January is National Oatmeal Month, a time to give one of our most underappreciated and unpretentious, but nutritious, foods its due.  What better month than January, traditionally one of the coldest months of the year, to start the day with a healthy bowl of oatmeal, as people have done for at least three thousand years.  However, oats were not an instant hit; in fact, they were once considered weeds that grew within fields of various domesticated crops.  The ancient Greeks and Romans even thought of them as a diseased version of wheat only fit to be horse feed.  Another strike against oats was the presence of fats that cause them to go rancid very quickly after harvesting, making it necessary to process them immediately.  Oats were the last of the major cereal grains to be domesticated and soon became popular in the British Isles, particularly Scotland, where oats were better suited to the climate than wheat.

In spite of its lowly reputation, more people eventually recognized the value of eating oats. Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain, which is good for digestion, stabilizes blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and as an added benefit, makes you feel full longer. In addition to fiber, oats contain copper, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, chromium, zinc, and protein. They have anti-inflammatory properties, are hypoallergenic, and have the best amino acid balances of all the cereal grains. Though January specifically celebrates oatmeal, oats on their own are a great addition to yogurt, muffins, breads, and, of course, cookies. Oats are an ingredient in many skin care products as well, such as moisturizers, shampoos, and soaps.  Nevertheless, less than 5% of oats grown commercially are for human use, but rather are for animal consumption.

But back to oatmeal, which many people consider to be a rather tasteless and colorless food, plain and utilitarian, not the type of dish that ordinarily makes your mouth water. However, it is more versatile than you might think and once you know how to dress it up, this classic comfort food becomes an inviting healthy breakfast.  To prepare your oatmeal, you can choose from several varieties of oats, including steel cut oats (sometimes called Irish or Scotch oats), rolled oats (or old fashioned oats), quick oats, or instant oats.  For a no fuss breakfast, you can buy oatmeal in packets, often containing dried fruit, which needs only to be mixed with milk or water and cooked briefly.  For a better taste experience, try taking a few extra minutes to prepare oatmeal with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or try one of these recipes:

Now fix yourself a steaming bowl of oatmeal and read more about it at the links below:

4 ways to celebrate National Oatmeal Month https://www.multicare.org/news/4-ways-to-celebrate-national-oatmeal-month/

A Brief History of Oats https://magazine.fighttimes.com/a-brief-history-of-oats-and-how-you-should-eat-them/

History of Oatmeal – Benefits of Oatmeal Consumption http://www.historyofcereals.com/cereal-history/history-of-oatmeal/

National  Oatmeal Month http://www.nutritionxpert.com/national-oatmeal-month

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