Grandma O’Malley had curly bright red hair no doubt maintained by her hairdresser in later years, a fondness for hairnets, a tiny house on a nondescript street in a small city in the midwest, and an upright spinet piano that she played on Saturday nights when the dishes were done and the food had been put away. She had learned to quilt at a very young age from her grandmother, and was very proud of the handmade antique quilts that adorned every chair and sofa in her house. She was very loving, was always ready with a hug and a smile, and she always served me steel cut oats. I didn’t get to see her very often because we lived so far away, but the memory of those visits lives on…
I find that I have certain favorite foods that are related to a memory of one sort of another. The crab souffle we served at our wedding reception, caramel topped chocolate cake that my mother always made, nasi goreng an Indonesian rice dish from my childhood, and steel cut oats with walnuts and raisins, to name a few. Do you have certain foods like this too?
Aside from my grandma, I eat oatmeal because I really do like the way it tastes. I eat it steaming hot with raisins, walnuts and a little skim milk on top. I don’t add sugar because I find the sweetness of a few good raisins is enough for me now even though I used to be a sugar fiend as a child and added more than enough in my early years to last a lifetime. Oatmeal is also an easy hearty breakfast that keeps me from getting too hungry mid-morning when the donuts, bagels and other pastries spontaneously appear on the conference room table. It’s also good for you — as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I suppose people expect me to lead with the facts…the facts are important to me, but personally I mostly eat it because of the way it tastes and the way it makes me feel.
So why does oatmeal help us with our health? Oatmeal is a food that is high in fiber and contains beta glucans which are a type of soluble fiber in oats. There are two types of fiber found in plant foods – soluble and insoluble which have a different effect in our digestive system when we eat them. Fiber comes from the materials that make up the parts of the plant cell. Soluble fiber takes up water in our digestive system and can help slow down the rate at which our stomach empties. Insoluble fiber is largely undigested in our system and adds bulk which can help keep things moving. Some research has shown a relationship between feeling full and the fiber that is present in oats. Other research has shown that the fiber in oatmeal may help reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into our bloodstream.
Now you know why oatmeal, especially steel cut oats, is one of my favorite go-to treats. What about you? Do you have a similar favorite food story to share?