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Zorba Paster: How I Switched From ‘Down With Oatmeal!’ To Being Down With Oatmeal

Benefits Of Eating Oatmeal Are Especially Important In Children

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oatmeal
Ella Olsson (CC-BY)

Do you like oatmeal? I must admit, sheepishly perhaps, that I don’t like it. I never think of having oatmeal for breakfast.

When people go to a restaurant and order oatmeal, I think, “Why, oh why, are they wasting good money on that gruel, that mush? Yuck!”

Now, I must admit that when our daughter, DeeDee, prepared fancy-schmancy steel-cut oatmeal with lots of goodies like tasty berries and such, I found it fine to eat. But still, it’s not something I choose when I’m eating breakfast.

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Give me a fine omelet, a scrambler with veggies, a soft-boiled egg — as you can see, I’m an egg person. I don’t believe in all that stuff about how eggs are bad for you. They are not.

Eggs are good for you in moderation — not like my dad had them, every morning. But then again, he lived until he was 87, so maybe he had something there, with his egg-or-two-a-day habit.

But this is not why I’m writing this column. I am here to praise the benefits of oatmeal, even if I’m not going to regularly partake in eating it.

These benefits are especially important in children. Recent research published in the journal Nutrients points out how this is a food we should be serving to our kids.

This research looks at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, which surveys lots of things from waist size in adults to exercise in middle schoolers. Researchers studied nearly 6,000 kids ages 2 to 18 years old from 2011-14, finding what these youngsters were eating.

One group ate oatmeal, while the next group had donuts, sweet rolls and pastries such as Pop Tarts. Next up were pancakes, waffles and French toast; and after that, eggs and omelets, then the cereals — the plain or the sugar-filled.

All of these were compared with the breakfast skippers.

A word about those skippers up front: That’s a no-no. Kids need energy for their growing brain, for their school performance, for their general health. If you can’t get them breakfast, then make sure they get it at school.

I can’t emphasize enough how much better kids do when they have something in their stomach. Even though something is better than nothing, a good something is better yet.

Oatmeal turned out to be the best, hands down, of any breakfast you could feed kids. It has the highest fiber, soluble and insoluble, and is filled with magnesium and other key nutrients such as antioxidants, tocopherols, lignins and phenols.

And some oatmeal is even better, fortified with iron and B vitamins. Those are the ones I would choose for your kids.

Steel-cut natural oats are just fine, but grab the ones with the extra B vitamins and you don’t have to worry your kids aren’t getting enough vitamins.

That brings me to a study out of the University of California-Riverside that showed eating too much fat and sugar as a child might alter the gut microbiome for life, something we’ve just begun to realize may be important for lifetime good health.

We are our gut, whether we like it or not. And the refined sugars too many kids get may make them smile but are a drag on gut health.

My spin: Perhaps I have to rethink my “down with oatmeal!” policy now that I’ve seen how healthy it really is. Oatmeal is a whole grain food rich in fiber and nutrients. I’m down with that.

When I go out to brunch, I’ll still get my egg omelet with fun stuff in it. I’ll save oatmeal for my day-to-day breakfast. Stay well.

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