your bowl of oats by trying some of these tips.

  • Substitute milk for the water
  • Top with chia seeds or ground flax meal
  • Top with dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins
  • Top with nuts, like walnuts or almonds
  • Dollop nut butter of choice (peanut, almond, sunflower) on top
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg

Running low on time in the morning? Make a large pot of oatmeal on Sunday to last the week or combine ingredients the night before and zap in the microwave in the morning to warm.  Or even consider having oatmeal for dinner.  Get creative to ensure that you can work in this nutrient-packed food into your diet to reap its health benefits.

To learn more about oatmeal and its health benefits, visit

Christine M. Cliff, MPH, RD LDN

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