Saturday, April 20, 2013

this just in... oatmeal is full of oaty goodness!

A few weeks back, when I posted this, I said I would get back to you regarding the facts about oatmeal.  So, here for you, is an oatmeal primer.

Despite the fact that it is super healthful, oatmeal remains one of the least eaten available foods in the world. The USDA estimates that only 5% of the world's entire oat crop is actually eaten by humans. The rest is eaten by cows and pigs, which are then eaten by some humans.

Oatmeal has many health benefits. It reduces your cravings for other, less healthy foods by hanging out in your stomach for longer than, say, a bag of chips. Remember, your mom (or grandma) used to say it "sticks to your ribs?" This helps you feel full and eat less.

Oatmeal is full of Vitamins A and B, calcium, iron, and the all important fiber! It has minimal traces of fat (as long as you don't pile butter and brown sugar on it!) and it has zero cholesterol. In fact, oatmeal's fiber acts like little sponges soaking up the bad cholesterol in your body, while leaving the good alone. So, you are more healthy after eating your bowl of oats than you were before.

So, which kind of oatmeal should you eat?

I'll start with the least processed, and therefore most healthful oat, and go down from there.

The Oat Groat is the whole oat from the plant, with only the outer hull removed. They are super packed with nutrients and fiber, but they have to be soaked and cooked for a long time. I guess they're similar to wheat berries off the wheat stalk.

photo borrowed from

Next are Steel-cut oats. These are also called Irish, Scotch, Pinhead, Coarse-cut, or porridge oats. These are just groats from above that have been chopped up into smaller pieces. More surface area means less cooking time, with the same nutritional value. It also makes for some thick, but not gummy oatmeal.
from the good people over at healthy supplies in the UK
 McCanns Irish Oatmeal and the fine people over at Bob's Red Mill put out some great steel cut oats.

Here's a great recipe from Alton Brown (my hero!).  This came from the episode called "Oat Cuisine" (he's so clever with the frequent play on words).

Overnight Oatmeal
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats
Episode: Oat Cuisine

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried figs
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half
In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.
Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.

Here's a link to a printable version.

Next on the oat chain are rolled oats, or old fashioned oats. This is what we all think of when we think of oatmeal. The oat groats are steamed, rolled, and sliced into flakes so they cook really quickly. You see them in granola and trail mix and cookies. They're steamed and processed, so they lose some of their nutrients and fiber-power in the mix.

The wisegeek people had a lot of oatmeal pics available

Quick oats are even thinner flakes of the rolled oats. Otherwise, they're the same. If you use these for your cookies they might not come out as fluffy.

Then we have the instant oat, of instant oatmeal in the package fame. They are precooked, and just need to be mixed with a hot liquid. They usually have flavor, salt, and preservatives added in. It might be healthier than your bowl of cocoa pebbles, but they're not really "healthy" per se.
It may be "high fiber" but it's also high in sugar, salt, preservatives, etc.

Seriously, just get up 5 minutes earlier and make some quick cooking oats, or better yet, the old fashioned kind. Even better, set up the crock pot and use Alton's recipe up there.

Here's a comparison of steel-cut versus rolled oats, again from the wisegeek peeps.  The Instant oats are even further processed.  They roll much of  the nutritional benefits right out of the oat! 

I use quite a bit of rolled/old fashioned oats when I'm making granola bars or the occasional oatmeal cookie.  But the steel cut variety is really where it's at for nutrient dense, fill up your belly oatmeal at its best.

1 comment:

  1. I love oatmeal, but I never thought about oats in terms of how much of the grain is processed and how that contributes to the oat's nutritional value. Thanks for educating me! Now I will pick up steel cut oats instead of rolled oats next time I am at the store.