Read the full article from Well + Good here.
What types of oatmeal (and oats) are there?
Now that you’re up to speed on the healthiest oatmeals out there, below, Serena Poon, a celebrity chef, nutritionist, and reiki master, breaks down the different types of oatmeal (from least to most processed) and how to prepare them.
Oat groats are essentially the basis of all the other types of oats, which means they’re the least processed and most nutritious. “They are oat plants that have been cleaned, hulled, and heated and are a whole grain with the bran, germ, and endosperm,” Poon says. But, because they’re not as processed, she adds that they are the most laborious type of oatmeal to prepare. To do so, she recommends cooking them on the stovetop with boiling water for about 30 minutes.
Steel Cut Oats
Next you have steel cut oats, also known as Irish oats, which Poon explains are essentially the same as oat groats except they’ve been cut up into smaller pieces. She adds that they have a stronger, chewier texture than rolled oats and take less time to prepare (about 20 minutes on the stove) compared to oat groats.
Steel cut oats which are then stone ground are called Scottish oats, Poon says. They’re traditionally used to make porridge, she adds, and are prepared the same way as oatmeals and hot cereals on the stovetop for about 10 minutes.
Rolled oats are perhaps the most popular type of oats you’ll find at the grocery store. Poon explains rolled oats are oat groats that are steamed and flatted, making them quicker to cook. And, compared to other types of oats, they win in the versatility department because you can prepare them in different ways including on the stovetop, as overnight oats, or by adding them to baked goods.
Rolled oats that are partially cooked are considered instant oats. Poon says this allows them to be prepared very easily and quickly by mixing boiling water with the packet of instant oats and stirring until you reach the desired consistency. But, because they are processed they contain less protein and fiber than the other oat options.
Oat bran, Poon says, is not technically a whole grain. It is made from oat groat’s ground up outer casing, and is high in soluble fiber. Because it’s been broken down more than any other oat type, Poon says these are the quickest to cook. In just three minutes, you’ll have a hot, creamy cereal ready to eat.
The Best Oat Types To Use by Preparation Method
If you’re an overnight oats enthusiast (first of all, same), Poon says rolled oats are the best oat type to use. “These oats absorb the liquid well and will expand into a soft and creamy meal overnight,” she says. “Add rolled oats to a jar, pour nut milk overtop, and then sprinkle in spices such as cinnamon or cardamom.” She adds that you can also use instant oats to make overnight oats. However, they offer less nutritional value and the consistency may not be ideal. So rolled oats are your best bet.
If you’re more of a porridge type of person, which Poon describes is basically a creamier version of oatmeal, then Scottish oats is the way to go as that is what is traditionally used to make porridge.
Like to stick to the basics? Steel cut oats are Poon’s preferred oat for a traditional bowl of oatmeal. “They are highly nutritious, but do not take as long to prepare as oat groats,” she says. “Steel cut oats also provide a more rigid texture than rolled oats.”
Yes, you can use oats in baking, too. “This adds not only texture and flavor, but also the health benefits that come along with using the whole grain,” Poon says. For this preparation method, she recommends swapping some flour for rolled oats in recipes.
Is organic oatmeal better than regular oatmeal?
Like Ostrower mentioned earlier, opting for organic oatmeal ensures that the oats are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. “Glyphosate is a commonly used herbicide on oat plants,” Poon says. “This herbicide is labeled probably carcinogenic by the World Health Organization—though the EPA says there is no risk of concern to human health—and also may impact your microbiome and antibiotic resistance.” So, yes organic oatmeal is definitely the better choice.
Are raw oats more nutritious than cooked oatmeal?
Although you can technically eat raw oats, Poon doesn’t recommend it. “They are difficult on the digestive system and may cause issues,” she says. “Raw oats also contain phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients.” By cooking or soaking the oats, you’re eliminating these potential consequences.
Is packaged oatmeal healthy?
The short answer is yes, packaged oatmeals can be healthy (see our top five healthiest oatmeals above). However, Poon notes that not all packaged oatmeals are created equal. Be wary of sugar content. “Many packaged oatmeal options are pre-sweetened,” she says. “Eating a diet that is high in added sugar can lead to inflammation, cognitive disorders, and chronic disease, so it’s best to limit sugar as much as possible.”
Do organic oats taste different from ordinary oats?
It depends. “Some people do have sensitive enough palates that they can taste a slight chemical aftertaste in conventional products,” Poon says. “Oats that are certified organic often mean that they were harvested and processed with greater care than a conventional product, which lends to increased quality and flavor.”
What can I do/add to make oatmeal less bland tasting?
The good news is there are tons of ingredients you can put in oatmeal to jazz it up. Think of oatmeal as a blank canvas. In particular, Poon recommends playing with overnight oats. Adding nut milk (opt for one without sugar or additives) gives the oatmeal a rich and nutty flavor, she says. Then you can get creative with toppings such as nuts and berries, both which add flavor and nutritional value. And if you need extra sweetness, Poon suggests adding a small amount of maple syrup, honey, or agave.
How can I improve the taste of oatmeal and keep it healthy?
To keep your oatmeal healthy, Poon says the most important things are to opt for oatmeal types that are organic and least processed and don’t contain any sugar, artificial flavors, or additives. Once you’ve got that down, you can pretty much add whatever toppings suit your fancy. For instance, if you don’t have a sweet tooth, Poon says you can experiment with savory versions of oatmeal toppings such as sea salt, eggs, avocados, and vegetables.