Oats: What’s The Difference?

Oats-Whats-The-Difference

If you have ever made hot cereal for breakfast, it’s likely you’ve made a bowl of oatmeal. Cooked oats are a filling, nutritious breakfast. But if you wander through the breakfast aisle in any grocery store, you’ll find numerous choices when it comes to oatmeal: steel-cut oats, Scottish oats, old-fashioned oats, quick oats, instant oatmeal, and even quick-cooking steel-cut oats. That’s a lot of choices. Which one is right for you? What makes steel-cut oats different from other kinds of oats? Do they differ nutritionally? Which one is the healthiest choice?

Kinds-of-Oats

These are all good questions. Here is a breakdown on the different types of oats to help you decide which one to try:

Groats

This is the whole oat without the hull, toasted and cleaned, before it has been cut or rolled. You may be able to find these in a health food store or order online.

Nutrition: ¼ c. dry has 152 calories, 26 gm carbohydrate, 6 gm protein, and 4 gm fiber.

Steel-cut oats

Also known as Irish oats, are groats that are cut into two to four pieces with a sharp, steel blade. They tend to be chewier, with a nutty flavor. While not usually used for baked goods, they work well for cooked cereals, and are well suited for overnight cooking in the slow cooker. I have a recipe for Cherry Vanilla Overnight Oats posted on www.healthideasplace.com that uses a crock-pot. Overnight oats are a quick and easy way to provide a hot, filling, and nutritious breakfast the next morning.

Steel-cut-oats

Nutrition: ¼ c. dry (about 1 c. cooked) has 170 calories, 29 gm carbohydrate, 7 gm protein, and 5 gm fiber.

Scottish Oats

Scottish oats are groats that are not cut, but instead are ground to a meal-like texture. They cook quicker than steel-cut oats, and you will get a creamier texture while keeping the nutty flavor.

Nutrition: ¼ c. dry has 140 calories, 23 gm carbohydrate, 6 gm protein, and 4 gm fiber.

Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

They are made by steaming and then rolling the whole groat. This creates the flat, oval look that most people associate with uncooked oatmeal. These oats cook faster than steel-cut oats, and have a thick, creamy texture. They work well for cooked cereals or a variety of baked goods, like muffins, granola bars, cookies, or breads.

Old-Fashioned-Rolled-Oats

Nutrition: ½ c. dry has 150 calories, 27 gm carbohydrate, 5 gm protein, and 4 gm fiber.

Quick-cooking Oats

They are similar to old-fashioned oats except that the groat is steamed longer and rolled thinner. They cook more quickly than old-fashioned oats but tend to lose more of their texture. They also work well for cooked cereals and baked goods. This Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal uses quick-cooking oats.

Quick-Oats

Nutrition: ½ c. dry has 150 calories, 27 gm carbohydrate, 5 gm protein, and 4 gm fiber.

Instant Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is steamed longer and rolled thinner than even quick-cooking oats, and then dehydrated. This is the most processed form of oats and it often contains added sugars, salt, and other additives.

Nutrition: 1 packet has 100 calories, 19 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm protein, and 3 gm fiber, and 75 mg sodium.

How are these varieties of oats different from one another? Mostly, it’s how they are processed. As you can see from the breakdown above, they are very similar nutritionally. The instant oatmeal initially appears to contain fewer calories, but there is less of it. There is less in the packet than if you had made oatmeal from scratch with one of the other varieties. Most kinds of oats have anywhere from 140 to 170 calories, 23 to 29 gm carbohydrate, 4-7 gm of protein, and 3-5 gm of fiber. If you like the instant variety of oats, be sure to choose plain varieties as the flavored ones usually contain added sugar, sodium, and other additives.

All oats, with the exception of flavored and sweetened instant oats, have a relatively low glycemic index. Glycemic index refers to how quickly and how much of a spike in blood sugar a particular food causes. Eating foods with a low glycemic index is thought to help keep blood sugar stabilized as well as keep you feeling full for a longer period of time. Because they are processed less, steel-cut oats will likely keep you feeling full longer than their quick or instant counterparts. But the difference in glycemic index is negligible.

Choosing which variety of oats to use comes down to personal preferences and how you plan to use them. What’s your favorite type of oat to use, and with what recipe? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Marie Dittmer (38 Posts)

Marie is a registered dietitian with a master of arts in physical education/cardiac rehab. She’s a homeschooling mom of four who enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and writing about food, nutrition, and health issues.


About Marie Dittmer

Marie is a registered dietitian with a master of arts in physical education/cardiac rehab. She’s a homeschooling mom of four who enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and writing about food, nutrition, and health issues.

Comments

  1. We always eat the instant because there is just the 2 of us now. The recipe you mentioned for Steel-Cut Oats sounds very good. I never gave much thought to the different type of oats. Very interesting.

  2. Kris Lange says:

    I like steel cut oats but never heard of Scottish oats. I often wondered what the difference was between the different types. Thank you for the information.

  3. If I am eating oatmeal, I prefer Rolled oats. I like steel cut as well, but never make them. I generally don’t eat a ton of oatmeal as a cereal, but love baking with it.

  4. Scott Herr says:

    It took me 63 years to learn this! Great information.

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