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Brain Food: Oatmeal, It's Not Just for Kiddies Anymore

This entry is part of a series, Brain Food»

Oats

When I was kid growing up (yes, I was one, once upon a time) we had lots of hot cereal for breakfast. We seldom had the boxed cold cereal; it was too expensive, even back then. Oatmeal, though, that was cheap and plentiful. Also Cream of Wheat. Even cornmeal mush was occasionally on the menu.

Oatmeal with RasinsI actually disliked oatmeal most of all, unless I could sneak in some extra milk and sugar. With plenty of cinnamon.

Nowadays, cornmeal mush has had a complete makeover, akin to Roseanne Barr morphing into Angelina Jolie. It even has a new name: Polenta. Sounds exotic, and like maybe it should be expensive or something. (At least the restaurants I visit don’t mind charging plenty for polenta on the side.) Cream of Wheat is still out there, but seems quite obscure today.

Which leaves oatmeal. Boy has oatmeal changed in reputation!

Instead of a poor-man’s food or an ingredient in cookies, oatmeal is now the Food of Champions. It helps lower cholesterol, cures heart disease, and leaps tall grain elevators in a single bound. (Okay I made that last up; but it could happen.) Oatmeal itself is high in fiber, very low in fat and sugar, has a low glycemic index (which means it’s good for folks on a diabetic diet), and is easy to prepare. Instant oatmeal brings almost all the benefits to your table that slow-cooked oats do.

How is oatmeal a brain food? First off, since it’s a low glycemic index food, it produces a shot of glucose first thing in the morning to get your brain awake and running. There are essential B vitamins in oats too, as well as vitamin E and folic acid. Here’s the key finding: A single serving of oats contains over a quarter of the selenium you need each day to protect brain cells from oxidants, AND it contains two-thirds of the manganese you need to help the body process the brain nutrients choline and thiamine.

It’s just that oatmeal’s so, well, boring. What to do, what to do?

Meatloaf

Here’s what: use oatmeal in other dishes and meals! It’s not as hard as you think. Beginning with breads, a natural place to use oats. Homemade breads can always stand some oats in them. (If you don’t want to bake, the grocer usually has bakery-fresh bread with oats in.) Use oats in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf. They do the same work, and the taste is phenomenal! I’ve also seen references to oats replacing barley in soups and stews, as well as vegetarian chili. (I’ll leave that last to the, uhhh, experts.)

Oatmeal Cookies

And don’t forget oatmeal cookies. You can always say the doctor said you should eat your oats! (Paula Deen: “A balanced meal is a cookie in each hand.”)

After that, you can consider eating a traditional oatmeal breakfast once or twice a week, with some nice brain-healthy fruit and low-fat milk. That way you don’t blow out your diet covering up the bland getting healthy…

Enjoy the (Brain Grain) Heat!

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