The first of the five foods that firefighters must eat is probably not one that you would have thought as a wonder-food: oatmeal. But don’t underestimate it – eating oatmeal helps you achieve a healthy weight and lowers your cholesterol which reduces your risk of developing the #1 killer of firefighters: heart disease.
The reason that oatmeal is so good for you is because it contains a lot of fiber. Fiber reduces LDL cholesterol and expands in your stomach so you feel full for a longer period of time. Regular and quick-cooking (1-minute) oats have about the same amount of fiber in them. So the only big difference between the two is texture. Steel cut oats have more fiber in them and have a very distinct, gritty texture. They take longer to cook but you can cook a big batch and store it in the fridge.
Adding Fruits To Your Oatmeal
One of the great things about oatmeal is that you can add other healthy foods to it to make it even healthier. Berries and fruits, like peaches, are the best foods to add because they are chock full of fiber, PLUS they have antioxidants in them.
As I mentioned in last week’s article antioxidants fight inflammation and cell damage in the body that’s responsible for cancer, which firefighters are very prone to. A half cup of berries has 2-4 grams of fiber in it.
If you account for the 4 grams of fiber in one cup of regular oatmeal, you’ve already met 25 % of your daily need (~30 grams), just in breakfast!
Recently tons of cereal makers have come out with high fiber cereals. So these are good options too. The only reason I recommend oatmeal over cereal is because you are more likely to add a fruit or berry to oatmeal than you are to cereal.
What about bananas and brown sugar? Many people like to sweeten up their oatmeal that way. Bananas are a good option although they have a little less fiber compared to berries. If you can, skip the brown sugar. Try to just sweeten your oatmeal with a naturally sweet food, like fruits and berries, rather than refined sugar, because you’ll majorly save on calories. Those flavored oatmeal packets also have a lot of added sugars/calories.
Some of the firefighters I work with locally like to add dried fruit like raisins and dried cranberries to their oatmeal. While dried fruits do contain the antioxidants that fresh fruits do, they are much higher in calories than fresh fruits, for the same volume. For example, a quarter cup of dried fruit has almost 7 times the calories as a quarter cup of fresh fruit. So, while the health benefits are still there, if you’re watching your calorie intake, fresh fruit and some low-fat milk would be a better choice.
Oatmeal can fit into any family’s budget – it is extremely inexpensive, especially in bulk. It can be found at any grocery store and is so easy to prepare. So don’t overlook the benefits of this power food and start enjoying it today!
(Part 2 of 6)