Monday morning during our drive to Loraine’s surgical oncologist visit, we were discussing nutrition when she asked me the difference between steel cut oats and rolled oats. This was a good question and a topic I thought would be good to share with others.
I love oatmeal and usually have it at least three to four times per week for breakfast. I know a lot of people might think it too bland for their taste, to which I would have to inquire just how many ways have they ever tried preparing oatmeal. You see, oatmeal is a very versatile cereal grain that provides many health benefits to our bodies. Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They’re a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits that include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.
(A point to remember for the gluten intolerant folks, while oats are naturally gluten free, they can contain some traces of gluten due to cross pollination with wheat, barley or rye in some fields. Check to ensure your packaging states gluten free if you are intolerant.)
Another great aspect of oats is they are an inexpensive food choice, costing only about thirteen cents per half cup serving of dry oats before cooking. I always kind of chuckle when I hear people say it is too expensive to buy healthy food choices when there are plenty of options that will not break the bank. Seriously, one has to ask themselves, is it not cheaper to make good nutritional choices that help to keep medical expenses down? Or do you find it less expensive to treat your body like a garbage disposal by consuming calorie dense foods that provide little to no nutritional benefit. Face it, many if not most common ailments that are not from a virus or bacteria are all related to poor food choices. Quality nutrition is the key to good health, the point is not arguable at any level.
Steel Cut or Rolled Oats, Which are Best?
There is a fine line of difference in which oats are best for you. There is little difference in the nutritional values of steel cut or rolled oats. Which oats are best for you is a matter of personal preference more than anything, but lets go over the differences between the different choices:
Steel-cut, rolled and quick oats all start out as oat groats. The oat groats are then processed in different ways to create either steel-cut, rolled or quick oats, all of which have distinct characteristics.
Steel-Cut Oats, are also known as Irish oatmeal. Steel-cut oats are most closely related to the original, unprocessed oat groat. The groats are chopped into pieces with large steel blades.
Steel cut oats have a coarser, chewier texture and nuttier flavor than rolled or quick oats.They also take longer to prepare, with average cooking times varying 15–30 minutes. To reduce cooking time, you can soak steel-cut oats beforehand.
Rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats, are oat groats that have gone through a steaming and flattening process. They have a milder flavor and softer texture and take much less time to make than steel-cut oats, as they have been partially cooked. You can prepare a bowl of rolled oats takes 2–5 minutes.
Rolled oats can also be added to goods like cookies, cakes, muffins and bread.
Quick oats or quick-cooking oats are rolled oats that go through further processing to decrease cooking time. They’re partially cooked by steaming and then rolled even thinner than old-fashioned oats. They cook within a few minutes, have a mild flavor and soft, mushy texture.
Quick oats are not the same as instant, packaged oats that sometimes contain other ingredients like skim milk powder, sugar and flavoring.
Oats are a well-balanced, nutrient dense cereal grain, no matter the type you prefer. They are an excellent source of complex carbs and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan, and contain more protein and fat than most other grains.
Oats are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. Half a cup (78 grams) of dry oats contains:
Manganese: 191% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 41% of the RDI
Magnesium: 34% of the RDI
Copper: 24% of the RDI
Iron: 20% of the RDI
Zinc: 20% of the RDI
Folate: 11% of the RDI
Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 39% of the RDI
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% of the RDI
Smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
This all comes with 51 grams of complex carbs, 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber, while only consisting of 303 calories. This means that oats are among the most nutrient dense foods you can eat.
The chart below compares the nutritional differences between 2 ounces (56 grams) of rolled, steel-cut and quick oats. As you can plainly see, there is an insignificant difference in the nutritional values between the different styles of oats.
For good health, incorporate oats into your day. They do not have to be just for breakfast, there are many savory oat recipes to be found on the internet to enjoy at any time of the day. Get creative and try something new with the heart healthy grain. Your body will love you for it.