Yesterday I talked with a fellow runner about our favourite breakfast – oatmeal.
When it comes to oatmeal, there seem to be two different kinds of people. Those who love it and those who hate it. I also observed, that people who hate it, typically hate it because of a bland taste oatmeal has.They are used to processed foods and so they miss the sweetness of a store-bought oatmeal mix, which is full of sugars and oils.
Oatmeal can easily become the best, most versatile food in your repertoire!
In the hot months, you can prepare overnight refrigerated oats. In winter months, nothing will warm you up like an oatmeal. You can prepare it sour or sweet, even spicy! You can even use oats in baking bread and use it instead of breadcrumbs.
Health Benefits of Oats
Oats are gluten-free
Whether you avoid gluten or not, oats are gluten-free. The problem is if you are very sensitive to gluten, you need to check if there is no cross-contamination in the producer’s place, i.e. check for the gluten-free label.
“Oats are not related to gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. They don’t contain gluten, but rather proteins called avenins that are non-toxic and tolerated by most celiacs (perhaps less than 1% of celiac patients show a reaction to a large amount of oats in their diets). Oats can be in a celiac’s diet provided they are selected from sources that guarantee a lack of contamination by wheat, rye or barley.” (1)
First and foremost, oats are a whole-food which is one of the pillars of any successful diet strategy. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve cognitive performance, improve your athletic performance, or stay healthy in general, you should focus on eating whole foods.
Oats are nutrient dense and relatively calorie dense, coming at about 350kcal per 100g. which makes them an excellent base for your perfect meal.
- slow releasing carbohydrates (67% of total calories, half of which is slowly absorbing and resistant starch) ,
- fiber (11% of total calories). Fiber and resistant starch are undigestible, which serves as a prebiotic for your microbiota!
- protein (11-17%!!! of the total calories),
- low in fat (5-9% of total calories),
Rich iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc and manganese
Types of Oats
Oats provide a rich nutritional profile, with low carbohydrates that are low Glycemic Index. In combination with fruits and nuts, they make a perfectly satisfying breakfast that will give you energy for the day, while filling you for a long time.
In relation to Glycemic Load, there are slight differences in the oats that you can buy. General rule of thumb is, the more processed a food is, the higher GI and GL it will have.
- Whole oats – take the longest time to prepare, however, they are the “full-package” whole-food. Slow to cook. GI 58
- Steel-cut oats – hulled and cut, resemble brown rice. They retain their texture even after cooking and can be used as a substitute for rice for oats are nutritionally much denser compared to rice.
- Rolled oats – steamed and then rolled, opening the shell, which makes them faster to prepare. Ideal for a breakfast bowl, use in baking or cooking.
- Instant oatmeal – fastest to prepare, lowest in fiber. When time is of the essence. Easiest and fastest to digest. Good for a pancake dough or in energy gels for peri-workout nutrition. GI 83
(1) – http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/faq/do-oats-contain-gluten/
How to cook steel-cut oats
Oatmeal bowl for Athletes
One of the mistakes people who dislike oatmeal do is that they use just water to cook them. Try using plant-based milk or tea instead. I am surprised when I mention tea as a liquid to use to boil the oats, so that is my biggest tip for you!
The reason I use tea is two-fold:
1) it infuses the oats with its flavour;
2) it will boost the nutritional profile of the meal.
BONUS: tea has close to zero calories and therefore it is a great way to flavour your oats when you want to cut out the excess calories and don’t want to sacrifice the taste. Tea will always be a superior option to the artificial sweeteners.
For example, my favourite tea is a mixture of herbs that have a calming effect on the nervous system (like Lapacho), but you can use teas and herbs that have a performance-enhancing effect like Ginseng or Gotu Kola.
Cold, Overnight, refrigerated oats
The overnight oats are perfect for hot, summer months when you want to grab your breakfast in the morning.
That can be a pre-workout nutrition, breakfast on the go, or a dessert which cools you down.
Personally, I like the combination of chia seeds, banana, cinnamon and a little bit of vanilla extract. When cold, it tastes like an ice cream.
