As most people know by now, eating oatmeal is very healthy and heart protecting because it provides fiber and lowers cholesterol. What they may not know is the type to eat for the most nutrition! Some forms of oatmeal may not even be good for us. This is because since oat grains can undergo various stages of processing, some forms of oatmeal can therefore not be as nutritious. Becoming aware of how oatmeal is made or milled can help us make a better choice, which can make a real difference to our health.
The star phytonutrient in oatmeal is Beta-Glucan, well known to reduce the risk of heart disease and control blood sugar in diabetics. It is also known to boost the immune system. Just one bowl each day can reduce high LDL levels, the bad cholesterol, by 8-23%.
To get the most of oatmeal’s nutritional benefits, we should choose oats that are the least processed since cooking and processing will destroy some of Beta-Glucan’s effectiveness. Here is a list of 8 types of oatmeal in the order of least processed to most and how their formed:
1. GROATS– This is oatmeal as whole as you can get! Only the inedible hull is removed. They take the longest to cook, 50-60 minutes, and are best if soaked before using but you get the most nutrition so its definitely worth the time!
2. STEEL CUT OATS– This type of oatmeal is basically groats cut with steel blades into small pieces, which reduces its cooking time to 10-20 minutes. Their also known as Irish or pinhead oats. This type of oat also packs the most nutrition and has a chewier texture.
3. SCOTTISH OATMEAL– This oatmeal is basically the groats broken into bits. They are stone ground instead of cut and cooks in about 10 minutes. Stone grounding is a form of processing so they may not be as nutritious as groats and steel cut.
4. OAT FLOUR– Oat flour is still a whole grain because nothing is removed. Its basically just pulverized groats that can be used in recipes. Keep in mind oat flour is gluten free so it won’t behave like wheat and rise if used alone. It should be mixed with other flours if used for breads and baking.
5. OAT BRAN– This is the high-fibered part of the oat. The bran is normally discarded during the milling process but in this case, the bran is kept and sold separately for those who want the fiber. Its commonly used as an additive in breads, muffins, and cereals and adds a distinctive flavor. It can go rancid so it needs to be kept in a cool and dry place.
6. OLD FASHIONED or ROLLED OATS– This oatmeal is basically groats that are steamed and pressed flat. It can cook in 5 minutes. Rolled oats are often thought of as more nutritious but as you can see they are heated which is processing. They can be thick or thin and can be used to make old fashioned oatmeal, cookies, or granola. Thinner rolled oats can be used in baby food.
7. QUICK OATS– These oats are made by taking oat grains and breaking them into pieces before rolling them out. Rolled or old fashioned oats on the other hand, are just rolled out and not cut. The cutting reduces their size to ensure the oats cook very quickly. They are rolled much thinner then steamed and will only take 1-2 minutes to cook.
8. INSTANT OATMEAL– This form of oatmeal is the most processed. Its cooked and steamed much longer and then rolled the thinnest possible. This way you only need add hot water to “instantly” cook and plump them up. This type usually has stuff added in such as sugar, salt, and artificial flavors because its sold as convenience food.
Keep in mind that quick and instant oatmeal usually have their oat bran removed, which is the high fibered part of the grain. Much of the oat’s fiber and nutrients are contained within the bran, so removing it diminishes its nutritional value.
by Lupita Ronquillo, holistic nutrition writer