Eat your oats! Oatmeal is a whole grain regardless of whether it is instant, old-fashioned, or quick-cooking.
The difference lies in how finely the grain has been ground and thus how fast it cooks. There are all kinds of oats on the market. Read on and become an oat connoisseur.
The whole oat kernels that have been hulled (the incredible chaff has been removed), cleaned, and conditioned right off the farm are called oat groats, the least processed of all the oats on the market and, therefore, the ones that retain all the natural nutrients. Oat groats are normally found only in local whole food or specialty stores. Goldilocks and the rest of us identify oat groats as porridge, the name given in Europe to cooked oat groats. Porridge also is a comon Scottish breakfast and is made by simply cooking the groats for about an hour and a half to two hours on the stovetop. Oat groats are the most nutritious form of oats but are chewy and thicker and need to be cooked a very long time.
A different type of oat kernel is steel-cut oats (also referred to as Scotch oats or Irish oatmeal). After they are taken from the field, cleaned, hulled, and conditioned, steel-cut oats are then cut up into many small pieces by a steel blade. Steel-cut oats are minimally processed, thereby maintaining the natural kernel of the grain, and they have a savory nutty flavor. Cutting the kernel into several small pieces of oats makes this type of oat kernel just right for cooking stick-to-your-ribs bowl of chewy oatmeal. Steel-cut oats are many times brought in from Scotland or Ireland in round metal tin. Many people’s favorite is McCann’s Irish oatmeal. Steel-cut oats are very nutritious, and even though they require a little time to cook on the stovetop, for those who are a fan of this type of oat, the texture and flavor of it are all worth the wait.
Rolled oats are what most Americans know as oatmeal, which is usually sold in the well-known round cardboard boxed. Rolled oats is made up of whole oat groats that have been steamed (a process that brings out a nutty flavor and hinder rancidity), dried, sliced, and then flattened with big rollers, generating quicker-cooking flakes of oats. Make known that rolled oats are still whole grain because they contain the three key parts of the kernel: the bran layer, the germ, and the endosperm. You can buy rolled oats in three forms, differentiated by cooking time:
- Old-fashioned rolled oats, where either all of the grain is rolled or the grain is cut into thick chunks and then rolled.
- Quick-cooking, where the oats have been cut first very finely and then rolled so that the flakes are tinnier and thinner that old-fashioned.
- Instant, where the grains are cut very tinny, pre-cooked, then dried out and rolled. Many instant brands contain unnecessary additives such as sugar, salt, and other flavorings. They can be very mushy and less flavorful because they have been pre-cooked already.
Of the three types of rolled oats, the old-fashioned is the most nutritious. Even though it takes a little bit longer to cook, it contains more beta-glucan. All in all, oat flour is made up of rolled oats or oat groats that have been grind into a powder.
Oat bran is the confined outer layer of the kernel; it is the most potent source of soluble fiber, and almost natural source of beta-glucan. It has a very gummy texture to it. If you can brave it out, eat oat bran any way you can on account of it being your best bet for getting that beta-glucan in. Experiment with concentrated oat bran. You can try baking it, adding it into cupcakes, breads, or pancake/waffle batter. Or you can just cook it up as a hot cereal for breakfast with rolled oats and almond milk. The takeaway message here is that the more processed the oats are, the smaller amount of beta-glucan it will contain.