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    Archive for the ‘oatmeal’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Oat Flour

    5106PF2KV9L._SL500_AA280_PIbundle-5,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_I have a question [in regards to your recent post] about oat flour.

    I can tolerate wheat just fine, but if I were to replace whole wheat flour with oat flour in my baking, would I end up with a more nutritious product?

    — Nicole Clanham
    (City withheld), CO

    Let’s first do a simple comparison.

    One cup of whole wheat flour contains:

    • 407 calories
    • 15 grams fiber
    • 16 grams protein
    • 121% Daily Value of selenium
    • 228% Daily Value of manganese
    • 14% Daily Value of potassium
    • 41% of manganese

    A cup of oat flour, meanwhile, provides:

    • 444 calories
    • 12 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 57% Daily Value of selenium
    • 258% Daily Value of manganese
    • 12% Daily Value of potassium
    • 81% Daily Value of manganese

    Alas, no mind-blowing differences.

    There are, however, some added bonuses to oat flour (especially if you make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor).

    1. More soluble fiber than any other grain.  Remember, soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and triggers fullness more quickly.  Insoluble fiber — which whole wheat flour contains lots of — helps keep things moving through our digestive system.
    2. Exclusive antioxidants and polyphenols believed to promote heart health and lower diabetes risk.

    As great as that is, you can not fully replace the whole wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour.

    Since oat flour does not contain gluten, a baked good made entirely with it will not rise.

    “Wait a minute,” you may be saying.  “I thought you said oats were not safe for people on gluten-free diets!  What do you mean it doesn’t have gluten?”

    Allow me to explain.  Oats are intrinsically gluten-free.  However, many are cross-contamined in factories that also process wheat.  While the minimal contamination is significant enough to cause problems for an individual with celiac, it is not enough to have an effect on the baking process.

    Feel free to substitute half the wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour, though.

    As I always like to say, keep nutritional context in mind.  Oat flour in an otherwise unhealthy recipe (loads of sugar and calories) is a moot point.

    The best way to get oat’s health benefits is by preparing unsweetened oatmeal (and adding your own fruit and nut toppings) or adding quick-cooking oats to yogurt or a smoothie.


    Red, White, and Blue — And Good For You

    With patriotic spirits soaring over the past few days, I thought it would be perfect timing to discuss U.S. Mills’ cereal and instant oatmeal products — easy and very tasty ways to increase your whole grain and fiber intake.

    Three quarters of a cup of Uncle Sam’s original cereal offers 10 grams of fiber (all derived from the ingredients, not added on for fortification), 7 grams of protein, and 0.5 grams of sugar in a 190 calorie package.

    I do wish, however, that this cereal included ground flaxseed (as opposed to whole) for even more of a nutrition boost.

    In any case, throw in some sliced bananas, add your milk of choice (dairy, soy, rice, etc.) and you have a filling, wholesome breakfast.

    Their instant oatmeal with non-genetically modified soymilk, meanwhile, makes for a wonderfully convenient vegan breakfast.

    Simply add water and enjoy…

    160 calories
    50 milligrams of sodium
    (that’s 220 fewer milligrams than the same amount of Quaker instant flavored oatmeal)
    5 grams of fiber
    6 grams — a mere teaspoon and a half — of added sugar (50% less than Quaker flavored oatmeals)
    7 grams of protein

    … per packet.


    You Oat To Know

    One of my co-workers recently asked me what the difference was — from a nutritional standpoint — between steel-cut oats, quick-cooking oats, and instant oatmeal.

    Answer: there really isn’t any!

    They are all a nutritious whole grain that offers soluble fiber (the kind that has been linked to a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels).

    (Quick review: insoluble fiber — found entirely in whole wheat products and partially in fruits, vegetables, and legumes — speeds up the transit of foods in the digestive system.)

    The difference between these varieties of oats and instant oatmeal ultimately comes down to processing techniques.

    Whereas steel-cut oats are — ready for a shocker? — cut by rotating steel blades into tiny groats, quick-cooking oats and instant oatmeal go some extra processing that produces a flat flake.

    If you look at their respective nutrition labels,  steel-cut oats appear to contain more fiber than their quick cooking counterparts. However, this is simply due to different serving sizes. It’s akin to a one-ounce slice of whole wheat bread containing 3 grams of fiber and a 1.5 ounce slice providing 4.5 grams. The larger slice may appear to be a “better source” of fiber, but ounce by ounce the two are equal.

