I can’t think of a better way to gain the necessary strength and energy to carry myself though a hectic morning than with a steaming bowl of freshly cooked oatmeal. Especially when waking up to frosty mornings this time of the year. Oats are a hardy cereal grain that gain part of their distinctive flavor from the roasting process that they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ allowing oats to retain a concentrated source of fiber and nutrients. Health benefits from the nutrients found in oats include the ability to lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as a enhanced immune response to infection, to name a few.
Oats also contain unique antioxidants that aid in the reduction of cardiovascular disease and the prevention of heart failure, due to the added benefit of being a whole grain. Research has shown that eating whole grains, such as oats, at least six times per week is especially helpful for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease. The beta-glucan found in oats and other whole grains are beneficial in diabetes as well by helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. Oats also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, when ingested on a regular basis. Oats are also a good source of fiber, which also helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
You may notice that your local grocery store may carry different types of oats. Different types of processing are used to produce the various types of oat products, which are generally used to make breakfast cereals, baked goods and stuffings. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of oats you may encounter. Keep in mind that different types of oats require slightly different cooking methods for making hot cereal or porridge.
- Oat groats: unflattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing
- Steel-cut oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them.
- Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
- Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
- Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Oftentimes, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product.
- Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
- Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread.
Oats are a great nutritious way to start your day or as an additive to your favorite baked goods for an extra nutritional boost. Try adding oat flour or whole oats the next time you make bread or muffins or using oat groats for stuffing your Christmas turkey. Or you can try a classic favorite of adding your favorite nuts and fruits to a hot bowl of oatmeal before dashing out the door to finish up your holiday shopping.
The Caloric Expense of Alcohol During the Holidays
During the holiday season three things typically come to mind: family, food and (if you’re over the age of 21) drinks. For those of you wanting to drown your sorrows of the holiday season gone made with copious amounts of spiked eggnog like actor Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation or bringing good cheers by combining large amounts of high-fat treats with high-caloric alcohol, the New Year may start with a rather rude awakening.
Researchers have found that combining high-fat foods such as glazed ham, stuffing and pecan pie with alcoholic drink causes people to put away many more calories that eating fatty foods with nonalcoholic drinks, or eating low-fat foods with our without alcohol. Considering that a traditional Christmas dinner can easily add up to more than 1,500 calories- a plate of filled with ham, cornbread (yes, the cornbread!) with butter, a slice of cheesecake, mashed potatoes with gravy, a salad with croutons and vinaigrette, (are we hungry yet?) and a glass of beer- consuming additional calories from alcohol is likely to put extra pounds on your frame. Some alcoholic beverages are more forgiving than others. In general, hard liquor and cocktail drinks tend to have many more calories than a glass of beer or wine, but having one cocktail or multiple drinks can easily add up to a meal. Let’s take a look at some popular seasonal choices for alcoholic beverages:
Eggnog: One of the more popular drinks of the holiday season. One cup of eggnog (250 ml) contains 160-290 calories and a shot of spirits (typically spiced rum) adds about another 60 calories, a fine dessert in itself. You can try to cut calories by looking for low fat or even fat free eggnog to add spirits to save yourself a few calories.
Wine: Red and white wine have about the same amount of calories, 121-125 calories per 5-ounce glass. Dessert wines tend to have more calories. A 3.5-ounce glass, for example, has about 165 calories.
Beer: Among the popular non-light beers on the market, a 12-ounce bottle of Corona Extra (148 calories) is the “lightest” pick.
When it comes to hard liquor 1.5-oucne glass of 53-proof Kahlua has 170 calories (which, by the way, is only 10 calories shy of a whole wheat Krispy Kreme doughnut). A frozen margarita made with 2-ounces of tequila, 4.5 ounces of Jose Cuervo margarita mix, and salt will set you back about 246 calories. That’s about as much as a 4-ounce serving of Baskin-Robbins Cherries Jubilee ice cream. How about a rum and coke? Well, a 12-ounce serving will set you back about 361 calories about as many calories as a Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
If you’re in the party mood and want to enjoy a good cocktail without undoing your fitness goals, fear not. There are ways you can enjoy your spirits during the holidays without dire consequences. Instead of regular beers try reaching for “light beers” such as Beck’s Premier Light with 64 calories, Michelob ULTRA with 95 calories or Amstel Light with 99 calories to help save your waistline. Instead of drinking a full serving a wine, cut down the calories in wine try adding diet ginger ale or seltzer to half a serving of wine. Look for quality spirits without artificial sweeteners and colors and use fresh fruit juices instead for sweetness. Also, look for low calorie mixers as syrups are loaded with sugar and calories. Also to help combat extra calories don’t forget your fitness routine. Try going for a walk, a bike ride, or any type of physical activity that keeps you on track with your fitness goals. Being physically active before or after a meal will not only help burn calories, but is a great way to deal with holiday stress and lift a different kind of spirit.
Until next week…
G. Nicole Shea, BS, ACSM-CPT (aka KinkySheaPT)
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Zumba® Fitness Instructor