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Enjoy a hot bowl of oatmeal

The definition of comfort food first appeared in the dictionary in 1972, according to an online encyclopedia. Comfort foods usually are easy to prepare, familiar foods that are often high in carbohydrates and easy to chew. They may be foods from our childhood, so they perhaps stir a memory of a simpler time.

The foods that are considered “comfort foods” vary from person to person. For some, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy or mac and cheese come to mind. For others, hot cereal is like a warm security blanket.

Relive that feeling by adding more oatmeal to your menu. Besides providing a warm, stick-to-your ribs breakfast, oatmeal is good for your heart. In fact, oatmeal packages can carry a heart health claim because of research that shows its health benefits.

Oats are a whole-grain food. According to the latest recommendations, we should strive to make half of our grain food choices whole-grain foods.

Oats contain two different types of fibre — insoluble fibre, which keeps us regular by moving foods through our digestive system, thereby helping prevent constipation, and soluble fibre called beta-glucans. This type of fibre acts like little sponges that pick up cholesterol and carry it out of the body.

Adding oats to your diet could reduce your blood cholesterol level, especially LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

For people with high blood cholesterol, nutrition experts recommend 1-1/2 cups of oatmeal (1/2 cup uncooked) daily to help reduce blood cholesterol. Gradually increase your fibre intake and drink plenty of water to prevent upsetting your digestive system.

You can use quick oats and old-fashioned oats interchangeably in recipes. When you use old-fashioned oats, the food will have a chewier, coarser texture. Quick oats are cut smaller, so they cook more quickly. Use instant oatmeal only in recipes that call for it.

If you’d like to enjoy the benefits of oats, but cooked oatmeal is not your favourite, try adding oats to meatloaf or meatballs to increase the fibre and try oatmeal muffins and cookies.

Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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