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Oatmeal has been a popular choice for a healthy breakfast in America for over 150 years, but our busy schedules these days often prevent us from preparing it in the traditional way. Food manufacturers addressed the issue in the 1960s by introducing instant oatmeal, which cut the cooking time to one minute. Because many varieties of instant oatmeal contain added sugar and artificial ingredients, however, nutrition experts are suggesting the switch to overnight oats. So what are overnight oats, and why should we be eating them?
Oatmeal is made of whole oat grains that are dehusked and then rolled, milled, or steel-cut. It is traditionally boiled in salted water and/or milk to make a breakfast porridge, or used to make cookies, bread, cakes, cereal, muesli, and granola. Oatmeal, which has long held a place in Scottish and Irish cuisine, didn’t gain popularity in America until the 1850s, according to MentalFloss.com, when the German Mills American Oatmeal Factory was opened by Henry Parsons Crowell in Ohio. One of German Mills’ main competitors back then was Quaker, a brand that has since become synonymous with oatmeal in America.
Health Benefits of Oatmeal
In addition to its low cost, nutty flavor, and versatility, oatmeal is also at (or near) the top of the “healthiest foods” lists compiled by medical experts worldwide. Oats are a good source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and plant sterols, which can regulate your cholesterol, aid in digestion, help keep you fuller longer, and lower your blood pressure. One cup of plain oatmeal (cooked with water), according to the USDA, contains 166 calories, 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of fiber. It also contains 15 to 18 percent of your daily value of selenium, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as 10 percent of your daily value of iron.
Now, let’s find out what the buzz is about overnight oats.
4 Reasons You Should Eat Overnight Oats
#1. They’re easier to prepare than cooked oats. While oatmeal normally involves stovetop or microwave cooking for a few minutes—depending on the variety you choose—making overnight oats is pretty simple. You just soak them in the liquid of your choice, store them in a container with a tight lid in the fridge overnight, and then add your favorite toppings in the morning…easy peasy.
#2. Overnight oats retain more of their nutrients. According to LiveStrong.com, soaking your oats helps decrease the amount of phytic acid, which can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients. Cooking oats can break phytic acid down as well, but research suggests that soaking does a better job.
#3. You’ll get more heart-healthy nutrients (depending on how you prepare them). Oatmeal’s already well-known for reducing your “bad” cholesterol levels, but here’s a tip: Some overnight oatmeal recipes advise you to soak the oats in lemon juice, which could benefit your heart health even more. According to EatThis.com, the added vitamin C can “boost oatmeal’s ability to lower cholesterol by nearly 60 percent.”
#4. Overnight oats contain more protein and fiber. One cup of cooked oatmeal, according to LiveStrong.com, contains about 6 grams of protein and four grams of fiber, while a cup of uncooked oats contains 11 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. But keep in mind that uncooked oats also contains additional calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
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Tips for Preparing Overnight Oats
- Use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats so that the results are creamy, but not too chewy or soupy.
- The old-fashioned variety of oatmeal is best when making overnight oats. Steel-cut oats will provide a chewier texture, while instant oats will dissolve in the liquid.
- Wait until the morning to add your toppings to prevent them from getting mushy— unless your using dried fruit or chia seeds, which can benefit from soaking in liquid overnight.
- Add a pinch of salt to make your overnight oats taste even better.
- Give your oats one final stir before eating.
- Milk and/or yogurt can provide a creamier texture, but if you’re following a dairy-free diet, try almond milk.
- Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, and/or vanilla for extra flavor and health benefits.
- Eat your overnight oats within 24 hours to prevent them from getting too soggy.
GLUTEN-FREE OVERNIGHT OATS RECIPE
1/4 cup milk or fruit juice
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fruit puree like applesauce or mashed banana
1. Add milk or fruit juice, yogurt, and pureed fruit to oatmeal cup and mix well.
2. Replace lid and chill overnight before enjoying.
Recipe courtesy of Gluten-Free & More
This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated.