flickr photo Kristin BrenemenOatmeal's famous virtue is its fabulous fiber content. Here's a quick nutrition whirl about fiber, and then I'll tell you about my oatmeal journey.
Fiber is an umbrella term for all the various parts of a plant that cannot be digested by humans. (Since it cannot be digested, it has no calories.) Fiber is found in the plant cell wall, and contributes to the plant's structure. As a plant componant, fiber is in fruits, vegetables, and grains. There is no fiber in meat, poultry, fish, milk, or cheese.
How Much Fiber?
Adults need 25-30 grams per day.
Children up to 18 years need an average of their age + 5. So a 10-year-old will need 10+5= 15 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber comes in 2 flavors.
- Gums, mucilages, and pectin.
- What does it do? Soluble fiber absorbs water, creating a gel. This keeps food in the stomach, slowing digestion time and making you feel fuller for longer. Soluble fiber also reduces the risk for heart disease by lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Lousy cholesterol). Soluble fiber regulates blood sugar in people with diabetes.
- Where is it? OATMEAL! Also oat bran, barley, flaxseed, beans, peas, oranges, and apples.
- Called "roughage." It is cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.
- What does it do? Insoluble fiber "bulks up" your stool and increases stool transport through the intestines. Goodbye constipation. *Note: fiber alone will not prevent constipation. Adequate fluid is needed too!*
- Where is it? You guessed it: prunes! Also the dark green leafy vegetables, fruit skins, root vegetable skins, whole wheat, corn bran, seeds, and nuts.
Oatmeal and I have a four year relationship. I started with Quaker instant oatmeal packets in freshman year of college. Always late for morning class, I would grab an oatmeal packet and heat it up at school (10 cent cup and free hot water at the cafeteria!). It was instant satisfaction and a full tummy until lunch.
In junior year I began toting extra oatmeal packets in my purse, always ready for the afternoon snack (so convenient and light!). Senior year of college I started adding plain quick oats to bulk up the tiny packets.
However as of fall 2009 I have finally outgrown the instant oatmeal packets and switched to the plain stuff. Why? One of the Tufts dietitians mentioned the outrageous amount of added sugars in the oatmeal packets compared to plain oats. Really? I investigated the matter, and look at the sugar difference:
USDA Nutrient Database *Total fiber= soluble fiber + insoluble fiber*Three weeks ago I accidentally bought Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal. My usual 3-minute microwave zap left it VERY crunchy. Oops!, learned my lesson. Eventually I hope to transition to old fashioned oatmeal. Although old fashioned oatmeal takes longer to cook, it has gone through less processing and may have just a little bit more fiber!
The Fun Begins: Oatmeal Mix-ins!
Unleash the imagination, beacuse plain oatmeal is just the base for an array of scrumptious mix-ins! Here's what I've played with these past 4 months:
- almonds + currants
- raisins + brown sugar (this is old, I know)
- frozen strawberries
- frozen mango
- vanilla yogurt (hot and cool at once!)
- canned pumpkin + cinnamon (this didn't work out so well)
- dried cherries + walnuts Newest experiment!
- shredded coconut + ____? My next concoction....
How do you like your oatmeal? What's your favorite mix-ins?