    While steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index than flattened oat flakes, I don’t consider the difference significant.  Additionally, it is more important to consider glycemic loads (how what you add to your oatmeal affects its glycemic index).

    You can’t go wrong by buying plain (unsweetened, no salt added) oatmeal and jazzing it up with nuts, seeds, spices, and some fruit.  Additionally, cooking it in milk (dairy or otherwise) adds protein and additional nutrients.

    The problems begin when you buy flavored varieties than add sodium and up to 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar.  So, keep it simple, real, and whole!


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Forty percent of adults in the United States consume a grand total of ZERO whole grain servings every day.

    Not the most encouraging of statistics.

    Although whole grains are increasingly more available, I suspect this has to do with a lack of education and knowledge.

    Many people, for instance, think multigrain bread is a whole grain. It’s not.

    Additionally, the overwhelming majority of new whole grain products come in the shape of sugary cookies or cereals “made with whole grains,” which can mean that as little as 5% of the total wheat flour used is whole.

    Not the best approach.

    If your whole grain consumption isn’t up to par, here are some ideas.

    — Whether at home or at a restaurant, opt for brown rice. Kitchen-phobes have no excuse. Many companies now offer brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes in the microwave. Nutritionally, it is equal to regular, longer-cooking varieties.

    — Enjoy whole wheat pasta, like DeCecco whole wheat fusilli (pictured at right). If you are brand new to it, make your dishes with half regular pasta and half whole wheat.

    — Eat whole grain bread (at least 3 grams of fiber per slice and ‘whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient).

    — Experiment with alternative grains like quinoa and whole wheat couscous (they cook the exact same way as rice. All you need is a pot and water).

    — Add barley to your soups.

    — Start your morning with plain oatmeal (sweeten it up with fruits; add fiber and protein with walnuts or almonds)

    — Make sure your morning cereal is whole grain (again, look for whole wheat or oat flour as the main ingredient).

    — Snack on popcorn (air pop it or make it at home in a pot with a little bit of olive oil).

    — Make waffles and pancakes with whole grain mixes. If you buy frozen varieties, make sure they are whole grain.

    Remember, whole grains offer more health benefits than non-whole grains with extra added fiber.

    If you need more assistance, check out the Whole Grains Council’s amazing and extensive list of whole grain products. It’s the perfect supermarket assistant!


    More Numbers, More Problems

    Behold the latest curveball thrown at supermarket shoppers — “grams of whole grains”.

    When this trend first started in early 2007, I inwardly cringed and hoped for its quick disappearance.  Far from it — I keep seeing it on more and more products!

    It is my suspicion that with whole grains and fiber being the latest hot topics, food manufacturers hope to confuse shoppers looking to increase fiber intake by boasting about the grams of whole grains in their foods — two very different concepts.

    Consider this your “advertising-proof” tutorial on whole grains.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    According to MyPyramid (also known as 2005’s “food pyramid 2.0”), adults who ate 2,000 calories per day should consume 6 servings of grains.  The USDA defines a serving of grains as one ounce (28 grams). Remember that figure, it will come in handy very shortly.

    MyPyramid distinctly called for half of those 6 grain servings to be whole (i.e: oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, barley, etc.), rather than enriched (i.e.: white bread, white rice, etc.).  Strangely, the recommendation wasn’t “at least three whole grain servings,” but simply “three.”

    This is where it all starts to get confusing.

    If one ounce equals 28 grams, and we are asked to make three grain servings (AKA three ounces) whole, then the recommended daily intake of whole grains adds up to 84 grams (28 grams x 3 servings).

    Alas, if you look up whole grain serving recommendations, you’ll see a daily suggestion of 48 grams per day.  Some simple math (48 grams divided by 3 servings) tells us, then, that one serving of whole grains equals 16 grams.

    “But I thought one serving of grain equaled 28 grams.  Why isn’t a serving of whole grains also 28 grams?” you may wonder.

    Well, most whole grain products contain a variety of ingredients; not just flour.  It turns out, in fact, that a one-ounce serving of whole grains contains, on average, approximately 16 grams of flour (the other 12 grams are other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oils, etc).

