Are the Various Types of Oatmeal Nutritionally the Same?

Oats gain part of their distinctive flavor from the roasting process that they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Although oats are then hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and their germ allowing them to retain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients. Different types of processing are then used to produce the various types of oat products, which are generally used to make breakfast cereals, baked goods and stuffings:

  • Oat groats: unflattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing
  • Steel-cut oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them.
  • Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
  • Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
  • Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Oftentimes, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product.
  • Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
  • Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread.

The different types of oatmeal are not at all the same in terms of nutrition. The very outermost portion of the oat (called the hull) is always removed before the oat is eaten. However, once the hull has been removed, there are several further processing steps that can be taken. Because these additional processing steps almost always serve to lower the nutritional value of the oats, I recommend the least number of additional processing steps to give yourself the best nourishment possible from your oats. The least processed forms for oats are oat groats and steel-cut oats. Oat groats consist of the hulled but unflattened and unchopped oat kernels. Steel-cut oats are the same as oat groats, except for being chopped with steel blades. Because they are the least processed, these two forms of oats are also the most nutritious.

Old-fashioned oats are chopped, steamed, and rolled to give them their flatter shape. Because they are more processed, they are less nourishing than oat groats or steel-cut oats. However, they are still better sources of nourishment than most quick-cooking oats or instant oatmeals. Quick and instant oatmeal usually have their oat bran—the layer of the grain that’s just beneath the hull—removed. Many vitamins and much of the oat’s fiber are contained within the bran, and so its removal is particularly problematic when it comes to nutritional value. Oat groats, steel-cut oats, and, to a slightly lesser extent, old-fashioned or rolled oats would be your best choices here, with quick and instant oatmeal usually being less nourishing due to further processing and the removal of their bran.

Source: The World’s Healthiest Foods


Steel-cut oats Old-fashioned (rolled) oats Quick oats
Description Also called Irish or Scotch oats, these are cut, not rolled. They look like chopped-up rice, take the longest to cook, and have a slightly chewy consistency. Sometimes called rolled oats, these look like flat little ovals. When processing these oats, the kernels are steamed first, and then rolled to flatten them. They take longer to cook than quick oats but are quicker than steel-cut oats. Also called instant oats, these oats are precooked, dried, and then rolled. They cook in a few minutes when added to hot water and have a mushy texture.
Typical Serving Size 1/4 cup dry 1/2 cup dry 1/2 cup dry
Calories 170 190 150
Total Fat 3 g 3.5 g 3 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g 0.5 g 0.5 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 mg 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg 0 mg 0 mg
Carbs 29 g 32 g 27 g
Fiber 5 g 5 g 4 g
Sugars 0 g 1 g 1 g
Protein 7 g 7 g 5 g
Calcium 2% 2% 0%
Iron 10% 15% 10%

Surprised? It looks like they’re pretty similar, but one thing that sets them apart is how they compare on the glycemic index. The less-processed steel-cut oats have a much lower glycemic load than higher-processed quick oats. Low-GI foods slow down the rate that glucose (sugar) gets introduced into your body, and in contrast, high-GI foods cause a spike in your blood sugar as well as insulin, causing you to crave more sugary foods when your glucose levels drop. The best option then are the steel-cut oats, with rolled oats a great second choice. They’ll keep you feeling fuller longer, which will keep your energy levels up and help you lose weight.

Source: Popsugar


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