by Loran Diehl Saito
January is National Oatmeal Month, an annual celebration of the joys of oatmeal in our world. Oatmeal is a starting place for many terrific recipes, and a hot bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter morning can be both comforting and delicious.
Oatmeal is good for you too. A 2008 study, authored by Dr. James W. Anderson of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, affirmed 1998 research showing that oat consumption lowers total cholesterol levels and reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) without adverse effects on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the “good” cholesterol), or triglyceride concentrations.
The American Dietetic Association adds that the plant substances in oats may also help control blood pressure. They recommend incorporating one serving of oat-based foods—that’s 1 cup of ready-to-eat oat cereal, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, or 1/3 cup of cooked oat bran.
In 2010, a group of researchers at an American Society for Nutrition symposium examined and synthesized research on the health benefits of whole grains, including oatmeal. They concluded that, as a whole grain, oatmeal can potentially prevent coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and contribute to body weight management and gastrointestinal health.
So everything points to oatmeal being a great dietary choice. Are there any drawbacks to eating oatmeal? According to a study published in the January 2011 issue of GUT: An International Journal of Gastroenterologyand Hepatology, some oat varieties can be unsafe for those with celiac disease and with a sensitivity to avenin, the storage protein in oats. A more typical drawback to eating oatmeal, however, is the way many of us prepare it—loaded with high calorie toppings and fats.
Food columnist Mark Bittman pointed out in a New York Times essay last year that oatmeal recently introduced by a fast food chain (a “bowlful of wholesome goodness”) is hardly a healthy menu addition. With 290 calories and “11 weird ingredients that you would never keep in your kitchen,” this sweetened, high-fat oatmeal might be a significantly worse choice than a whole grain muffin or even a breakfast sandwich.
Regarding the potential convenience of fast food oatmeal, Bittman adds “In the time it takes to go in,…stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher…If you don’t want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you’re walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.”
In other words, the best (and cheapest!) oatmeal and other whole grains are made at home, with minimal additions. Dr. Chris Seal of Newcastle University states it beautifully: “When shopping in a supermarket there will be a range of healthy, nutritious whole grain foods; be sure to get them and beware of spurious imitations. After a little time their taste grows on you and reﬁned foods will no longer satisfy you…Whole grains are not a luxury.”
Get acquainted with delicious, nutritious oatmeal during National Oatmeal Month. Try some of our bulk, certified organic rolled oats, steel cut oats, and oat groats. Top them with a drizzle of local maple syrup or honey, a sprinkling of nuts, or a spoonful of local granola, and enjoy!
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm pieces
1 1/2 cups blueberries (try local Farm to Freezer blueberries!) or mixed berries
Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.
Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently agitate the pan to move the milk through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve with maple syrup, if desired.