    Although food labels do not list grams of whole grains, you have two ways of finding this information out.

    One is by claims on the packaging (such as the “Now with 5 grams of whole grains per serving!” stated on boxes of Teddy Grahams).

    Usually, though, these claims are made by products that sprinkle a little whole wheat flour on top of a product that is virtually refined grains.

    Considering that you need at least 48 grams a day, 5 grams is a pretty pathetic figure to bother writing about in such large font.

    The other is via the Whole Grains Council stamp (pictured at top left), which specifically lists the grams of whole grains per serving in a product.

    Some companies are still using old versions of the stamp, which classified foods as “good” (8 – 15 grams of whole grains per serving) or “excellent” (16 or more grams of whole grains per serving).

    What about fiber? How does it tie into all this?  An item high in whole grains is high in fiber, but products high in fiber are not necessarily high in whole grains.

    An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar, for instance, contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.  Since this is a low-carb bar, you certainly won’t find whole grains flour anywhere on the ingredient list.

    So how is this value achieved? Thanks to a polysaccharide known as cellulose.  Keep in mind that while this kind of fiber helps keep things moving, there are specific substances in whole grains that have been targeted in nutrition research as helpful in reducing the risk of several diseases.

    So, how do you put all this together without going insane?  Simple. Try to consume 25 – 30 grams of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds every day.  Generally, the foods that boast “x grams of whole grains per serving!” claims are wolves in sheep’s clothing.


    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    I just looked at the fiber I add to my meals and noticed it has calories. 2 tablespoons add up to 72 calories. Is that worth it?

    I take it because I was told that when you eat fat with fiber, you absorb less fat.

    In addition, I want additional fiber in my meals without additional calories or food. I need to reduce the size of my food intake.

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    It is indeed true that fiber can decrease the absorption of fat (to a certain degree) by forming viscous gels that trap fat particles in, preventing them from being stored in tissues.

    There are, however, other important reasons why fiber plays a huge role in weight management.

    Soluble fiber — the only component of oat bran, and partially found in fruits, vegetables, and some whole grains — helps slow down transit time of digested particles, thereby helping us feel satiated for long periods of time.

    This is why a cup of oatmeal in the morning sprinkled with a few fruits and nuts makes you feel hungry later in the day than if you were to eat two Pop-tarts (which, despite having more calories, are completely lacking fiber).

    Keep in mind that insoluble fiber — which wheat bran is entirely made of — has no calories.

    The fiber in whole wheat bread (and the skin of fruits and vegetables) does not add calories to your day.

    This is partially why I always recommend people get fiber from whole foods, as opposed to supplements (another reason being that when you eat a fruit or vegetable, you are also getting important vitamins and minerals not found in a fiber pill).

    Having fiber-rich meals will help you reduce your caloric intake. A 600 calorie meal providing 15 grams of fiber will keep you fuller longer than a 900 calorie one with 6 grams of fiber.

    A cup of lentil soup, for instance, provides 9 grams of fiber and 150 calories (along with 8 grams of protein, which also helps you feel full). This is a much better meal component than a 120 calorie cup of tomato bisque, which only provides 2 grams of fiber (and 2 grams of protein).

    The tomato soup will leave you feeling hungry a lot faster than the lentil soup, resulting in you taking in more calories soon after.


    You Ask, I Answer: Spelt

    Are bread products made with spelt healthier than ones with whole wheat?

    — Patrick Wrengton
    Palo Alto, CA

    Spelt — part of the wheat family — is a whole grain.  While it is a healthy choice in terms of grain consumption, it doesn’t leave its counterparts in the dust.

    Spelt offers plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, thanks to a tough outer husk that does a good job of retaining nutrients.

    If the vast majority of your grains are 100 percent whole grain, you are doing just fine from a nutritional standpoint. Whether you choose whole wheat cous cous, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, or brown rice is entirely up to you.

    Personally, the bread products I have tried with spelt flour haven’t wowed me. I recently had frozen bagels made entirely of spelt flour and found them to be too dense.

    If the flavor and texture of spelt suit your palate, though, feel free to enjoy it.

    However, think of it as a healthier grain option, rather than the “superfood” some proclaim it is.

    It’s also wise to keep spelt — or any other whole grain — within an appropriate framework.

