National Oatmeal Month and Nutrition

January can be a time to delve into a science lesson about nutrition through a discussion of whole grains, like oatmeal.

By Rachel D

After enjoying the holidays, and ringing in the New Year, it might be the right time to discuss eating habits. People go on diets, give up sweets, or try other methods to be healthy. While there are many ways to focus on healthier habits, discussing National Oatmeal Month might be a way to broach this topic in the classroom.
Students may have heard about the important role breakfast plays in keeping them healthy, and giving them the energy to study or play throughout the day, but you might also want to delve into a discussion of cholesterol levels and the benefits of oatmeal.

Why Eating Oatmeal Can Be Beneficial

Many people have heard about some of the potential health benefits of eating oatmeal. Commercials focus on the possibility of lowering cholesterol levels by eating this delicious and mushy food. You can turn a discussion of cholesterol and oatmeal into a scientific investigation in your classroom.

Let the Investigation Begin

Hook your students by showing a commercial in which the health benefits of oatmeal are mentioned. Then ask your students to hypothesize how they think oatmeal lowers cholesterol. After everyone has had a chance to share their theory, let the investigations begin. You could have students do this activity in pairs or small groups.

Print out information from the Internet, or let students search the web on their own to have them do research on cholesterol and oatmeal. Then have students take notes on their findings.

Oatmeal and Cholesterol

During their research, students should find out that cholesterol is required in the human body to help build and maintain membranes in the cells. It is also needed to create Vitamin D, hormones, and bile, which helps digest fat. However, you can talk to your students about the importance of keeping cholesterol levels low because higher levels can lead to serious health problems, like heart disease. Cholesterol can be found in animal products, such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. There is no cholesterol in vegetables, fruits, and grains.

There are many types of oats, including rolled oats and steel cut oats, each of which can be prepared in different ways. Students can talk about the different types of oats they have eaten, and identify the substance (soluble fiber) that provides cholesterol-lowering benefits. Eating at least five grams of soluble fiber a day can decrease cholesterol. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal provides six grams of fiber.

Presenting the Facts

Using their findings, students can make a diagram.

  • Part 1 - Have students draw a bowl of oatmeal (with their favorite healthy toppings) and neatly write three to five facts about oatmeal
  • Part 2- Students draw a human body or a stomach. They should write three to five facts about cholesterol (what it is, how it affects the body, etc.)
  • Part 3- Finally, have students draw a person eating a bowl of oatmeal, and write three to five facts about how oatmeal decreases cholesterol.

The Adventures of Super Oatmeal

For a more creative way to present the facts, students can create a comic in which oatmeal defeats cholesterol. Provide them with a blank comic strip sheet, found here. Or, if your classroom has computers, allow your students to create their comics that way. Make sure the comic includes at least ten facts about oatmeal and cholesterol. What follows are more lesson plans talking about nutrition.

Nutrition Lesson Plans:

In this lesson, students study the highly nutritious and tasty grain. They will learn about the history of oats and its health benefits.
This lesson allows students to investigate the nutritional benefits of whole grain cereal and oatmeal. They learn how these foods help protect us against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Eat Less Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
In this science lesson, students learn about cholesterol and how it affects the body. They study the steps that are necessary to lower cholesterol levels.