Get to know more about oats along with their health benefits and different types so you can choose the perfect oat for you. Each type offers a unique flavor, texture, and cooking experience.
There is more to oats than a bowl of sloppy porridge that is either too hot or too cold. From groat to flour and milk – this humble and dynamic whole grain has recently evolved from run-of-the-mill to plant-based superstar.
It is worth exploring more about the world of oats so that you can discover which type is just right for you!
Oats are affordable, versatile and highly nutritious. These qualities validate their immense and ever-growing popularity worldwide. There is an expansive selection of oats available to the consumer, and each type of oat will offer a unique flavor, texture and cooking experience.
Rolled, cut, steel and instant oats- what is the difference? Are oats good for you? And what type of oats are best for smoothies, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal and apple crisp? Read this handy guide to discover more about the different types of oats.
What Are Oats?
Oats are small seeds that come from the cereal plant Avena sativa. Originally cultivated in the Middle East and Northern Europe, oats are now grown globally, with Russia, Australia and Canada as the top three producers.
Oats are predominantly grown and used as food for livestock, and a smaller extent for human consumption. This grain is a common breakfast staple (in the form of oatmeal) because it is practical, economical and nutrient-dense.
Thanks to its extreme versatility, oats can be found in numerous food, beauty and beverage products.
Are Oats Gluten-Free?
Oats are naturally gluten-free, but they may become contaminated with gluten if they are processed in the same factory as gluten-containing grains (rye, wheat, barley).
People with gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease are advised to read packaging labels before purchasing oats. The label will state if the oats are truly gluten-free, or have come into contact with wheat or gluten.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Oats?
Studies confirm that oats are ranked as one of the most nutrient-dense whole grains on Earth. They are an excellent source of fiber and contain essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pure oats are gluten-free and substantially high in plant-based protein, adding to their appeal.
To ensure you are consuming pure, high-quality oats that are free of pesticides and other nasties, look for products that are certified organic and GMO-free.
Here are a few good reasons to add whole oats to your diet:
1. Skin Health And Protection
A specific antioxidant called Avenanthramides is found almost exclusively in oats. This antioxidant reduces inflammation and protects the skin from irritation and ultraviolet radiation. Oats may help relieve symptoms of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and sunburn.
2. Balance Blood Sugar And Lower Cholesterol
The soluble fiber in oats may help control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, which is important for the prevention of serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.
3. Better Digestion
Beta-glucan, a type of dietary fiber found in oats, is highly beneficial for good digestion. This soluble fiber supports the health of the digestive tract and increases the diversity of the gut microbiota (good bacteria). It regulates bowel movements and prevents constipation. Beta-glucan may protect against colon cancer.
4. May Assist With Weight Loss And Weight Management
Once again, the beta-glucan fiber present in oats proves to be helpful when it comes to managing body weight:
– Increases satiety, helping you to feel fuller for longer.
– Suppresses appetite.
– Slows digestion, which will also prolong satiety.
5. Good For You… and The Planet Too!
Oats are loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals which are necessary for energy, focus and overall well-being:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamins B1 and B5
The Oat fanatics and Earth Warriors will be pleased to know that sustainably-grown oats are environmentally friendly:
- Oats are a low-input crop: They require fewer resources to cultivate and produce than other grains.
- The cultivation of oats has no significant damage to water, land, air, soil and forests.
- Oats promote crop diversity, nourishes the soil and prevents soil erosion.
- Oats have a low carbon footprint compared to other crops.
The 7 Types Of Oats
Of all the whole grains, oats top the list for the most variety.
Here is a basic rundown of the types of oats – in order of least to most processed:
1. Oat Groats
Oat groats are the least processed (with only the husk removed) and therefore considered the purest form of oats that you can consume. Groats contain the cereal germ, endosperm and bran, making it the most nutrient-dense and satiating choice.
Also known as oat berries, groats require the longest cooking and preparation time. It is advisable to soak the groats in water overnight to soften before simmering in salted water for 45-50 minutes.
Oat groats have a nutty flavor and a hearty, chewy texture. They are a great substitute for pasta and rice, and they pair well with stews, pilaf and soups.
