Starting the day with a bowl of hot oatmeal is a healthy and satisfying way to “fuel up” before heading to the office. It’s filling and a good source of fiber, which means you’ll be less tempted to indulge in a decadent doughnut in the break room later in the morning. Oatmeal is healthy food, but there are ways to make your morning bowl of oats even better for you. Here are some ways to boost the health benefits of oatmeal while making your hot morning cereal taste even better.
Add Some Blueberries
Pass on that packet of blueberry-flavored oatmeal that has too much sugar. Instead, buy old-fashioned oats and cook them overnight in a slow cooker. In the morning, dress up your oats up with some fresh blueberries. Blueberries are a good source of antioxidants called anthocyanidins that exert their powerful cell-protective effects on brain cells. That’s why blueberries are referred to as brain food. So give your brain cells extra protection in the morning by tossing blueberries into your oatmeal bowl.
Stir in Cocoa Powder
Why not turn your morning oatmeal into a dessert treat? Don’t worry – it only tastes decadent. Buy unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably raw, and stir a spoonful into your hot oats. Cocoa powder is an excellent source of heart-healthy polyphenols. Ingredients in cocoa powder and dark chocolate increase the production of nitric oxide in the walls of blood vessels. This helps to open them up so that blood can flow more freely. They also help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Dark chocolate has emerged as a health food, and it’s even healthier to use raw cocoa powder because it doesn’t have added sugar.
Increase the Crunch with Walnuts
Chop up some walnuts and sprinkle them on your oatmeal. Walnuts contain an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic acid is converted by your body to DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, although this conversion is not very efficient. Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy, and alpha-linolenic acid may have some heart-healthy benefits of its own. Walnuts are also high in fiber. A recent study also showed that walnuts lower the risk of breast cancer in mice. Hopefully, they do in humans too.
Grind in Some Flaxseed
Flaxseed is another good source of alpha-linolenic acid and fiber. In addition, flaxseed contains lignans, compounds that are heart-healthy and may reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking estrogen receptors on the breast. To get the benefits, use freshly ground flaxseed that you’ve ground in a coffee grinder. If you eat flaxseed whole, they’ll simply pass through your digestive, and won’t get the health benefits. Flaxseed adds a pleasantly nutty flavor to oatmeal, which makes it more fun to eat.
Top It Off with a Non-Dairy Milk
Give yourself a break from dairy milk and top your oatmeal with almond milk or a coconut milk drink. Sugar-free Almond Breeze Almond Milk and Sugar-free So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage have half the calories of skim milk, which is a plus if you’re watching your weight. You can find both of these products in most supermarkets.
The Bottom Line?
Oatmeal is the perfect choice for a morning meal, but you can make it even better for you by adding one of these five ingredients. You’ll like the taste too! Enjoy this healthy way to start the day.
Medical News Today. “Walnuts Reduce Breast Cancer Risk By Half In Animal Studies”
Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(7):929-38. Epub 2009 Dec 15.
World’s Healthiest Foods.