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Are Steel Cut Oats Healthier?

Does it matter what kind of oatmeal you eat? Find out how steel cut, regular, and instant oatmeal stack up nutritionally.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
May 31, 2011
Episode #140

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Are Steel Cut Oats Healthier?

Several of you have written with questions about oats and oatmeal—in particular, whether steel-cut (or Irish) oats are healthier or more nutritious than regular oats. I think some of you will be surprised by the answer.

What’s the Difference Between Steel Cut and Regular Oats?

First, a quick guide to how different types of oat cereals are produced:

Oat groats: All types of oat cereals start out as groats, which are hulled, toasted oat grains.  (Removing the hull doesn’t remove the bran, by the way.)

Steel-cut (Irish) oats: These are the least processed type of oat cereal. The toasted oat groats are simply chopped into chunks about the size of a sesame seed. 

Stone-ground (Scottish) oats: These are the same as Irish oats but they are ground into smaller pieces, closer to the size of a poppy seed.  Both Irish and Scottish oats have to be cooked before you eat them. Irish oats take about 45 minutes to cook, Scottish oats about half that long (because they are smaller).

Old-fashioned rolled oats: These are made by steaming the toasted groats and then running them between rollers to create flakes.   Rolled oats can be eaten as is or cooked into oatmeal (it takes about ten minutes).

Quick-cooking oats: These are simply rolled into thinner flakes, so they cook a little faster.

Instant oats: These are the most heavily processed. The groats have been chopped fine, flattened, pre-cooked, and dehydrated.  Instant oatmeal usually has added salt and sugar.  I suggest leaving the instant oats on the shelf.  In the time it takes you to boil the water to make instant oatmeal, you can cook some old-fashioned oats in the microwave.   Here’s how.

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