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14 Interesting Facts About Oatmeal

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Introduction

Oatmeal is a classic and nutritious breakfast food that has been enjoyed around the world for centuries. Made from oat grains, oatmeal comes in different varieties and can be prepared in many ways. It provides important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

While oatmeal is well-known as a healthy morning meal, there are some fascinating facts about its history, nutrition, and role in culture that many people don’t realize. Read on to learn 14 interesting tidbits of information about one of the world’s most beloved breakfast foods.

Oatmeal on the wooden background
Oatmeal on the wooden background

1. Oats Originated in Asia and North Africa

The cultivation of oats and oatmeal preparation is believed to have originated in northwest China. From there, it spread to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Oats were also grown in ancient India. As early as 2000 BC, oats were an important staple crop in colder northern areas due to their resistance to harsh weather.

2. Oatmeal Was Commonly Eaten in Ancient Rome

The Ancient Romans grew and consumed a lot of oats and oatmeal. In particular, oatmeal gruel was a common breakfast food for Roman citizens. The famous Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius was said to start his days with a modest bowl of oatmeal.

3. Oats Fueled British Expansion

By the 17th and 18th centuries, oats had become an essential crop in Scotland and England. The British relied on the energizing effects of oats and oatmeal to fuel their expansion across the globe. Scottish immigrants brought oatmeal with them to the American colonies starting in the 1600s.

4. There are Three Main Types of Oats

While we tend to use the terms “oats” and “oatmeal” interchangeably, there are three main varieties of oat grains:

  • Rolled oats – The most popular type, rolled oats are flattened whole oat groats steamed and rolled into flakes.
  • Steel-cut oats – Chopped whole oat groats. Take longer to cook but have chewier texture.
  • Scottish oats – Stone-ground oat grains to retain more nutrition but leave some bran intact for creamier texture

5. Oats Contain Important Nutrients for Health

A bowl of oatmeal delivers a range of vitamins and minerals:

  • Thiamin – Supports metabolism and nerve health
  • Magnesium – Boosts energy and heart health
  • Phosphorous – Supports bone health and growth
  • Iron – Provides oxygen to muscles and the brain

Oats also contain antioxidants like avenanthramide that fight inflammation and reduce disease risk.

6. It Has More Protein Than Many Breakfast Cereals

A typical serving of oatmeal contains 4-6 grams of protein. That’s nearly double the protein in a same-sized serving of corn flakes or rice cereal. The protein in oatmeal comes mostly from the oat grains themselves. This makes it more filling and nutritious than many sugary breakfast cereals.

7. Oats Provide Soluble Fiber to Reduce Cholesterol

One major health benefit of oats is that they contain beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that has been shown to lower LDL “bad” blood cholesterol levels. Just 3 grams per day can reduce cholesterol by 5-10%. Eating oatmeal is an easy way to get soluble fiber and keep your heart healthy.

8. Oatmeal Was a Symbol of Unity and Resistance

In Ireland, oatmeal became more than just a staple food. Under British rule in the 19th century, struggling Irish peasants subsisted on oatmeal when other crops failed. As a result, oatmeal became a symbol of Irish unity and resistance during the infamous Potato Famine.

9. It Inspired the Creation of Cheerios

In 1941, General Mills launched Cheerios, one of the first ready-to-eat cold breakfast cereals. Cheerios were inspired by the popularity of cooked oatmeal. The original name for Cheerios was actually CheeriOats. The name was changed to Cheerios in 1945.

Oat milk is having a major moment right now. This nutritious milk alternative is made by soaking, blending and straining oats with water. It has a mild, pleasant flavor and creamy texture. Oat milk contains fiber, vitamin B12, iron and calcium. It’s also vegan and gluten-free. No wonder it has surpassed soy and almond milk in popularity!

11. Oatmeal Can Be Used in Savory Dishes Too

While most often thought of as a breakfast food, oatmeal isn’t just for the morning meal. Oats can also be used to make tasty savory dishes like oatmeal risotto, oat burgers, and oat bread. Scottish oatmeal is especially well-suited for cooking due to its creamier, heartier texture.

12. Finland Consumes the Most Oats Per Capita

Finland leads the world in oats consumption, with about 14 kg per person consumed annually. Oatmeal, porridge, and oat bread are dietary staples in Finland, with consumption holding steady since the early 1900s. No wonder Finland is also one of the overall healthiest countries on Earth!

13. The First Ready-to-Eat Oatmeal Was Created in 1922

In 1922, the Quaker Mill Company introduced Quick Quaker Oats, the first instant oatmeal product sold in stores. The oatmeal was partially cooked and dried to reduce preparation time while still retaining nutrients. This convenience product was a hit, paving the way for all the instant oatmeals we enjoy today.

14. Oatmeal Oreos Are an Actual Thing

If you love Oreos and oatmeal, you can now enjoy the best of both worlds. Nabisco makes limited-edition Oatmeal Oreo cookies combining the classic Oreo filling with oatmeal flavored cookies. They join other creative Oreo flavors like carrot cake, chocolate marshmallow, and maple syrup.

Conclusion

From its origins in ancient civilizations to its modern-day popularity, oatmeal continues to be a nutritious, comforting, and innovative food. It fueled the growth of empires, inspired commercial products and has taken on cultural significance around the world. With the rising interest in plant-based diets and nutritious meals, oatmeal is sure to keep nourishing people for generations to come.


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