Oats overflowing with benefits
By Sharon Thompson
Knight Ridder News Service
By Sharon Thompson
The "fad" diet of the year doesn't have a snazzy name. It's simple: Get active and eat better.
Adding more nutrient-dense foods to our diet is strongly recommended by nutritionists, and one of the super foods we should be eating more of is oatmeal.
For years, Dr. James Anderson, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, has studied the ability of oats to lower serum cholesterol, and other studies continue to tout its health benefits.
"Oats are overflowing with health benefits," registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Patti Geil said. "In addition to lowering blood lipids, particularly the LDL ("bad") cholesterol, oats slow the rise of blood glucose after eating, which is important for diabetes control.
"There is also evidence that because oats improve satiety — they keep you feeling full — they are helpful in a weight-loss plan. Fiber sources, including oats, can significantly aid in reducing blood pressure and/or prevent the onset of hypertension."
Geil said the secret ingredient in oats is beta-glucan, a soluble fiber, and that experts recommend 3 grams of beta-glucan daily for maximum health benefits. This is the amount in 1 1/2 cups of cooked oats or 1/4 cup of uncooked oatmeal that can be used in other recipes, such as meat loaf or soups.
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains as part of a healthy diet. Oatmeal is the only whole-grain food recognized by the FDA to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Anderson's research says 1/3 cup of dry oat bran contains 4 grams of fiber, and 1/3 cup of dry oatmeal has 2.7 grams.
There are many ways to add oats to your diet, other than eating a bowl of oatmeal. Quick or old-fashioned oats can be substituted for as much as one-third of the flour called for in recipes for muffins, biscuits, pancakes, loaf-type quick breads, coffee cakes, yeast breads, cookies and bars.
Jackie Scott and Diane Scott Kellum of Lexington, Ky., developed a diet plan called Eucalorics, and this recipe for fruit-and-nut granola is a snack Kellum makes for her clients. Portion control is one of the key elements in their book, "Calorie Queens: Living Thin in a Fat World."
DIANE'S FRUIT AND NUT GRANOLA
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place oats in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Toast the oats for 12 minutes. Add pecans and almonds, and toast 4 minutes more. Add the coconut, and toast for 4 minutes more.
In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla and salt. Add toasted oatmeal mixture, stirring to evenly coat the granola.
Spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray, then top with granola. Evenly spread the granola out on the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Remove the granola from the pan, and stir in the fruit. Cool completely before serving.
Makes 20 1/2-cup servings.
In too much of a hurry to make oatmeal for breakfast? Here's how to cook it overnight in the slow cooker.
Before bedtime, put a cup of steel-cut oats into the slow cooker with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice, plus 1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit. Cover the cooker, and put it on low to cook overnight. In the morning, give the oatmeal a quick stir, and add milk and maple syrup.
Source: "How to Break an Egg"
CINNAMON OAT CRUNCH TOPPING
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until moistened. Spread on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until dry. Watch closely during the last 2 minutes and remove from the oven, if needed, to prevent overbrowning. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.
Source: "Cooking Up Fun for Kids with Diabetes" by Patti Geil and Tami Ross
Mix 1/2 cup oats with 1/4 cup whole-grain flour and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup brown-sugar substitute. Mix well. Cut in about 4 1/2 tablespoons low-calorie margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slice 5 Granny Smith apples into thin slices. Toss the apples with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Place the apples in a casserole dish, and top with the oat mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until apples are tender and topping is crisp.
Source: American Diabetes Association
CHOCOLATE-CHUNK OATMEAL COOKIES WITH DRIED CHERRIES
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (12-by-18-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, cherries and chocolate.
In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla, and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and that ingredients are evenly distributed.
Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1-inch thickness. Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, then rotate them front to back and top to bottom and continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Makes 16 4-inch cookies.
Note: Cook's Illustrated editors recommend these cookies be made with dried sour cherries, but dried cranberries can be substituted for the cherries.
Quick oats used in place of the old-fashioned oats will yield a cookie with slightly less chewiness. If your baking sheets are smaller than the ones described in the recipe, bake the cookies in three batches instead of two. These cookies keep for 4 to 5 days stored in an airtight container or zipper-lock plastic bag, but they will lose their crisp exterior and become uniformly chewy after a day or so.
Source: Cook's Illustrated