A hot, steaming bowl of oatmeal is a classic breakfast staple that many have enjoyed over the years. Oats themselves have been used as food for ages.
Before oats began to be cultivated and processed for human consumption, they were used as feed for animals. However, once people began to realize the nutritional benefits of oats for people, they began to incorporate them into their daily diet.
Today, oats are available in several different forms. You can buy instant oatmeal, or quick-cooking oats, as well as rolled oats and steel cut oatmeal. The difference between the types of oats lies in the way they are prepared and processed.
Oats today are used in a wide variety of ways, from that piping hot bowl of whole grain oatmeal to cereals and granola bars, to baked goods, puddings, and porridge.
Steel Cut Oats vs. Rolled Oats
All oats are a whole grain that contain a significant serving of the nutrition and fiber a body needs to keep it running optimally. Metric per metric, rolled oats and steel cut oats are almost the same when it comes to nutritional value. However, steel cut oats beat out rolled oats in two areas, fiber content and density, which make steel cut oats the best bang for your nutritional buck.
Whole grain oats, sometimes referred to as oat kernels, are made up of three parts: the germ, the brand, and the endosperm. When oats are referred to as groats, it means they are whole grain oat kernels without a husk. Sometimes these oat kernels with no husk are simply called "oat groats."
Steel cut oats are made by taking the oat groats and cutting them into 2 to 3 smaller pieces using a steel blade. Steel cut oats are also sometimes called Irish oats. Toasting steel cut oats gives them a delicious nutty flavor that sets them apart from other types of oats. Steel cut oats are also more coarse than other types of oats and tend to be chewier. This gives them a hearty texture that is very filling, but it does mean they require longer soaking and cooking times. However, they are still good to use in an overnight oats recipe.
Rolled oats are made by flattening and steaming them rather than cutting them with a steel blade. As a result, rolled oats require less cook time than steel cut oats and are sometimes called “old fashioned oats”.
Rolled oats are used to make quick oats and instant oats, and are often used in baking and cooking. Another difference in rolled oats is that they have a somewhat rounded shape that they retain even after they've been cooked, although the texture is creamy and much smoother than steel cut oats.
Steel Cut Oats Are High in Fiber
Steel cut oats are high in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is something our body can't digest but still needs. It is a requirement for optimal health. Steel cut oats, in particular, contain a soluble fiber made up of beta glucans.
Beta glucans form a unique gel-like substance when dissolved in water, and it is this substance that is thought to lower blood cholesterol levels as well as stabilize blood sugar levels.
In addition to the soluble fiber, steel cut oats also contain insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is what gives your stool its bulk and helps it move through the intestinal tract to keep your bowels moving on a regular basis. Regular and frequent bowel movements help to keep the digestive system healthy and functioning properly.
Steel cut oats are a good source of fiber. This is about 20% of your recommended daily intake. Because the American diet today can be so deficient in many ways, eating steel cut oats on a regular basis can help you meet your body's daily fiber requirements and help keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.
Steel Cut Oats Have a Low Glycemic Index
Another benefit of steel cut oats is that they rank fairly low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index gives foods a numerical value that tells you how it impacts your blood sugar when you consume carbohydrates. The lower the food is on the glycemic index, the better. Steel cut oats weigh in at a 55, which means their potential to spike your blood sugar to unhealthy levels is minimal.
People who suffer from health conditions like diabetes or prediabetes can consume carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index, and this can help them avoid dangerous spikes in their blood sugar levels.
This makes steel cut oats a very good choice for individuals who must keep a close watch on their glucose.
Steel Cut Oats Are Naturally Gluten Free
Steel cut oats do not naturally contain gluten, which makes them a great option for individuals trying to stick to a gluten free diet. Just be careful and check labels, because sometimes oats could be processed with other grains that do contain gluten and suffer from cross-contamination.
Make sure to check labels to see if the steel cut oats you buy have been processed with any other materials, or look for steel cut oats that are clearly labeled as gluten free oats.
Steel Cut Oats Are a Good Source of Iron
Steel cut oats also happen to be a very good source of iron. Iron is vital for the proper functioning of your body. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, and hemoglobin is what keeps oxygen circulating throughout your bloodstream to feed your organs and tissues.
When hemoglobin levels are low, your body will suffer, because the cells and tissues aren't getting the oxygen that they need to function properly.
When hemoglobin levels get too low you can become anemic, which can lead to related health concerns like poor cognitive function, disruption of your body's thermoregulation, a poor immune system, and even stomach problems and gastric upset.
Women especially must be careful to keep their iron levels healthy because menstruation can decrease a woman's levels significantly. Just a 1/4 cup serving of (dry) steel cut oats offers 10% of the recommended daily dose your body needs to function properly.
Steel Cut Oats Can Give Sustained Energy
Steel cut oats are a great way to give your body a lasting source of energy to start your day. Because steel cut oats are whole grain, they are considered a complex carbohydrate.
A complex carbohydrate is harder for your body to break down and use, so it takes longer and provides a more sustained energy source. You can also combine steel cut oats with a healthy serving of fats, such as nuts, seeds, or peanut butter and the added boost of fat will provide your body with a lasting level of energy through the morning until lunchtime and help you feel satiated.
You can also mix protein-packed Greek yogurt with steel cut oats and achieve a similar benefit. Also, steel cut oats are denser than other oats and made up of more water. This means you can eat less of them, feel full longer, and still receive the same nutrition found in rolled oats.
Steel Cut Oats Are High in Protein
Finally, steel cut oats contain protein. They are also low in saturated fat, which is an extra bonus to their health benefits.
As you can see, there are benefits to choosing steel cut oats vs. rolled oats. While nutritionally the two oats are very similar in makeup, the way that they are processed and made ready for consumption is quite different.
Because steel-cut oats are minimally processed, and because they contain more fiber and density than their counterparts, steel cut rolled oats are one of the healthiest grains you can eat.