Oatmeal rules the breakfast table all over the world. Oats, in different forms, is enjoyed by people of all age groups and is consumed all around the year.
Besides being a major ingredient for porridge, biscuits, muffins and granola bars, oats are used in the preparation of upma, dosa, chapati and pancakes in India.
These days there are so many different types of oats available in the market that people get confused between which one to choose. (1)
Oat kernels cannot be digested directly, so, they must be utilized in milled form. Processing does not majorly affect the vitamin and mineral content of oats but it does affect its fiber content, glycemic index, and antioxidant content. Let’s get down to the details of different types of oats:
Steel-cut oats are also known as Scotch, Irish or coarse-cut oats. Whole oat groats are chopped into two or three small pieces. Such a procedure makes the texture of steel-cut oats more chewy and coarse as compared to other types of oats.
They take a longer time to cook and they have a lower glycemic index (GI) as compared to instant oats. Such a low glycemic index food is beneficial for diabetics because it slows down the entry of glucose into the bloodstream and thus, it prevents a spike in the blood glucose level.
Eating steel-cut oats keep you full for a longer period of time, that is, it provides satiety and delays hunger pangs. This makes it beneficial for individuals who want to lose weight. Steel-cut oats are definitely healthier than instant oats which are otherwise processed. (2, 3)
Rolled oats, as the name suggests are whole oats or old-fashioned oats that are rolled under heavy rollers. Before being pressed, the outer husk of oats is removed so that the process becomes easier. They are then steamed so that oats become pliable and soft and are easily flattened.
Its nutritional value in terms of vitamins and minerals is almost similar to that of steel-cut oats. But steel-cut oats are better because they are less processed. Whenever confused between rolled oats and instant oats, choose rolled oats because they are a healthier option.
Out of all three varieties of oats, instant oats are the most processed. They are also known as quick oats because they take lesser time to cook as compared to rolled oats and steel-cut oats.
Instant oats are thinner than rolled oats and they are pre-cooked and dried. Drying can lower the antioxidant content of oats. Thus, instant oats contain lower antioxidant content comparatively.
The differences between instant oats and rolled oats and steel-cut oats are insignificant in terms of micronutrients. But the major difference is that the carbohydrates present in instant oats have a slightly higher glycemic index. In other words, carbohydrates get converted to simple sugar quickly. This may raise blood glucose level and thus, instant oats may not be a healthy choice for diabetics. (4)
Steel-cut oats are the healthiest as compared to instant oats and rolled oats. Consumption of steel-cut oats is advantageous for diabetics, hypertensive, people with heart diseases and those who want to shed some kilos.