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Tuesday, April 25, 2006 

Featured Health Food: Oats

If you're interested in heart health, cancer prevention, weight loss, and/or diabetes management, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better food than oats. Oats are not only a prime source of the complex carbohydrates that help to sustain energy, but they're nutrition powerhouses as well--containing impressive levels of selenium, thiamin, phosphorus, and manganese, and respectable quantities of copper, folate, vitamin E, and zinc.

What really makes oats shine in the eyes of nutritionists, however, is their high fiber content. Soluble fiber has been credited with helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, reducing high blood pressure, and preventing certain types of cancer. The complex carbohydrates and fiber in oats can help with weight loss by keeping insulin levels low after eating which boosts the metabolism and keeps the body from storing fat. Oat fiber may also help control blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity--very important in terms of diabetes management.

Fortunately, it's extremely easy to add oats into your diet--starting, of course, with breakfast. There's always the standard bowl of oatmeal made with rolled oats (our favorite is Bear Naked's 100% Organic Rolled Oats), but if this gives you the morning "blahs," try adding a bit of fruit-flavored honey, chopped dried fruit & nuts, or gourmet fruit syrups such as Gladstone's Wild Blueberry Syrup. If it's the oats themselves that bore you, try McCann's Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal--you'll find their nutty flavor and chewy texture world's apart from standard oatmeal. For a change of pace, try an oat-based, healthy granola (such as Bear Naked) either as a cereal or atop low-fat yogurt.

Oats can also be added to soups and stews for thickening and texture. They're also great added to burger and meatloaf mixtures and for coating fish or chicken. Perhaps the tastiest way of all to enjoy oats, however, is in oatmeal cookies. Bake them yourself to ensure wholesome ingredients, or choose an all-natural, trans-fat free kind such as Choca Doodle Doos (a decadent chocolate chip oatmeal cookie with 2 grams of fiber!).


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