It seems like since the Atkins Diet reached peak fad status in the early 2000s, grains have been getting a lot of hate. Atkins has fallen out of favor, but new diet trends like Whole30 preach very similar rules. I agree that most people could and should limit their intake of sugar and simple starches like potatoes, white bread, and pasta. However, I wholeheartedly disagree with the belief that whole grains like barley, oats, farro, and quinoa belong on a “Do NOT Eat” list. These grains offer many great health benefits and are very affordable. Healthy and budget-friendly foods definitely deserve more respect! If you are unconvinced, continue reading to learn more about why oats in particular are good to eat. If you are already a believer, skip to the end to find a whole grain loving recipe for Apple Ginger Baked Oatmeal.
Oats are healthy.
Oats are a good source of beta-glucan, which is a type of soluble fiber. Many studies show that increased intake of this type of fiber from whole grains like oats and barley is good for heart health. The benefits come in the form of lower total cholesterol, decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol. Increased high-density (HDL) cholesterol or good cholesterol is another benefit. This is why a box of Quaker Oats has a big heart on it. It’s because those oats are good for heart health!
The exact biological mechanisms making these health benefits possible are complicated. You can read about it in more detail in the paper linked above. To keep things simple, I’ll just say the fiber in whole grains like oats, helps slow absorption of glucose (sugar), triglycerides (fats), and cholesterol. It also helps remove cholesterol from the body. Lastly, some compounds formed during digestion of the fiber tell the liver to take it easy on making more cholesterol.
Oats also have health benefits beyond the heart. The fiber in oats helps prevent constipation and keeps the good bacteria in your gut happy. An unhappy and unhealthy gut microbiome (bacteria) may be related to obesity, liver inflammation, inflammatory bowel diseases, and colon cancer. Research in this area is ongoing, but there is a lot of interest in how gut bacteria impacts overall health. We do know the fibers in oats and other whole grains are important for keeping the good bacteria healthy and happy. It’s also important to point out that oats are gluten-free when processed in a facility free of gluten contamination. This means people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease can still benefit from this whole grain.
Oats aren’t just healthy, they are also budget-friendly. Categorizing a whole grain like oats as a food to avoid perpetuates the myth that it’s not possible to have a healthy diet on a budget. One serving of dried oats is 1/2 cup. Right now you can order a 10 pound bag or 113 servings of oats for $21.82 from Amazon. That breaks down to about $0.19 per serving. You can you can get oats for even less at a Costco or Aldis. Oats from the bulk bins at Whole Foods are even cheaper than $0.19 per serving. Add half a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter and you have a breakfast full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats! Every time I see someone doing a Food Stamp/SNAP Challenge that gets fresh herbs or limes instead of oats, I know they aren’t going to make it a whole week. Oats are quite possibly the best value breakfast food available.
Apple Ginger Baked Oatmeal
I hope I alleviated any doubts about the health benefits of oatmeal. This fantastic grain deserves a seat at the table rather than placement on a “do NOT eat” list. With the exception of some weekends, I eat oats for breakfast everyday. Either as cooked oats, granola, or baked oatmeal. Making a big batch of this apple ginger baked oatmeal on a Sunday evening is a great way to guarantee a good breakfast even on busy mornings. I reheat my baked oatmeal in a covered bowl for 30 seconds and pour some milk over the top. If you can’t find it crystallized ginger or just aren’t a ginger person, it can be omitted. Swapping any type of dried fruit for the ginger is another option. This recipe makes six servings and only has about 225 calories, so you can