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Oatmeal Homage: Bowl or Bar, It’s Healthy, Hearty Winter Fare

More oatmeal is eaten in January than in any other time of the year. As this month comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to squeeze in a little healthy celebration of National Oatmeal Month. That’s right: January is officially the month when this heart healthy food gets its due. Warm, healthy, filling and the perfect foil for an array of favorite tastes, this versatile food is as good in a bowl as it is a in a bar.

Oatmeal is the broad term for ground, steel-cut, crushed or rolled oats, and it is known for its many health advantages, including being a source for omega-3s, manganese and soluble fiber. It plays a serious role in lowering cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure, especially as an alternative to less healthy breakfast bowls. Other benefits, of course, include that stick-to-your-ribs feeling that helps you feel full until lunch, and it provides a necessary warmth on a cold winter morning.

But as National Oatmeal Month helps illustrate, oatmeal is not just for breakfast. This popular food is also a windfall for cookies, bars, and breads, adding nutrition and texture to all it comes in contact with. It gives new meaning to “oatmeal bar” by enhancing beer, it thickens soups and chili, and it even has less edible uses, including facial scrubs and shampoo.

You’re the Top

For all its uses, oatmeal’s Oscar-worthy role might be as the perfect foundation for a daily serving of fruit. It shines when combined with healthy berries – wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples and bananas all work well, but favorite toppings are a matter of personal taste. Some favorites include raisins, nuts of all varieties (try walnuts for additional serving of good fat), butter, brown sugar, milk, syrup, currants, cinnamon, cranberries, pumpkin puree, shredded coconut, citrus zest, and fresh ginger. Some oatmeal lovers have even been known to splurge with M&M’s, cream, and bacon!

A “Smothering” Boon

Top health professionals agree about the mysterious benefit of combining foods. It’s called synergy – it’s nature’s way of increasing our health benefits naturally. Food synergy occurs when components within the same food, or components between different foods, work together in a way that is more powerful than their effects would be separately. Evidence suggests that the components in the foods we consume interact with each other to give our bodies extra disease protection and a higher level of health.  It may be why can’t yet seem to achieve similar health benefits from supplements – they are missing out on food combinations that provide healthy synergy.

Oatmeal provides the basis for perfect synergistic meal. According to Superfood doc Steven Pratt, there is synergy between wild blueberries and almost every other food, making smothering a bowl of oatmeal with beneficial berries a nutritionally smart move. Find more synergistic combinations for health and taste, such as berries and walnuts, an ideal oatmeal topping.

The Perfect Bowl

While instant oatmeal can be a preferred method for some, once you start making oatmeal from “scratch”, you’ll wonder why you ever to opted for instant. Simply use equal parts oats and liquid (milk or water) in a pot and stir for about five minutes until the desired consistency is achieved. For one portion, start with 2/3 cup of oatmeal and 3/4 cup of whole milk, then decide what texture you like best. Opinions on making the perfect bowl do differ – here’s Ehow.com’s recipe for perfect bowl. Or, try this Quintessential Blueberry Oatmeal from NYTimes.com. (That purple hue means nutrition!)

Oatmeal Recipes to Try This Month (and Next!)

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