Oatmeal: Steel-cut vs. Rolled

Written by: Leah Renter

Old-fashioned, instant, rolled, steel-cut, quick oats, müesli, ground, steamed, Scottish, Irish?

What do they all mean? So many oats, so little time. Since many of our recipes feature this heart-healthy super grain, let’s break down our oat options. Steel-cut oats have been in the spotlight lately, but are they actually healthier than traditional rolled oats?

Before you get wrapped up in the hype, know that either are a fantastic breakfast option, and both come from the same starting point. The only difference is their processing.

Oats, Groats

Oats are a grain from the cereal family; its cousins are barley and wheat. The oat kernel grows up inside a tough husk or “hull” which is later shucked, leaving just the nutritious bran and germ, or the “groat.” Here’s a handy diagram!

Courtesy of Quaker Oats

Why We Love Oatmeal

Oats are great because they are packed with thiamine, iron, antioxidants, and lots of soluble fiber. These complex carbs stabilize our blood-glucose levels and slow digestion. So love an oat today. Just be wary of all of the sugar added to instant oatmeal packets.

What’s in my oatmeal?

From that whole oat groat, the sorting begins. Some groats are flattened/rolled into flakes and steamed. These are the traditional rolled variety. But some are broken or cut, either in the harvesting process or purposefully afterward – these become our steel-cut oats.

Cook and serve, rolled, or steel-cut. Voila! Oatmeal as we know it!

Steel-cut vs. Rolled Oatmeal

There is a pretty hot debate about which  oatmeal variety is best. They’re comparable in protein, carbs, fiber, fat, calcium, iron, and nearly equal in sugar. Steel-cut oats have just slightly fewer calories than rolled.

photo via Prevention.com

One key fact is that steel-cut oats are less processed, since they are never flattened by heat or pressure. Because they’re bigger pieces, your body takes longer to digest them. Not only do you feel fuller longer, your glycemic index will thank you. Steel-cut oats take a bit more time to digest, taking longer to convert to sugar. This prevents your body from dreaded sugar spikes (and crashes). If you have type two diabetes, then you may want go the extra mile for steel-cut.

But, hey, they are both a whole grain, and both reduce – and actually remove – bad cholesterol from your heart. Not many foods can move mountains like oats can!

You decide…

OK, are steel-cut oats really worth it? I say taste them for yourself! I woke up early this morning to do just that. The preparation time for steel-cut was about 20 minutes, compared to my usual two-minute oatmeal routine. Steel-cut oats require boiling and stirring every couple minutes. The price is a bit heftier than rolled, but not outrageous. Some suggest soaking them overnight, but you definitely don’t have to. They have a much nuttier taste and are chewier, too. You may like that, or you may not.

Give them both a shot and let us know which won your personal taste test!

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