Kathy Hamlin

Kathy Hamlin

During February, we celebrate Valentine’s Day and are reminded to decrease our risk of heart disease and stroke as it is also National Heart Health Awareness month.

We can be heart-healthy by consuming foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. Consuming more fiber has gained attention due to fiber’s role in helping to reduce cholesterol. Oats are a food that is high in fiber and low in fat and cholesterol.

From the steel-cut oats craze to the overnight oats trend, oatmeal continues to find a way to our breakfast tables. And it is a good thing, too. As a dietitian, oatmeal holds a special place in my heart. Here are just a few reasons why:

Lowers cholesterol. One bowl of old-fashioned oats provides 2 grams of soluble fiber. This type of fiber can help lower low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol by binding to cholesterol and transporting it out of the body before it is absorbed. Research has shown that eating just 5 to 10 grams per day may decrease LDL cholesterol by 5 percent.

Good for the gut. In addition to soluble fiber, oatmeal also contains another type of fiber called insoluble fiber, the kind that helps keep things moving through the digestive tract. This is also the kind of fiber that can help you feel full. Experts recommend eating at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, so the 4 grams you get from a serving of oats helps put a dent in your daily intake. Tip: Add 1/2 cup of raspberries for an extra 4 grams of fiber.

Sustained energy. Oats contain complex carbohydrates that absorb more slowly than refined carbohydrates. This prevents a spike in blood sugar and provides a sustained release of energy. One serving of oatmeal will go a long way in getting you through the morning without hunger pains.

Good protein source. One serving of old-fashioned oats provides 5 grams of protein to start your day. Replacing high-fat proteins with lean or plant-based proteins, such as those found in whole grains, may help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

So many possibilities. Oats are great for baking and adding a nutty, lightly toasted, somewhat malty flavor to breads, cookies and bars. But when it comes to a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning, the mix-ins and flavor combos are endless, making it easy to eat regularly without getting bored. If you like your oatmeal a little on the sweet side, but want to cut down on added sugar, replace some of the sugar, honey or other sweetener with ripe bananas with this recipe.

Kathy Hamlin is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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