Types of Oats – Which Is The Healthiest One?

Oats are a breakfast staple and a go-to food for many! A warm bowl of oats is a delicious and healthy way to start your day as they deliver a multitude of health benefits.

From old-fashioned rolled oats to steel-cut oats to instant oats, there are a plethora of oats to choose from!

All oats are primarily whole grains i.e. oat groats. The difference between different types of oats comes down to the processing of oat groat, giving a discrete texture and varying cooking time to them.

Before processing them into different types, oats are foremost heated at a low temperature to give them a nice toasty flavor. Heating increases the shelf life of oats by inactivating the enzyme that may cause oats to undergo rancidity.

Types of Oats

There are three common types of oats – Rolled oats, Steel-cut oats and Instant oats.

  • Rolled Oats Also known as old-fashioned oats, these appear as flat and irregularly round textured discs. Rolled oats are first heated, pressed to flatten them and then finally rolled into flakes.Rolled oats cook faster because of their greater surface area and absorb more liquid during cooking. This type of oats is commonly used in making cookies, muffins, bars or other baked foods.Old-Fashioned Oats have a lot of texture and you can relish them as classic oatmeal. Rolled oats manage to maintain their appearance after being cooked.
    • Summary: The flat and flakey Rolled oats usually cooked within 5 minutes and are the oat of choice for baked goods.

  • Steel-cut oats:- Steel-cut oats appear almost as rice cut into tiny pieces. Instead of rolling, this type of oat is processed by cutting the oat groat into small pieces. Steel-cut oats take the longest time to cook among all the three types of oats. It has a chewy texture, nutty taste and maintains the shape even being cooked. Also known as Irish oats, steel-cut oats are chewier than instant or rolled oats. They are less processed than rolled oats. These oats retain their initial grain appearance.Apart from a hot cereal, steel-cut oats can be used in stews and soups. They absorb less water in comparison to rolled oats. Leave these oats in a liquid overnight and your oats will be ready the next morning.
    • Summary: Steel-cut oats take about 20-30 minutes to cook. They have a tough texture & nutty taste and appear as tiny pieces of grain.

  • Instant Oats:- Quick oats or instant oats are highly processed among all oat types. They are pre-cooked already, and then dried, rolled & finally pressed. Instant oats cook almost instantly and take the least time in comparison to steel-cut or rolled oats. Instant oats do not retain less of their texture and look very mushy after being cooked. These are great for on-the-go mornings when you want a quick snack. Instant oats are often thinner than rolled oats with a soft and creamy texture. Read the label of instant oats as they can contain sugars, salt and other less healthy ingredients.
    • Summary: Also termed as quick oats, instant oats cook almost instantly. Instant oats are the most processed among all the oats.

Which type of oats are good for health?

  1. All types of oats, even quick oats have the goodness of whole grains and rich in fiber and protein. They primarily differ in their cook time, texture, and flavor.
  2. The kind of oat you pick to consume is entirely up to your health and taste preferences. If you like your oats sweet, having a nutty flavor and chewy texture, go for steel-cut oats.
  3. Instant oats are the right choice if you like your oats creamy and smooth. Also, instant oats make up for a quick snack and a healthy breakfast as they are an easy-to-make cereal.
  4. Rolled oats and Steel-cut have more fiber as they are minimally processed. Both of them will keep you full for a longer time. Instant oats are more processed and retain less fiber content.
  5. Rolled and steel-cut oats give a slow release of energy whereas processed oats give a sudden energy rush. Rolled oats and Steel-cut have less added sugar and flavors, however, quick oats may or may not have added flavors.
  6. Be careful of flavored instant oatmeal, as they can be unhealthy due to artificial sugars or extra sodium. Check the ingredient list and opt for plain wholegrain oats.

Summary: When it comes to oats, does not matter how they are processed, cut or pressed, whole grain oats are very healthy food.

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