This week's Email Monday is about a question I get oh-so-often from Real Food veterans, long-term Paleo devotees, AND newbies alike: what's wrong with oatmeal?
For many Paleo folks, avoiding grains means avoiding not just modern processed junk made from so-called "whole grains," like breads, cereals, pasta and packaged food; it also means avoiding even the more old-school, less processed grains with a longer history in the human diet than the modern grain-based garbage advertised to us at every turn. (Blech.)
Part of the reason I re-branded my website, however, from Cave Girl Eats to Real Food Liz, is because - while I live AND love the Paleo lifestyle, the simple fact is: oatmeal, along with a few old-school grains like spelt, isn't inherently bad...not necessarily, anyway.
The truth is, oatmeal is a grain with a long history in the human diet, and many people do just fine with it. While it's not particularly nutrient-dense, it does contain some unique fiber that is quite filling. It's also pretty darn satisfying in a way conventional grains don't seem to be.
For friends and clients who ask me about their beloved oatmeal, and especially for those for whom losing their oatmeal would be a total deal-breaker, I have to admit it: it's not so bad. Not at all!
Of course, there are exceptions. For those who are highly intolerant to grains of any kind, who are struggling with autoimmune disease or digestive distress, or who just can't eat oatmeal without eating ALL THE OATMEAL, it's probably not a good choice.
But for those in good health, who enjoy a nice, warm bowl of oatmeal now and then, there's probably nothing to worry about. Yes, oatmeal is a grain, and Paleo folk eschew grains; but it's modern, highly processed grains that post the greatest problems to human health (not to mention the gunk, like soybean oil, artificial preservatives and additives that come along with grain-based foods like bread, buns and meal replacement bars).
In my practice, even the constituents in grain that are thought to be problematic (gluten in spelt, avedin in oats) are simply no problem against the backdrop of a truly healthy digestive system; and truly healthy digestive systems seem to be resistant to damage from constituents that irritate a less robust system.
(It should be clear, then, that a compromised digestive system isn't one we want to throw grains at willy-nilly.)
The greatest potential problem when it comes to oats, however, is not one to be glossed over: Most conventionally-produced oats are shipped in the same trucks as wheat; therefore, oats NOT labeled "gluten-free" are most likely contaminated with gluten.
This can mean huge problems for the gluten-intolerant and those with celiac disease. Buyer, beware.
If you're up for some oatmeal, just pay attention to a few key things to stay on a healthy path:
Assess your carbohydrate tolerance. Oatmeal is a heavy carb hit, so it won't have the same affect on your system as a breakfast of bacon & eggs. For this reason, be sure to...
Eat some fat with it. Add a hunk of butter or coconut oil and/or cook your oatmeal in coconut milk. You might even whip a few eggs into your oatmeal while it cooks for an extra nutrition boost.
Avoid instant. The stuff is garbage-laced garbage. Add your own yummies to your oatmeal.
Don't eat it every dang day. Variety is key in keeping the gut healthy and the body happy. I wouldn't want ya to get stuck in an oatmeal rut any more than I'd want ya in a scrambled-eggs-every-dang-day rut. Don't let it crowd out other important sources of nourishment.
Get organic, gluten-free oats - not Quaker. Organic oats, certified gluten-free oats are less likely to be cross-contaminated with other industrial garbage. Bob's Red Mill is easy to find (and costly enough that you'll measure your intake!)
Pay attention to how you feel. If oatmeal isn't working for you, you can make changes as needed. If your gut feels good, your regularity is a-ok, and you feel great, then don't worry. Be happy! (*singing*)
Do you have thoughts on oatmeal? Do you eat it, and do you think it's acceptable for a Paleo devotee to indulge in a lil' oatmeal now and then? Let me know on the Facebook page!