December 08, 2016
Quick-Cooking Oats
Ask the Experts

Quick-Cooking Oats

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Q:Are instant and other quick-cooking oats as nutritious as steel-cut?

A:Yes. All oatmeal starts out as whole oat kernels, called groats. The outer hull is removed, but the fiber-rich bran and nutrient-rich germ and endosperm are retained. No matter how the oats are further processed, all forms are “good” carbs that provide the same vitamins, minerals and fiber, particularly beta-glucan (a cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber).Steel-cut oats, also called Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are whole oats sliced coarsely by steel blades. Rolled or old-fashioned oats are steamed, pressed with a roller, and flaked. Quick-cooking oats are cut before rolling, with instant oatmeal cut finest and rolled thinnest.

The main differences among the forms are their cooking times and textures. Steel-cut oats, the least processed, take longest to cook and have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor; some are now cut smaller so they cook faster. Faster-cooking oats, including instant oatmeal, are convenient but gummier.

Steel-cut and other less processed oats are sometimes promoted because they have a lower glycemic index (GI), meaning they are digested more slowly and cause less of a spike in blood sugar. But whether that makes a difference to your health is debatable—and the variations in GI among oatmeals are minor.

Whatever type you prefer, oatmeal is a nutritious breakfast or snack option. If you buy instant oatmeal, be aware that it often contains added sugar and salt.