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What's So Great About Oatmeal?

Bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and Greek yogurtTwo superfoods have been in the spotlight this year for their fantastic nutrient power: avocados and oatmeal. This month, I'll feature the warmly nurturing and nutritious oatmeal that's been known to lower bad cholesterol levels and even help folks lose weight.

But first a confession: I don't like oatmeal. When I first moved to the Midwest, I was amazed (and puzzled) by the vast number of oatmeal eaters. As a southerner, my preferred morning gruel is grits, but as my research on the health benefits of oatmeal deepens, I'm inclined to give this oatmeal thing another try. Research shows it's definitely worth it!

Oatmeal's mega force is its fiber content
Oats contain two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble, and both are great for our health. 

Soluble fiber absorbs and dissolves in water, and as it does, it thickens up.  Imagine what this does to our stomach. Once it hits that moist environment, it expands and becomes very filling.  This is why oatmeal has been reputed to help aid with weight loss.  As it thickens up, it also becomes sticky. Think about oatmeal and how naturally gooey and sticky it becomes when you cook it.  This stickiness helps latch on to cholesterol that's floating in our guts and carries it through our digestive system and into the toilet thus aiding in lowering our cholesterol and helping to prevent heart disease. The stickiness of soluble fiber also sticks to our intestinal lining creating a protective layer that helps block or slow the absorption of sugar in our bodies, and this helps to lower our blood sugar.

Oatmeal also has insoluble fiber which does not dissolve in water, but it will absorb it and bulk up and kind of acts like a scrub brush for your gut. This aids in digestion and helps rid the intestines of toxins that can fester in our bodies and deplete our immune system.

Bodies need BOTH types of fiber, and the fact that oatmeal has both is one reason it's considered a superfood. Also, it's cheap!  One container of oatmeal is only a couple of dollars and can last up to two years in your pantry past its printed "best by" date on the package.

Choose the right oatmeal
But keep in mind, not all oatmeals are created equal. The instant varieties may often have added sugars or preservatives that can lower its nutrient content. Instead, choose the rolled or steel-cut oats, and always check the ingredients listing to know what you're really eating. Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of staying hydrated when digesting fiber. Remember, oatmeal contains both soluble and insoluble fibers, and both fibers absorb water, so you'll want to keep the water flowing to help your body process this superfood.

Finally, another great thing about oatmeal is that most, depending on where they're processed, are gluten free. For those who are sensitive to gluten products, like me, finding whole grains can be a challenge, but oats are a great source of grain power.

So... it looks like oatmeal is worth a try after all. Maybe one of my New Year's resolutions will be to develop a taste for oatmeal. We shall see....

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