Top it off with berries of your choice. The popular choices are blueberries and strawberries.
- Chia seeds – hydrating, the source of OMEGA 3 in form of ALA
- Oats – as discussed above, your main source of carbs
- Berries – antioxidants, vitamin C (helps to absorb iron from the oats), perfect for the post-workout recovery
- Banana – fast carbohydrates, magnesium, good for pre-workout as well as post-workout
- Cinnamon – antiinflammatory, a source of antioxidants, helps to manage blood sugar,
- Ginger – antiinflammatory, a source of antioxidants, reduces muscle soreness.
Hot oatmeal with apple and poppy seeds
My favourite autumn and winter months oatmeal.
I simply love the warm oatmeal after a morning run in below zero temperatures.
Another reason why I love this combination is not only it’s taste but also for its nutrients density. The recipe results in a relatively dry oatmeal, which is more like an apple pie.
- Start by pouring soy milk or a milk of your choice on the oatmeal and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The oats will soak the milk, enhancing their taste by the taste of the milk. This step is essential for later preparation. If you use chia seeds, soak them as well in your choice of tea. You can use plenty of liquid since chia seeds soak up to eight times their weight.
- Next, mix them with ground poppy seeds, diced apple, pre-soaked chia seeds and cinnamon to taste.
- Put the mixture into a microwave oven. You don’t want to use the highest setting, for this recipe I use 4-5 minutes on the setting 4/5 . You want the liquid to evaporate so the mixture is dry on the top, but moist inside. It is a 5 minute apple pie in a bowl!
Alternatively, you can also boil them, letting the liquid evaporate or bake them to make it crispier.
Poppy seeds – Check this fatty jewel out! Forgotten in Europe, little known in the U.S. Poppy seeds are a super dense source of calcium (1 tsp is about 4% of Ca RDA), a relatively good source of zinc, iron, manganese, and magnesium. This will be your source of healthy fats in this oatmeal recipe.
Apple – First and foremost, apple has very high satiety index, meaning, the more you use, the more filling it will be. Perfect when you want to reduce calories for any reason. They are not the best choice if your single aim is to get the most vitamins and minerals, but that should not worry you if you eat a diet rich in plants. Use Gala apples or Golden Delicious as they are pretty sweet and complement the oatmeal well.
Green Oat Smoothie
Remember how I mentioned that oatmeal is a versatile food? This recipe is super nutrient-dense and will kick-start your morning!
You can prepare it in two ways. Either cook it like you would your oatmeal or make a smoothie.
Ingredients to use:
- Kale – For better absorption of the nutrients provided by kale, I advise to steam it first for improved absorption of nutrients. Kale provides a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
- Spinach – same as kale. You can use it in addition to kale or substitute kale with spinach. Use the one you like more.
- Beetroots – nitrates, which can boost your physical performance, especially endurance.
- Matcha powder or tea – for better focus, it is a rich source of antioxidants.
- Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds – Pumpkin seeds provide the most protein, while sesame seeds are rich in zinc, which is essential for testosterone production. Flax seeds or chia seeds are there to provide Omega 3 fatty acids in form of ALA. Chia seeds will also boost the volume of your food and when they are soaked up, they create a pudding-like mixture. You can use a bit of all of the seeds or change it day by day.
- Banana or dates – fast absorbing carbohydrates but don’t worry about spiking your insulin. It will be absorbed slowly due the combination of fats and fiber.
- Curcuma, Ground Black Pepper, Chilli pepper – the combination of the three spices gives you anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper improves absorption of curcumin, which is why we add curcuma. Chilli pepper is optional. It can help with burning fat, provide antioxidants and adds a special taste to the mix.
Want to super-boost this green smoothie even more? Add Spirulina or Algae (DHA) and blueberries.
Is your oatmeal or shake not sweet enough? Use dates or banana as a sweetener.
Bananas and dates are super-sweet, while having the nutrients, any other sweetener cannot provide.
Even agave, which is worshiped in vegan and health-conscious communities don’t have much to offer compared to the whole foods that bananas and dates are.