More Than Just Food
You may think of oatmeal as on the bland side of the food aisle, as something that your doctor told you to eat but that you're not thrilled about. Or maybe it's something you take only with a lot of cream and sugar. But even if you already love oatmeal, you might not know that you can use it to save money and get crafty, as well as get healthier. Don't throw out any excess!
The healthiest type of oatmeal is made from whole-grain, steel-cut oats, also known as coarse-cut or Irish oats, because they retain more of the nutritious (though tough) bran layer. The more common "rolled oats" are steamed, flattened and lightly toasted. "Instant" oatmeal is pre-cooked and usually has sweeteners and flavors added. Nutritionists say you're better off buying unsweetened, and adding a touch of honey, maple syrup, agave or other flavoring yourself.
Oats are an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine, iron, beta-glucan (which may help regulate blood sugar) and the antioxidants known as avenanthramides (which may help promote healthy circulation). Oatmeal is also believed to help reduce harmful cholesterol levels and it may boost the immune system.
But what happens when you have too much of a good thing, or you just don't get around to eating it and your oatmeal gets old and stale in your cupboard? Don't throw it out! It has many great uses besides filling up your family.
Many people swear by oatmeal as a natural remedy to acne. One easy recipe is to cook up some of the stuff, let cool until lukewarm, then apply to the affected areas. Let stand for several minutes, then rinse.
Some people prefer to use oatmeal-based scrubs. Others bathe with "colloidal oatmeal," which is made by mixing oatmeal that has been ground into a very fine powder in water.
Soothe Dry or Irritated Skin
People have been using oatmeal to promote healthy, beautiful skin for a long time. It can provide soothing relief from sunburn, poison ivy or other irritations, and is said to heal skin and open pores. In fact, many moisturizers and beauty products on store shelves contain oatmeal for its benefits, sometimes ground up and sometimes in flake form.
Soothe Your Dog's Skin
Just like people, dogs often get dry and itchy skin. Luckily, it's easy for caring owners to make a home remedy out of oatmeal, an old sock, a washcloth and some aluminum foil. Find the recipe at SmallDogsParadise.com.
Pamper Yourself in the Tub
A soothing way to unwind at the end of a long day is to take a bath with oatmeal. Here's a simple recipe from AltUse.com: While running a lukewarm bath, add one cup of milk, two cups of uncooked oatmeal and a tablespoon of honey. Soak for 10 to 20 minutes, and your skin will be moisturized and rejuvenated. How relaxing! Note that some folks like to use colloidal oatmeal for the task.
DIY Body Scrub or Face Mask
Make your own scrub by grinding two tablespoons of oatmeal into a grainy consistency in a blender or food processor. Add one teaspoon baking soda and very small amounts of water until the mixture has the consistency of paste. Spread that on your cleansed and dry face. Leave on for 10 minutes and gently remove with cool water.
It also isn't difficult to make your own oatmeal soap (find a recipe at crafts.lovetoknow.com).
Old Oatmeal? Eat It Anyway
It could be either refreshing or disappointing to hear that you will probably be fine if you eat your old oatmeal as long as it doesn't have any obvious problems, of course. Scientists recently tested samples of rolled oats that were 28 years old, and they discovered that they were still perfectly edible, still contained some nutrients and even tasted okay (test subjects rated them as acceptable but not fantastic).