There is honestly no denying that oats can be a healthy addition to your diet. In fact, they are among the healthiest grains on earth. But with so many options from rolled oats to steel cut oats to instant oats, and more, it can leave us wondering which one is the healthiest one for our nutrition. Before we answer that question, let’s first talk a little bit about the benefits of oats as well as the different types of oats:
Benefits of Oats
Oats are known for being a nutritious and complex meal that can benefit your health in several ways. Some of these benefits include:
- Oats are Heart Healthy: You may or may not know that heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. And, you’re probably trying to think of ways to not be afflicted by this unfortunate disease. Fortunately, oats are great for your heart! They contain a fiber called beta-glucan which is shown to be effective at reducing both total and LDL cholesterol levels. The beta-glucan can also increase the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile, which in turn helps circulate levels of cholesterol in the blood. Last, oats can help with reducing inflammation in the arteries, reducing risks for heart attacks and strokes.
- Oats Improve Blood Sugar Control: Oats can be very beneficial for those who have diabetes. The beta-glucan fibers in the oats can help prevent blood sugar levels from rising after a meal. Not only do oats help reduce blood sugar levels, it also improves insulin sensitivity.
- Oats Help Alleviate Constipation: Everyone experiences constipation from time to time, and some more than others. We can all agree that constipation is not a fun experience at all. But, luckily, oats can help with that. Because oats are fiber-rich, they help keep bowel movements regular.
- Oats Can Help You Lose Weight: Part of losing weight is eating a lower calorie diet so that you burn more calories than you eat, but also that you are taking in the macronutrients necessary for your body to be healthy. Oats are both filling and have well-balanced macros to lead you on your way to your weight loss goals.
- Oats Can Help Reduce Risks for Cancer: We don’t have to tell you how much cancer sucks. But, fortunately, oats can help reduce your risk of cancer. Oats contain phytochemicals which have been known to reduce susceptibility to hormone-related cancers such as prostate cancer or breast cancer.
Types of Oats
Before we talk about the different types of oats, we must first understand the makeup of a whole oat. A whole oat contains three main parts of a seed: the endosperm, cereal germ, and bran. The endosperm provides protein and nutrition in the form of starch. The cereal germ is the reproductive part of the oat that is rich in vitamins. And, last, the bran is a hard outer layer, surrounding the cereal germ and is very fiber-rich. Now that we understand the basics of a whole oat, here are the different types of oats you can add to your diet:
- Oat Groats: Groats are whole oats which include the cereal germ, the bran, and the endosperm of the grain. These whole oats are the most nutritious out of all the oats but, often require soaking before cooking and remain chewy.
- Oat Bran: This type of oat is also very nutritious. It is just like the Groat but without the endosperm and the cereal germ. While it is still very nutritious, it is not a whole oat.
- Rolled Oats: These types of oats are steamed as a whole grain then they are pressed with steel rollers--hence the name. This helps make the oats thinner, reducing cooking time and creating a more smooth texture.
- Steel-Cut Oats: Instead of rolling the whole oats, these types of oats are processed by chopping up the whole oat. This makes for a longer cook time and a chewier texture.
- Instant Oats: These are one of the most well-known type of oats. You probably grew up with packs of Quaker Oats at you home or even in your school cafeteria. They are simple and easy-to-make, but they are the most processed out of them all. These oats are pre-cooked, dried, rolled, and then pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats.
Which Oats are the Healthiest?
So now that we know the different type of oats, which one is the healthiest? We have to be honest, all oats are healthy. But, the Oat Groats remain the healthiest because it is the purest form of the whole oat you can eat. It contains the most nutrition and is the least processed. However, in order of nutritional value, the Groat oat is followed by Oat Bran, then Steel-Cut Oats, then Rolled Oats, and last Instant Oats.