Why I love oatmeal!

As a dietitian, there are certain foods that I tag as “superstars” due to their nutritional content.  Plain oatmeal is one of those foods.  I love oatmeal because it:

*  Is high in dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates (great for fueling the body without causing huge blood glucose spikes).

*  Can help reduce risk of heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels. 

*  Has no added sodium or sugar.

*  Is fairly low in calories (150 Calories/cup cooked) and helps me feel full.

*  Is low in cost – about half the cost of cold cereal per serving.

*  Comes in two textures that I enjoy:  rolled (mushy when cooked), or steel-cut (slightly pearly when cooked).  

 

Quaker Smart Heart Challenge

Quaker Oats has been running a Smart Heart Challenge campaign for years in various cities in the United States.  Participants agree to eat 1½ cups of cooked oatmeal daily for 30 days.  The idea behind 1½ cups of cooked oatmeal (¾ cup dry) is that it provides 3 grams of soluble fiber – the daily amount Quaker claims is needed to lower low density lipoprotein (LDL – the “bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels after 30 days.  I participated in the challenge about 5 years ago and both my total cholesterol and LDL levels decreased, even though I started at a healthy level.  This is not a rigorous study, it is a marketing campaign but there is research that supports the claim that intake of soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol levels.  If you would like more information about the health benefits of dietary fiber, then please read, "Position of the American Dietetic Association:  Heatlh Implications of Dietary Fiber."  

This year, I volunteered to help run the Smart Heart Challenge in Lafayette, Colorado, the city in which I live.  I was thrilled to see so many people had signed up to do the challenge.  It’s a real deal – participants get two blood draws free of charge to determine their pre-challenge as well as a post-challenge blood cholesterol levels.  In addition, each participant receives two canisters of oatmeal to insure that they have enough oatmeal for the 30 days.  By the way, the Quaker Oatmeal Festival has been running for about 12 years now every January.  Please see the city's website for more information - registration for the Smart Heart Challenge typically opens in November or so. 

If you are able to eat 1½ cups of cooked oatmeal daily for 30 days, then great, you don’t need any tips for staying on course.  However, if you find cooked oatmeal is too tedious and you want suggestions on how to vary your oats, then take a look at the chart below for the other Quaker oat options.  For the Smart Heart Challenge, you should be choosing Quaker products that have the heart symbol on the package.

Product (Quaker)

Serving size to provide 3 grams soluble fiber

Calories

Comments

Instant Oatmeal 3 packets 360 Calories Has some added sugar and salt - try low sugar types.  Easy to microwave or simply add to yogurt and soups uncooked.
Hot Oat Bran ½ cup dry 150 Calories Relatively low in calories.  Requires cooking.
Oatmeal-to-Go Bars 3 bars 660 Calories High in calories, sugar, and salt.  Very easy – no cooking, non-perishable snack bar.
Oatmeal Squares Cereal 3 cups 690 Calories High in calories, sugar, and salt.  Cereal is good with milk or plain as a snack.
Oat Bran Cereal About 2 cups 336 Calories Fewer calories, sugar, and salt than Oatmeal Squares.  Good with milk, yogurt, or plain.

 

Other Great Sources of Soluble Fiber

For those of you who are not participating in the Smart Heart Challenge, you do not have to eat oatmeal to get soluble fiber.  See the chart (adapted from National Heart Lung Blood Institute) below for some excellent non-oat sources of soluble fiber.  Cooked dried beans and peas are typically very high in soluble fiber, as well as high in other nutrients – see University of Nebraska’s “Singing the Praises of Beans” for more information on these nutritional powerhouses. 

 

Food Source (serving size)

Soluble Fiber (grams)

Total Fiber (grams)

Lima Beans (½ cup cooked)

3.5

6.5

Brussels Sprouts (½ cup cooked)

3

4.5

Kidney Beans (½ cup cooked)

3

6

Black Beans (½ cup cooked)

2

5.5

Grapefruit (½ large)

2

2-3

Navy Beans (½ cup cooked)

2

6

Pears (1 medium)

2

4

Pinto Beans (½ cup cooked)

2

7

Northern Beans (½ cup cooked)

1.5

5.5

Prunes (¼ cup)

1.5

3

Apple (1 medium)

1

4

Banana (1 medium)

1

3

Black eyed Peas (½ cup cooked)

1

5.5

Blackberries (½ cup)

1

4

Broccoli (1/2 cup cooked)

1

1.5

Carrots (1/2 cup cooked)

1

2.5

Chick Peas (½ cup cooked)`

1

6

Lentils (½ cup cooked)

1

8

Nectarine (1 medium)

1

2

Peach (1 medium)

1

2

Plums (1 medium)

1

1.5

 

More Information on Blood Cholesterol

Do you know your blood cholesterol levels?  Please see the American Heart Association's "What your cholesterol levels mean" for more information about goals.  If you prefer detailed information, then view the National Cholesterol Education Program's Adult Treatment Panel III’s Executive Summary and the update, “Implications of Recent Clinical Trials for the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III Guidelines” published 7/13/04 in Circulation.

Quick List of Desirable Cholesterol Levels:

Total Cholesterol < 200 mg/dl

HDL (Men) ≥ 40 mg/dl

HDL (Women) ≥ 50 mg/dl

LDL < 100 mg/dl

Triglycerides < 150 mg/dl

For more information on general nutrition guidelines for reducing risk of heart disease, please see National Heart Lung Blood Institute's "Create-a-diet." 

Do you have any tips or comments that you would like to share with other readers?  I love to read your comments – please post!

Best –

Kathy

Please follow the advice of your physician if you have been diagnosed and are being treated for heart disease.  This blog is not intended to serve in place of medical care.

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