2. Steel-Cut Oats (Irish Oats)
Steel-cut oats are groats that have been left whole and sliced into smaller pieces using a steel mill. Steel-cut oats are minimally processed and contain slightly more fiber than its counterparts, making them lower on the glycemic index (a good choice for weight loss and blood sugar control).
Steel-cut oats maintain a great texture when cooked. These oats are also chewy and are best served as a creamy and hearty porridge. They can be prepared over the stovetop, simmered in water and milk for 20-30 minutes, or in a slow-cooker to serve a crowd.
Here are 6 delicious steel-cut oatmeal recipes to try.
Hint: Toasting the oats in a pan before cooking will provide a nutty, caramel flavor. The texture and creamy consistency of steel-cut oats makes them perfect to use in a pilaf or risotto.
3. Scottish Oats
Also known as the ‘Original Oatmeal’, these are groats that have been stone ground into a coarse powder, very similar to cornmeal. They are easier to digest as opposed to groats or steel-cut oats –but may not be as filling. They have a smoother texture and produce a rich, creamy porridge that is ready in 10 minutes.
Scottish Oats are great to use for baking scones, cookies and oatmeal bread.
4. Rolled Oats
Commonly known as Old-fashioned oats, this is the golden child of the oat family! Unbelievably versatile and easily accessible, it can be used in countless ways. Rolled oats are produced when groats are steamed, flattened and rolled into thin flakes.
Rolled oats are more tender and have a pleasantly creamy consistency once heated. They can be enjoyed in various ways:
- Traditional stovetop oatmeal, ready in 10-15 minutes
- Overnight oats: an easy, no-cook method. Simply soak rolled oats overnight in water or milk of choice. Top with fruit and desired flavorings.
- Granola: Bake a batch of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, raisins and other ingredients of choice.
- Muffins, snack bars, cookies and quick breads.
- Use as a topping for apple crisp.
- Add to smoothies for extra energy.
- Blend into flour for baking or to use as a binder in cooking.
- Homemade oat milk: Blend with water, dates and a pinch of salt.
Learn how to make the perfect batch of overnight oats, including 6 flavor ideas!
5. Instant Oats and Quick Oats
These are basically rolled oats that have gone through even further processing. The extra steaming and rolling produce thinner flakes that cook quickly.
Quick oats have a subtle flavor and soft texture. They are convenient for a breakfast on-the-go prepared as classic oatmeal, and they work well in pancakes, muffins and breads.
Instant oats are usually sold in single-serve sachets. They can be cooked in the microwave or soaked in boiling water for 1-3 minutes. Instant oats may contain added sugars, preservatives and artificial flavoring. Always read the package label if you want to avoid these ingredients.
6. Oat Bran
Oat bran is merely the outer layer of the groat on its own. It is not considered a whole grain like the oats listed above, because it does not contain the inner layer of the groat (germ and endosperm). Oat bran may be subject to further processing, but it does not fall short in nutritional value.
The bran is a rich source of fiber and important nutrients such as iron, magnesium, selenium and potassium. Oat bran is very fine in texture with a semi-sweet taste.
- Add oat bran to soups, stews, smoothies, or yogurt for an added boost of fiber.
- Make oat bran cereal with milk or water on the stovetop in just 3 minutes.
- Use as breadcrumbs in cooking for a gluten-free, fiber-rich alternative.
7. Oat Flour
Rolled oats or groats are ground into a fine powder to produce oat flour. It is often used as a healthier alternative to wheat flour to create gluten-free dishes:
- Muffins, biscuits, waffles and pancakes
- Pizza crust, tortillas or cheesecake base
- Fruit crumble
- Quick bread and quiches
Learn how to make homemade oat flour, and ways to use it.
FAQS About Oats
Which Oats Are Considered The Healthiest?
Oat groats are considered the healthiest option because they are the least processed and most nutrient-dense.
What Type Of Oats Are Best For Weight Loss?
Steel-cut or Rolled oats are good options for weight loss. They are nutritious, satiating and minimally processed.
What Type Of Oats Can Rabbits Eat?
Raw rolled oats are ideal for rabbits.