Should your breakfast bowl be filled with steel-cut oats, rolled oats or quinoa oatmeal?
You’ve probably heard that oatmeal is an excellent choice to start your day due to its cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber and ability to stave off hunger, but do you know which kind is actually the healthiest for you?
If you want to pack the maximum nutritional punch to jump-start your day, it’s helpful to know the differences between each type of oatmeal.
Here’s a quick guide:
Steel-cut oats are minimally processed and retain the greatest amount of nutrients, especially soluble fiber, that can help lower cholesterol, making them a favorite among nutritionists. (Close relatives include oat groats, the most “whole” version of oats, and Scottish oatmeal, which is similar to steel-cut except the oats are broken into bits, by being stone-ground, instead of being cut.)
Because of their minimal processing, these oats do take longer to cook as compared to rolled oats, but you may find them more satisfying since they have a heartier texture and fiber content.
As a forewarning, their texture does takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to most kinds of oatmeal sold at supermarkets, especially the instant variety. They have more of a grainy “health food” feel, so give your taste buds time to adjust.
Rolled oats are the kind we’re most used to seeing in oatmeal and are a good alternative for those looking for something nutritious but quick in the morning. These oats have been steamed, dried, sliced, and then flattened to produce the flat oatmeal shape that you're probably used to.
But beware, not all rolled oats are created equal. Dr. Janet Brill, writing in Fitness Together, describes that there are actually three types of rolled oats: (1) old-fashioned, (2) quick-cooking, and (3) instant.
Dr. Brill, and other nutritionists, recommend sticking with old-fashioned oatmeal. The fast-cooking varieties are most processed and have already been pre-cooked, making them nutritionally inferior and mushy in texture. Instant oatmeal is also not the best choice since they usually contain added sweeteners, salt, and other, possibly artificial flavorings.
If you’re hard pressed to give up rolled oats, I recommend purchasing plain old fashioned oats and adding any sweetness yourself. I eat a bowl for breakfast several times a week, and my favorite toppings include bananas, dates, or blueberries for sweetness, walnuts or almonds for protein and crunchiness, milk for creaminess, and a bit of brown sugar if my sweet tooth is really acting up!
Other grains can be substituted for, or added to, oats for some variety in texture and increased nutrition. Quinoa is a favorite right now among health food enthusiasts – and with good reason. It's packed with protein, contains almost double the amount of fiber as compared to other grains and is full of rich vitamins and minerals.