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A dietitian’s deep dive into all things oatmeal. We’re covering oatmeal nutrition benefits, what the different types of oats are, and rounding up some creative recipes to enjoy this healthy whole grain!
As a registered dietitian, it’s probably no surprise that oatmeal is one of my favourite meals to make. It’s hands-down one of my go-to healthy breakfasts, and I sometimes even enjoy oatmeal for lunch or dinner!
Why do I love oatmeal so much? SO many reasons:
- It’s super comforting + tastes delicious
- It’s SO easy to make + there are an endless amount of flavour combinations to enjoy
- It’s great for making ahead of time as part of your weekly breakfast meal prep
- It’s also PACKED with nutrition + health benefits
In this post we’ll cover:
- What oatmeal is
- The nutrition benefits of oatmeal
- How the different types of oatmeal compare
- Where I buy my oats + my favourite brands
- A roundup of all the healthy, creative oatmeal recipes on the blog
If you’ve ever wondered what the nutrition benefits of oatmeal are, OR if you’re looking for some new ways to enjoy oatmeal, this post is for you. Let’s get started!
What Is Oatmeal?
Oatmeal is a type of porridge made from oats (a whole grain food) cooked with water or milk.
Oat groats are the most whole form of oats, which are then processed into rolled, steel-cut, or instant oats. These are the types of oats that are commonly used for cooking oatmeal!
Oatmeal Nutrition Benefits
Oats are a whole grain, complex carbohydrate most well-known for their high fibre content. This whole-grain cereal contains about 11% fibre, with the majority being a soluble fibre called beta glucan.
Soluble fibre is known to help:
- slow digestion, increasing feelings of fullness/satiety (which may help promote a healthy weight)
- lower LDL and total cholesterol levels
- improve glycemic (blood sugar) control
- promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut
- regulate bowel movements
Because of their high soluble fibre content, oatmeal (as part of a general healthy diet) can help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and digestive disorders.
Oats are also a great source of micronutrients. A half-cup serving of dry oats contains:
- Manganese (191% of your daily needs)
- Phosphorus (41% of your daily needs)
- Magnesium (34% of your daily needs)
- Copper (24% of your daily needs)
- Iron (20% of your daily needs)
- Zinc (20% of your daily needs)
- B vitamins, like thiamin (39%), folate (11%), and pantothenic acid 10%)
In addition, oatmeal is also a source of plant-based protein. A half-cup serving of dry oats provides about 6 grams of protein.
A lesser-known fact about oats? They are actually a source of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. One of these plant compounds is called “avenanthramides,” which are actually only found in oats!
Different Oatmeal Types
Now that you know that oats are nutrient-dense, you might be wondering – what are the differences between rolled, steel cut, and quick oats? Let me break it down for you.
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats Nutrition
Whole grain oat kernels are called “oat groats,” which have been separated from their outer hull. During processing, these oat groats are essentially steamed and rolled flat to create the round flakes that we know as old fashioned rolled oats.
Rolled oats will cook faster and absorb more liquid compared to steel cut oats, and are great to use in a variety of recipes (e.g. granola bars, muffins, cookies, etc.)
Steel Cut Oats Nutrition
The main difference between rolled and steel cut oats lies in the level of processing. Steel cut oats are the “oat groats” that have been cut into a couple smaller pieces.
Because they’re slightly less processed and not rolled flat, they have a bit of chewier and denser texture than rolled oats. For the same reason, steel cut oats will take longer to cook than rolled oats. This is why I often like making a large batch at once.
Do note that because of their shape, steel cut oats are also less ideal for making things like cookies and bars.
Nutritionally, however, there is no difference between steel cut and rolled oats! That said, because they are less processed, steel cut oats do take longer to digest in our bodies. This means that you may feel fuller for longer and have less of a blood sugar spike.
Personally, I love to eat both types of oats. I recommend just switching it up for a different taste/texture, or depending on the type of recipe you’re making!
Quick or Instant Oats Nutrition
Instant or quick oats are the most processed of the different oat varieties. Essentially, they are pre-cooked, dried, and then pressed even thinner than rolled oats.
As the name suggests, these oats cook almost instantly with the addition of boiling water. A major downside to instant oats is that they can often end up mushy, retaining less of their texture.
They will also digest a bit faster than other oat varieties, so you may not feel as full for as long.
From a nutritional value, however, there is no difference between steel cut, rolled, or instant/quick oats. They’re all made from the same whole grain oat groats!
Where Do I Buy My Oats?
Another question I often receive is what my favourite oatmeal brands are!
For rolled oats:
- I typically just purchase them in the bulk bin at Whole Foods or I enjoy Bob’s Red Mills’ Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.
- When I lived in the US, I often purchased that big blue bag of rolled oats from Trader Joe’s or this large container from the Whole Foods 365 brand.
For steel cut oats:
- I typically buy Bob’s Red Mill’s Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats from Costco. These ones are cut slightly smaller than regular steel cut oats, and they cook in about 7 minutes instead of 20!
If you don’t have any of these brands or bulk stores available near you, Quaker’s selection of plain oats are also great and found in many grocery stores across North America!
For certified gluten-free oats:
- While oats are naturally gluten-free, they can get cross-contaminated during processing. Be sure to look for the Gluten Free label if needed!
- I typically recommend Bob’s Red Mill’s oatmeal products if you’re gluten-free.
The only oats I avoid:
- The flavoured instant packets, which are often loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.
- Instead, I add things like fresh fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, or a touch of honey/maple syrup/molasses to sweeten plain oats myself.
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Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats
Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats
Healthy & Creative Oatmeal Recipes
I have a TON of healthy oatmeal recipes on the blog if you’re looking to switch things up and get creative! You can check them out below.
Recipes using rolled oats:
- Pineapple Baked Oatmeal
- Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal
- Chocolate Orange Oatmeal
- Grated Apple Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)
- Blood Orange Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)
- Savoury Kimchi Oatmeal With Avocado & Egg
Recipes using steel cut oats:
- Strawberry Vanilla Overnight Steel Cut Oats
- Zucchini Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Blueberry Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Pumpkin Pie Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Sautéed Apple Oatmeal
- Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal With Caramelized Bananas
Non-oatmeal oat recipes:
Did you find this post about Oatmeal Nutrition Benefits helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
If you make any of these healthy oatmeal recipes, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram or Pinterest – seeing your creations always makes my day. You can also subscribe to my email list to never miss a new recipe or nutrition education post!
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This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy