Oats are a wonderful breakfast food but they can be so much more versatile than that. Oats can be included in snacks, main dishes or they can be sweet or savory. They are usually eaten in a whole grain state so they are full of fiber, which most everyone needs more of in their diet. Oats have many other health benefits as well.

Oatmeal at breakfast is probably what comes to mind when most people think of oats or at least it does for me. As a kid I ate savory oats for breakfast which include a little butter with salt and pepper. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I had a sweeter variety of oats that include nuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruit with a little brown sugar. After tasting sweet oatmeal, I was hooked. I especially like oatmeal with the texture of steel cut oats.

Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that are cut into smaller pieces by steel blades. They have a bit more chewy texture than rolled oats. Rolled oats or old fashioned oats are whole oat groats that are steamed and rolled into flakes. So if you have tried oatmeal before but weren’t sure about it, try it again but switch up the variety of oats or whether it’s savory or sweet.

Oats make for a great addition to your meatloaf recipe to get a great texture or a snack like cranberry oat balls. You can cook oats in chicken broth to give them a more savory flavor then top them with onions, tomatoes and cheese for a breakfast, lunch or dinner meal. We like to make banana oat muffins to have on hand for a quick breakfast. Those muffins are probably my daughter’s favorite breakfast food. Try finding new ways to use these inexpensive fiber filled foods this week in your cooking.

The fiber found in oats is soluble fiber which is great for heart health. Soluble fiber is known to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. The proper fiber intake helps your body relieve constipation and can help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Fiber is only found in plant foods because it is the parts of the plant that your body can’t digest or absorb, which is sometimes referred to as roughage.

Recommendations are that men aged 50 or younger get 38 grams per day and women in that age group get 25 grams per day. The amount decreases slightly as you age over 50. In the US, on average people only eat about 15 grams per day or about half of what is recommended for a healthy diet.

Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Add oats to your next grocery list and look for some new ways to incorporate more oats into your daily menu.

Mandy Hatfield is the Nutrition Education Program Instructor for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Mandy can be reached by e-mail mandy.hatfield@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-236-3017.

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