For being a nutritional basic, there sure is a lot of variety! Here’s a quick breakdown of all your oat-based options.
The rumors are true: Oats are heart-healthy heroes. For starters, they’re loaded with beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that can help lower blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol, both of which are considered risk factors for heart disease. By slowing down rates of digestion, and, in turn, spikes in blood sugar, the soluble fiber in oats can keep your energy levels on an even keel all morning long. Bonus: they offer up useful amounts phosphorus, thiamin, zinc and magnesium. All that makes a bowl of oatmeal a true breakfast of champions.
Below are the most common and popular types of oats you’ll find in your local grocery store. (Looking for some new ideas on what to do with them? Check out these four delicious recipes.)
Like wheat berries, these are de-hulled whole oat kernels before they are further processed into forms used for cereal. Blessed with a nutty flavor, use them in salads, soups, and grain bowls.
These are made when groats are passed through steel blades cutting the whole oats into pellet-like pieces. Steel-cut oats produce oatmeal that is especially hearty, creamy and chewy. Since the body breaks them down slower they deliver a bigger satiating punch than more processed forms, but since they don’t soften enough are not a good option for baking.
Instead of being rolled or cut, groats are ground into small pieces resulting in a quick-cooking porridge with slightly coarse, thick texture.
Old-Fashioned (or Rolled)
These are made when groats are steamed and then passed through large rollers to flatten them which significantly cuts down on cooking time but doesn’t impact its nutrient levels. These are a great option for trendy overnight oat recipes. You can also find thick-cut rolled oats such as Bob’s Red Mill for extra texture.
Are produced by cutting groats into a few pieces before they are steamed and rolled. For harried mornings, these require only being mixed with boiled water but lack the texture of less processed forms.
When oats are rolled even more thinly and pre-cooked you end up with truly instant oats. Though much-maligned, you can still consider them a whole-grain breakfast option, albeit a mushier one. But watch out for the hefty amounts of sugar added to many packages.
Whole grains contain three parts—the endosperm, the germ, and the bran. So oat bran is produced when the bran layer of the groat is isolated. It’s a great way to boost fiber numbers in cereals, yogurt, and smoothies.
This whole-grain flour is made by grinding up groats into a fine powder. It makes a nutritious addition to pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies and brownies.