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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well


Bowl of oatsChoose oatmeal as a whole-grain healthy choice

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension


Although most of us know we are supposed to eat more whole grains, it can be difficult to know what foods have 100 percent whole grain.


Oatmeal is a whole grain because it contains all of the parts of the oat grain including the bran, endosperm and germ. The interesting thing is that when we eat the regular oatmeal most of us grew up with, we aren’t eating the grain in its original form. We are usually eating rolled oats. Rolled oats have been steamed and flattened. That process decreases the cooking time so old-fashioned oatmeal can be prepared in 10 to 25 minutes. Quick-cooking oats that can be prepared in 3 to 5 minutes have been cut even more finely to reduce cooking time.


Some people prefer steel-cut oats. The primary difference between steel cut oats and rolled oats is the shape of the grain. Steel-cut oats are not flattened — the grain is cut into thirds and then packaged for sale. When preparing steel-cut oats, it’s best to use 4 cups of water to each cup of oats. The cooking time for steel-cut oats is 30 to 40 minutes. Steel-cut oats have a chewy texture and hearty flavor.


A popular product in many households is instant oatmeal. The oat grain is partially cooked, dried and then rolled very thin so that the cereal can be prepared quickly. If you read the label of many instant oatmeal packages, you will find that they have nutrients that old-fashioned and steel-cut oats don’t have. These nutrients have been added. A disadvantage of some instant oatmeal is that a significant amount of sugar has been added. Look for packages of instant oatmeal that contain less than 7 grams of added sugar per packet.


All oatmeal is a good source of fiber, magnesium and thiamine. It also contains phosphorus, potassium, iron and copper. Oatmeal carries a health claim on the food label because of the fiber content. The health claim is that oatmeal — along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol — may reduce the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, which acts as a sponge in the digestive tract to help remove cholesterol from the body.


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Last update: Wednesday, January 21, 2015