When it comes to the kick-ass, miracle breakfast item that is oats, most people’s first thought is those brown packets of oats that you buy in the cereal aisle. But that sickly-sweet oatmeal isn’t representative of all the types of oats out there, many of which are much healthier (and tastier)!
We believe in the power of oats here at Over Easy, which is why we made them one of the main components of our breakfast bars. If you want to learn why you should be saying “Oat yeah” to oats as an ingredient, read on, fellow breakfast lovers.
The Importance of “Groat”
Much of the difference between the three most common types of oats comes down to a single word that you’ve probably never heard before—groat.
The oat groat is essentially the kernel of the oat grain. As raw oats are harvested from the plant, they are moved to a processing facility. Once there, they are put into a machine that cleans them and removes them from their hulls (or chaff), which are inedible. A full oat groat is a whole grain that still has most of its parts—the endosperm (the food store of the plant), the germ (the oat’s embryo), and the bran (the outer layer, just under the hull).
The different types of oats actually come from the same plant, and the fancy terminology relates to the processing that the oat groat has gone through. Believe it or not, oat groat is tasty all on its own, with a chewy, hearty texture. That said, they do need to be soaked or simmered prior to enjoying so they’re tender enough to eat, making them way too much work for our busy mornings.
Steel Cut Oats
First up, steel cut oats.
Steel cut oats, which are also referred to as Irish or Scottish oats, are oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. Processors accomplish this by using either a sharp, metal blade (Irish oats) or a huge stone grinder (Scottish oats)—yeah, oatmeal can get crazy. Because they’ve been Fruit Ninja’ed into smaller pieces, they cook faster than the full oat groat, as the water gets in there a lot easier.
Steel cut oats are full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins—all the good stuff. Even better, the fiber packed into these oats is essential in helping them lower cholesterol and help support a healthy, functional GI system. Some people believe that the fiber in steel cut oats can also help boost the immune system, and these days, who wouldn’t want that?
Specifically, steel cut oats contain a type of soluble known as beta-glucan, which slows the speed at which food moves through the digestive tract while also helping you feel fuller for longer. This is a huge help to those trying to lose weight while also making steel cut oats naturally lower on the glycemic index.
Glycemic index, or GI, is an index that ranks foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on the way that they impact the body’s blood sugar level. Foods on the lower end of the scale have less of an impact on blood sugar, and foods on the higher end more of an impact. Steel cut oats rank naturally lower on the glycemic index. That makes them a great food for people with Type 2 diabetes as well.
Steel cut oats are also rich in both B vitamins and iron, which can help reduce fatigue by boosting energy levels. So say goodbye to groggy mornings and hello to a high-energy start to your day, all thanks to the power of oats.
Our next type of oat is rolled oats.
Often referred to as old fashioned oats, rolled oats are created by further processing the oat groat. After being steamed, the groat is rolled out into flakes. As they are rolled, the healthy oils that the oat contains are stabilized, which keeps the oat fresher, longer. This process also gives them a larger surface area, allowing them to cook much faster than steel cut oats.
Lucky for you, nutritionally, rolled oats and steel cut oats are pretty similar. Rolled oats do have a slightly higher calorie count, as well as ranking slightly higher on the glycemic index, although not that much higher on either count, so we don’t think you have much to worry about.
Instant, or quick, oats are very similar to rolled oats, and we’d just like to point out that you’re being lied to and that there’s no such thing as “instant” when it comes to oatmeal. However, instant oats have been flattened a little further and steamed slightly longer, meaning that they do cook pretty rapidly. While the nutrition remains the same, the consistency can be slightly mushier.
Unfortunately, instant oats are often used in those sugary oatmeal packets. This takes all of the potential nutritional benefits of oatmeal and literally coats them in sugar. Otherwise, instant oats are just as good for you as steel cut and rolled oats.
However, if processed foods are something you are trying to avoid, instant oats do require more processing, which can decrease their healthy benefits a bit.
So, Which Oat Is Best?
When it comes down to it, which oat is “best” really is the one that you want to eat more of. It has a lot to do with texture and consistency, and whether you’re ok with eating a chewier oat to get that extra nutritional benefit.
While steel cut oats are slightly more healthy than the rest, they are also more complicated to cook. For that reason, rolled oats are the best option for a lot of fo people, as they have most of the same nutrition but take far less work. They also work better in recipes, like breakfast bars, cookies and beyond. There’s a reason they have earned the reputation that they have.
Why Organic Oats Matter
Organic is something of a buzzword for a lot of people, but consuming organic oats is important.
Because some of the hull often remains in your oats, any chemicals or pesticides that were used on the plants have more of a potential to work their way into your body. When you use organic oats, you reduce the risk of ingesting something you don’t want to and keeps you and your family safe.
On top of that, non-organic oats are more likely to have been subjected to genetic modification. Known as GMOs, genetic modification tends to be a touchy subject for a lot of people. While there aren’t many clear cut pros and cons of GMOs officially, many people prefer to stay away from them until the research is available.
To be considered organic, oats need to pass the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) strict standards. This essentially confirms that they’re much safer than regular, processed oats, which is why they’re our choice of ingredients. We want to provide the healthiest, safest ingredients to our customers, so it really was no choice at all.
Ways To Enjoy Oats
One of the craziest things about oats is just how many ways you can eat them. Their hearty, neutral taste makes them just as adaptable to savory recipes as sweet ones, so say hello to complex, savory oatmeal bowls and delectable bars.
For instance, we used organic rolled oats in our breakfast bars. They are a great source of healthy carbs and fiber while also holding the entire bar together. When combined with sources of protein, like peanut butter, it helps to create a well-balanced breakfast that you can take wherever your busy life leads you.
If you want to have a bowl of oats, you also have plenty of options for toppings. If you want to go the savory angle, you can top it with avocado, hard-boiled egg, chives, or shallots. You can also cook them in a similar fashion to risotto and top them with peas, pecorino, garlic, and more. It’s a great way to make a potentially not-so-great-for-you dish that much more nutritious.
If sweet is your thing, oatmeal is delish topped with all types of different fruits (we like bananas, apples, and pineapple), honey, greek yogurt, and coconut milk. It’s a sweet way to start your morning without having to resort to a crappy toaster pastry or another sugary treat.
Oatmeal also makes an awesome base for homemade protein balls. All you need is some rolled oats, whatever nut butter is your current fave, a sweetener (honey or maple syrup work great if you want to stay natural), and whatever other healthy components you’d like to add (flax, chia, etc.). The best part is that they are no-bake, so there’s no need to even turn your oven on. How’s that for a delicious snack?
Walking into the oatmeal section at the grocery store can get confusing. But now that we’ve broken it all down for you and you understand more about their unique benefits, we’re pretty sure that your breakfast game is about to change.
Here at Over Easy, we chose organic rolled outs to lend their fiber to our breakfast bars. We think they help keep our breakfast bars tasty, just the right amount of chewy, and still just as nutritious as any other healthy breakfast option.