As the weather gets colder, many of us will be turning to oats for a warm, comforting breakfast -- and that’s a good thing. Oats are a natural whole grain and rich in a kind of soluble fiber that can help draw “bad” lower LDL cholesterol out of your body. Soluble fiber also helps keep you full, which is why a bowl of oatmeal feels like an especially stick-with-you breakfast. But oats aren’t only a breakfast food; in fact, there’s a lot more to the humble oat than you might realize. Here are a few things that might surprise you:
The different varieties all have similar nutrition.
There’s a misconception that instant oats are somehow inferior and steel-cut are the most nutritious. But whether you choose quick, old-fashioned, or steel cut oats, they all provide roughly the same nutrition: about 4 grams of fiber, 4-6 grams of protein per serving, and similar amounts of vitamins and minerals. And they’re all 100% whole grain, containing all parts of the oat. So buy the kind you like best.
They can make meat stretch further.
Want to make ground meat go a little further when making tacos or pasta sauces? Add in 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked, steel-cut oats to the skillet while you’re browning the meat.
They’re a nutritious swap for breadcrumbs.
You’ll add in more fiber by using old-fashioned or quick oats in place of breadcrumbs in recipes for meatballs and meatloaf. Like breadcrumbs, oats act like a binder and add a tender texture.
Oats themselves are naturally gluten-free. But if you need to avoid gluten because of celiac disease or another reason, look for packages specifically labeled “gluten free”. That’s because oats may be processed in a facility that also makes gluten-containing products, and cross-contact can occur.
You can grind them into flour.
You can swap ground oats for a quarter of the all-purpose flour in recipes for muffins, quick breads, and cookies. To make 1 cup of oat flour, blend 1 1/3 cups old fashioned oats into powder in a food processor or high-speed blender.
They blend well into smoothies.
For extra thickness and fiber, add up to 1/2 cup oats to the blender when making your smoothie. (Stick to old-fashioned or quick oats for this instead of steel-cut.)
You don’t have to cook them.
Overnight oats have been trending on social media for a while. If you haven’t tried it, here’s how to make them: Add equal parts old-fashioned oats and milk (dairy or non-dairy) to a container, plus the fruit and sweetener of your choice. Stir, cover, and let them sit overnight, then eat cold straight from the fridge.