    I recently saw chocolate chip cookies made with spelt flour, marketed as if they were just as healthy as a cup of plain of oatmeal. Nice try, but not quite.


    You Ask, I Answer: Pre-Workout Snack

    Is it a good idea to eat before a workout, or should I try to get to the gym before eating breakfast in the morning?

    — Paul Jernis
    Fort Wayne, IN

    It’s a good idea to eat something approximately two or one and a half hours prior to beginning your workout.

    By “something”, I am referring to foods that are quickly digested and, thus, available for energy when you need it. Low-fat carbohydrates like a piece of fresh fruit, a small bowl of oatmeal, or a handful of whole grain crackers with are ideal.

    Your pre-workout snack should not exceed 200 calories.

    Keep in mind the time mentioned above. Grabbing a quick snack half an hour before walking into the gym is ineffective, as it will not be ready to be used as fuel in such a short amount of time.

    This is one time to stay away from high-fat foods, as they stay in your stomach longer (which is why healthy fats are always good to include in a meal — they help you stay full!).

    If you overeat, blood will be busy in your stomach breaking down food, rather than helping build muscle. Additionally, too much food prior to working out will result in your fat stores not being burned up by exercise.

    I have recently seen a few energy bars touted as “pre-workout” specific. Do not fall for advertising. These bars are, in essence, candy. Full of sugar and fat, they will result in nothing but stomach aches and sugar crashes if followed by an exercise session.

    Some people claim getting their cardio in on an empty stomach is ideal for the burning of fat. In part, they are right. However, they are forgetting the second part of the situation — your body is also simultaneously breaking down muscle for energy!

    This is less than ideal for several reasons. Firstly, remember that the body needs to burn calories in order to sustain muscle. If this tissue is broken down, that means fewer calories are burned — the exact opposite effect you are looking for.

    Additionally, the breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise can result in dehydration, dizziness, and fatigue.

    Think about it — if you are easily fatigued, you will work out at a lower intensity for a lower amount of time. In other words, you are sabotaging your own workout!

    For successful weight loss and maintenance, focus on smart eating and frequent physical activity. Attempting to gain an edge by depriving yourself of food before exercising is not only hazardous to your health, it also just doesn’t make sense.


    All-Star of the Day: Oatmeal

    Oatmeal is one of my whole grain staples. Not only is it a source of excellent nutrition; it’s also a great snack no matter what time of day.

    One cup of oatmeal delivers 147 calories along with 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein (yes, whole grains have protein) and a virtually non-existent 2 milligrams of sodium. It also doesn’t hurt that it provides 65 percent of our manganese and 25 percent of our selenium needs.

    Although manganese always takes the backseat, many people don’t know that, without it, Vitamin C is unable to do its immunity-boosting work. Selenium, meanwhile, is crucial in helping repair damaged DNA (remember, damaged DNA is linked to the onset of several cancers).

    I particularly love oatmeal because it is 100% soluble fiber (the type that helps us feel full and lower cholesterol). Remember, whole-wheat is 100% insoluble fiber (which helps speed up the excretion of waste) while fruits and vegetables are a pretty even mix of both types.

    If high cholesterol is a problem for you, I couldn’t recommend oatmeal enough. Hundreds of studies have consistently shown that consistent intake of oatmeal lowers cholesterol. In fact, one cup of oatmeal a day decreases cholesterol by approximately 15 percent – that translates to a 30% lower risk of developing heart disease!

    That’s not all. Oatmeal contains a fiber known as beta-glucan, which helps our immune system by super-charging it and helping it shoo bacteria away at a faster rate.

    The best way to eat oatmeal is plain; flavored instant oatmeal packets add unnecessary sugar and calories. If you choose to have hot oatmeal, I recommend making plain, unflavored oatmeal and then adding raisins and some sliced almonds (as well as a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg) for an extra kick.

    My favorite thing to do, whether it’s first thing in the morning or before going to bed, is to add uncooked instant oatmeal to a bowl of plain yogurt (with live cultures) along with flaxseed meal, banana slices, strawberries, and blueberries (or any fruits of your choosing). I dare you to try it and not be hooked!

    Forget sugary cereals and chemical-tasting “breakfast bars” — tune in to Mother Nature and say “good morning” to oatmeal.


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