Oatmeal is not only a great, heart-healthy meal, but it's also a blank canvas that can be jazzed up with a wide variety of ingredients. While you may not like the taste of regular oatmeal, adding a few key ingredients can go a long away into making oatmeal taste better. Here are some ideas to make this superfood more delicious.
There are a few different kinds of oatmeal, and they can all be used interchangeably with these ideas, just be sure to cook the oats according to the package directions, as they can vary quite widely. For example steel cut oats require 20-30 minutes to cook, but instant rolled oats take just 5 minutes.
Try Something Sweet
When most people think of oatmeal, they obviously think of breakfast. These are some of the sweet and decadent ways to zhush up that morning bowl of oatmeal.
- Maple syrup: Believe it or not, maple syrup has some health benefits, but that doesn't mean that people should go crazy with it. Pure maple syrup contains a healthy dose of manganese and zinc, which are good for the immune system. It also contains beneficial polyphenols, one of which is unique to maple syrup called quebecol, that are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body. The darker the grade of the syrup the more of the immune-boosting and inflammation-fighting properties it has, just remember the stuff contains a lot of sugar.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a decadent way to spruce up breakfast, and it can be healthy too. Dark Chocolate is considered heart healthy because it is a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL) in the body. This is the bad cholesterol that can contribute to clogging arteries. The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the better. This means that there are more beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants, plus there is less fat in the chocolate.
Try Something Fruity
Fruit and oatmeal seem to go hand in hand, and for good reason. Fresh and dried fruit are a great way to get a variety of vitamins and minerals and they add a wonderful sweetness to an otherwise bland bowl of oatmeal.
- Peaches: Peaches, and other stone fruit, such as nectarines and plums, are a great addition to oatmeal because they are sweet and pack a huge nutritional punch. The bioactive compounds in these fruits are shown to help protect against something called metabolic syndrome, a condition closely related to diabetes. These compounds help reduce the obesity and inflammation that are characteristic of metabolic syndrome. In addition, peaches and their other stone fruit cousins also reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, to help reduce cardiovascular disease.
- Pumpkin and Greek yogurt: Pumpkin is an incredibly popular fall squash that lends itself well to oatmeal. The addition of Greek yogurt adds a delightful creamy, tangy taste. But the best part is that these to oatmeal additives are also healthy. Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A, fiber and antioxidants. Greek yogurt, especially the low fat or fat free varieties, are a good source of protein and they also contain calcium and potassium. Try a sweet variety such as honey or vanilla for an extra tasty treat.
- Coconut and raisins: Coconut and raisins lend a tropical taste to oatmeal. Coconut has a variety of healthy properties, including being rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Raisins are dried grapes and as such, they contain the same health benefits as grapes and wine, in addition to the nutrient boron. Raisins come in several varieties including currants, golden and the regular brown or purple varieties.
- Bananas: It's no secret that this starchy fruit is a great addition to oatmeal or that it is a good source of potassium, an electrolyte essential to heart function and one that is often lacking in those with high blood pressure. Bananas are also a good source of fiber, iron and B6.
- Berries: Aside from being visually pleasing with their wide range of colors, berries of every variety are a good way to boost that morning bowl of oatmeal. As well as being sweet, they are also rich in Vitamin C, well known for its immune boosting properties and antioxidant powers. They also contain folate, B vitamins and their flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease.
Try Something Savory
Who says that you can only add sweet ingredients to oatmeal? Many cultures around the world eat savory varieties of oatmeal.
- Nut butters: Nut butters, such as peanut, almond or cashew, are a great way to give oatmeal a boost of protein and flavor. They also provide a good source of omega fatty acids as well as vitamin E and the B complex vitamins. They are high in fat, so be careful with the serving size, only one or two tablespoons.
- Bacon, egg and cheese: Who doesn't love this classic breakfast combination? While it may not seem like bacon would be a good choice, lean bacon does add some protein to a bowl of oatmeal. Eggs are also a great source of protein and despite years of warnings to the contrary, they are actually healthy as well. Cheese is a good source of calcium, just be sure to opt for a low fat version.
- Spinach, garlic and olive oil: These classic Mediterranean flavors are a tasty edition to oatmeal. But they are also healthy. Spinach is a great source of iron, garlic is rich in antioxidants and olive oil is loaded with heart healthy monounsaturated fat.
While oatmeal on its own is bland, it does have some important health benefits. But those benefits are multiplied when any of these delicious and healthy ingredients are added. With all these tasty options and more, your family may never turn up their nose at a bowl of oatmeal again!