Thursday, July 3, 2014


Cinnamon oats with vanilla protein powder, bananas and blueberries
Photo Credit: Jenny

Cocoa powder oats with protein powder, blueberries, strawberries and chia seeds
Photo Credit: Jenny 

Ever tried eating a bowl of plain oatmeal? In my experience, it’s certainly a challenge, albeit a healthy one. Steel-cut oats and rolled oats are whole grains that are loaded with fiber to keep you full, regular, and healthy. Fortunately, there’s endless ways to enhance the oatmeal eating experience without adding saturated fats and high-calorie sweeteners (see below for Jenny’s delicious recipes). Let’s discuss why it might be an excellent idea to add a bit of oatmeal to your daily routine. 

A small bowl of oatmeal (1/2 cup) contains about 4 grams of dietary fiber, or about 17% of your % daily value (as suggested by the FDA). Half of the fiber is soluble while the other half is insoluble fiber, both of which have unique health benefits. 

Soluble fiber dissolves in your stomach and intestines to form a viscous solution which slowly moves through your stomach and intestines. Importantly, research shows that soluble fiber can hinder glucose absorption, thereby lowering blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber, however, remains solid throughout digestion, almost acting like a rolling boulder pushing food through your intestines at a faster rate and keeping bowel movements regular (and preventing or alleviating constipation). Insoluble fiber has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar and potentially lower the risk of diabetes.

Together, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber contain more mass per calorie compared to simple carbohydrates, meaning you consume greater food volume but fewer calories.

The soluble fiber in oats is made up of the polysaccharide beta-glucan, which is a naturally occurring polymer of the glucose molecule. There are thousands of scientific publications regarding beta-glucans, but I wanted to briefly highlight some of its amazing properties.

Beta-glucans are potent stimulators of our immune systems. Studies show that beta-glucan can bind to various receptors on macrophages and white blood cells to enhance antimicrobial activity.[1] Beta-glucans have also been shown to possess powerful anti-cancer properties by enhancing the recognition of malignant tumor cells by macrophages.[2] The science behind this is a topic for another day (maybe an entire week), but researchers are investigating the molecular mechanisms of beta-glucan activated immune responses in order to potentially develop novel cancer therapeutics.

Other forms of beta-glucans (slightly different chemical structures) come from yeast and mushrooms, and these have powerful anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties as well, but we’ll save that for another time.

This is all in addition to the well-established “heart healthy” benefits of oatmeal. Decades of research have demonstrated that oat consumption can lead to decreased LDL and cholesterol, and research continues to confirm these benefits. In fact, a study in 2012 found an association between whole grain consumption and a reduced risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.[3]

Even more recently (Dec 2013), scientists in Thailand showed that eating approximately 1 cup of oatmeal daily for four weeks lowered total cholesterol by 5% and lowered LDL-cholesterol by 10% in comparison to eating 1 cup of rice porridge daily.[4]

Interesting finding:
In 2014, a study determined that consuming instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal significantly increased fullness and improved appetite control over four hours compared to consuming breakfast cereal. Also, the authors note that initial viscosity of the oatmeal may play a role in reducing appetite, meaning the thicker your oatmeal, the less hungry you will feel over time (possibly).[5]

Overall, it seems like you can’t go wrong with oats. Oatmeal is an excellent source of valuable fiber and can help reduce your appetite.

Chocolate protein powder oats with bananas and Greek yogurt 
Photo Credit: Jenny

Chocolate protein powder oats with strawberries 
Photo Credit: Jenny 

It's important to start your day with breakfast, so why not fuel your day with something filling, nutrition and packed with fiber and some protein? Oatmeal has so many amazing health benefits and is so tasty!

You can add any healthy combinations with oatmeal as well as unhealthy ones. You do not need brown sugar or sweetener to sweeten up your oatmeal. Rather, adding yogurt and fruit sweetens up the oatmeal just enough. A 1/2 cup of dry rolled oats has 150 calories and five grams of protein. Steel-cut oats has 170 calories per 1/4 cup of uncooked oats. Steel-cut oats also take longer to cook. 

Overnight oatmeal:
A popular fad called “overnight oatmeal” also makes your oatmeal delicious and savory but is stored overnight in a closed container. Although I prefer a big, juicy, hot breakfast, you add your oatmeal to a jar with water or milk, then add fruit and a healthy fat such as chia seeds, peanut butter or almonds. Then you store it overnight in the fridge. It still tastes great, and looks beautiful especially in a jar. 

Hot Oatmeal: Make your breakfast between 250-450 calories
Watch Jenny make different kinds of oatmeal on our Video page. 
  1. It is important to cook the oatmeal in a pan or in the microwave, so the oatmeal will puff up. If cooking it on the stove, put the oatmeal into small pan on medium heat for five minutes at least with a little more water than the amount of oatmeal you are cooking with. 
  2. Mix flavored protein powder or egg whites and a choice of fruit of ½ banana, strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches or all.
  3. Mix cinnamon or cocoa powder in with your oatmeal (optional). 
  4. Add dairy (optional). Yogurt goes really well with oatmeal. I commonly use non-fat Greek yogurt.
  5. Add peanut butter, almonds, chia seeds, nut butter or almond butter (optional). 
David's quick and powerful breakfast shake:
If you're like me, you don't have much time to make or eat a proper breakfast. This shake was designed for just that: it requires less than 5 minutes to prepare and consume, it's loaded with protein, whole grains, and healthy fats, and it keeps me full until lunch. To your blender, add 1 cup of raw whole grain rolled oats with 8 ounces of water and let sit for a minute or two to soften the oats (milk can be used but the oats don't get very soft and must be blended longer). Then add 4 ounces of milk, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 tablespoon yogurt, and half a banana. I also add half a scoop of chocolate-flavored protein powder to add extra protein and chocolate flavor. Feel free to replace or add any ingredient you like. Berries, cinnamon, milled flaxseed, wheat germ, and even spinach are excellent choices. Blend and dilute with water or milk if necessary. The total calories end up being around 450. 

To watch David prepare his shake go to this link here:

[1] Gordon and Gordon. Nature. 2001; 413, 36-37
[2] Albeituni and Yan. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013; 13 (5):689-98
[3] Ye et al. J Nutr. 2012;142 (7):1304–13.
[4] Thongoun et al. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013; 96 Suppl 5:S25-32.
[5] Rebello et al. Nutrition Journal. 2014; 13:49

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