Our mothers were right all along: oatmeal is good for us. Chock-full of soluble fibre and other top-notch nutrients, studies show that eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning is a very good idea, especially as we get older.
Why Older Adults Should Eat Oats
1. Oatmeal is a good source of iron.
A 3/4 cup of oatmeal provides five to seven grams of iron, which is just shy of the recommended daily intake of iron for older adults.
2. Oats are a fibre-rich food.
If you want to reduce your blood cholesterol level or lower your blood pressure, don't just focus on the foods that you should avoid, such as those with added sugars and desserts that contain saturated and trans fats. Research shows that including fibre-rich foods like whole oats in your diet is a much smarter strategy.
The soluble fibre in whole oats helps control blood glucose, which is of particular importance for people with diabetes. Instant oatmeal, even the unsweetened kind, has a higher glycemic index than steel-cut or rolled oats -- something to keep in mind next time you're meal planning or grocery shopping.
3. Oatmeal tied to a lower body mass index in adults.
As we get older, our bodies burn fewer calories than they once did. Including fibre-packed foods like oats in our diet not only improves bowel regularity but it can also help us control our body weight. Data from the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that eating oatmeal is consistent with better nutrient intakes and a higher diet quality.
4. Oats promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
We've written before about the benefits of probiotic foods, including cultured and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as fibre-rich foods like nuts, legumes and vegetables. But prebiotic foods are also key for gut health. Prebiotic foods, such as oats, contain indigestible fibres that the healthy bacteria in our gut like to feast on.
Oats Are Healthy, Delicious and Easy to Make at Home
As we get older, it's increasingly important to make sure we eat healthy meals, starting with breakfast. If you're on the hunt for a healthy oatmeal recipe, let your imagination (and the internet!) be your guide. A quick Google search for 'oatmeal recipes' will turn up a hundred or more of healthy recipes, many of which can be prepared ahead of time and cooked overnight in a slow cooker or crockpot. A lot of recipes can also be cooked on the stove top or baked with milk and eggs in individual ramekins or a larger pan. These are great options if you like having leftovers, or if you're hosting a gathering for friends and family.
If you're not an early riser or find that you're always rushing out of the door in the morning, consider an individual overnight oats recipe. In a jar or large glass, mix together equal parts oats and milk, or yogurt, and top with fruit, nuts and super seeds, such as chia, flax or hemp seeds. Using frozen fruit will add more liquid to your mixture and help soften the oats. Refrigerate overnight. If you like a little extra crunch, add the nuts in the morning.
To avoid using a sweetener with your oatmeal (like brown sugar or honey) try adding fruit slices to the dish. Slices of banana and mango, grated apples and blueberries are options, or spice up your oatmeal recipe with cinnamon, grated nutmeg, cloves, or vanilla extract.
Rosie Schwartz is a consulting dietitian and nutrition writer and is author of The Enlightened Eater's Whole Foods Guide.
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