My gramma always told me that oatmeal “sticks to your ribs”. She made it for us almost every morning whenever I stayed with her.
Eating oatmeal makes me think of her. As a child, I liked oatmeal but didn’t love it. Now as an adult, I love it! I love the texture and the warmth when I eat it. The versatility of oatmeal always impresses me, and I love how affordable it is! But the truth is that I do get tired of it, or I’m rushed and can’t make it before running out the door…know how that goes?
At the same time, I know that oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse. It is naturally a gluten-free whole grain full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Oats are a great balance of carbs, fiber, protein and fat, putting them among the most nutritionally dense foods.
Oats have several health benefits, including reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels and preventing constipation thanks to its powerful soluble fiber called Beta-Glucan. They may also help prevent childhood asthma when fed to young infants. Finally, oats are very filling, possibly helping people lose weight.
As our family has worked to clean up our diet over time, I have abandoned the instant packets that have added sugar and ingredients in favor of oatmeal that I cook myself. But that means more time actually cooking/preparing it – even if you use the quick cooking kind.
It is important to note that there are several levels of processing for oats. Here is a listing and description for each level:
- Whole oat groats: Groats are the whole oat with the inedible hull removed. The least processed for of oats, groats need to soak for hours before cooking. This is the longest cooking form of oats.
- Steel cut oats: Steel cut oats are groats that are cut into pieces. They need less soaking time because the smaller pieces absorb water faster.
- Scottish oats: Scottish oats are ground groats. Cooked Scottish oats have the consistency of porridge.
- Rolled oats, slow cooking: Rolled oats (also called Old-Fashioned oats) are groats that have been steamed and rolled into a flake. They cook faster than groats, steel cut oats and Scottish oats.
- Rolled oats, quick cooking: Quick cooking oats are groats that are rolled flatter and steamed longer than rolled oats. As a result, they cook faster and have a mushier texture than rolled oats.
- Instant oatmeal: To create instant oatmeal, groats are cut into pieces, steamed and rolled even flatter. Pouring boiling water over them is enough to cook the oats.
So the question is…does the level of processing change the nutritional benefit to oats? Is it ok to use the quicker cooking kind to save time but still receive the benefits of less processed oats?
The answer is yes! All oats, including steel cut oats and quick oats, are made from the whole groat with the outer husk removed. The difference comes in the processing level, and thus the texture and speed of cooking. But all oats (not including instant oats which have added sugar, sodium, and other ingredients) contain in a 1/2 cup serving: 74 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.
Quick oats can be cooked in 1-2 minutes, while rolled oats will take a few extra minutes. Steel cut oats take 20-30 minutes. However, soaking them all night will cut down the cook time to about 10 minutes.
Steel cut oats retain an individual grain texture, similar to brown rice, while quick oats have a porridge type of texture. Some people prefer the heartier, more robust texture of steel cut oats. Others prefer the creamier, softer texture of the quick oats.
Using oats in baking and other dishes
Even if you prefer steel cut oats for breakfast, the softer texture of quick oats and rolled oats usually work better in baked goods. In addition, quick (and rolled) oats can be ground (using a food processor) into oat flour. Steel cut oats create a courser texture flour, so it’s best not to use them in baked goods unless a recipe calls for them.
Steel cut oats time-saving tip
If you just love steel cut oats but don’t have time in the morning to prepare them, here’s an idea. Cook your steel cut oats overnight in the slow cooker! Combine 1 part steel cut oats with 4 parts water in your slow cooker and cook on low for 7-9 hours (or on high for 4-6 hours). Yum!
At the end of the day, oats are among the healthiest foods you can eat! So depending on the texture you prefer and the time you have to prepare them, pick a style of oats (except for instant oatmeal packs) that you enjoy and go for it…you can’t go wrong!
As a side note, oats are naturally gluten-free. However, they are often harvested and processed by equipment contaminated with gluten from other grains, so if you need to have gluten-free oats, be sure to only buy and eat oats that are certified as gluten-free.
Now you might be saying that you get sick of oatmeal or need a change. Well that’s where today’s recipe comes in! I’ve been making this for years, and my entire family LOVES it! Make it ahead of time and use it all week by heating up just want you need at a time.
This baked oatmeal recipe contains oats, milk, eggs and fruit to make it full of protein and fiber, thus making you feel fuller, longer.
Although this recipe does call for both milk and butter, it is important to note that I have successfully made it dairy-free by replacing the milk with rice milk and the butter with unsweetened applesauce. It still tastes as delicious and gets rid of some of the unnecessary fat.
Tell us…what is your favorite way to eat oatmeal?