Understanding Oats and Oatmeal

27 Nov
Oats are a superfood with tons of great health benefits!

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are so healthy because they are a whole grain that is high in soluble fiber and antioxidants.  Just a few of their health benefits include:

  • Eating unprocessed forms of oats does not result in the blood sugar spikes seen after eating refined flours (Source)
  • Oats can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (Source)
  • Foods high in soluble fiber, such as oats, can help lower cholesterol (Source)
  • Oats are high in selenium, an antioxidant (Source)
  •  A 2008 study found that if women ever used hormone replacement therapy, they had a 50% reduction in their subsequent risk of breast cancer if they consumed high doses of fiber (Source)
  • A review found that oats could reduce the risk of heart disease by 15% due to its ability to help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol (Source)
  • Soluble fiber in oats (beta-glucan) help maintain healthy cholesterol levels (Source) and healthy cholesterol levels help  liver function (Source)
  • The soluble fiber in oats helps maintain healthy insulin levels (Source) which is desirable for diabetics

There are many oat products available these days, from unhealthy granola bars to oat groats.  Although oats are healthy, different parts of the oat kernel have different health benefits.

Processing of Oats

When oats are picked, they undergo multiple steps of processing before reaching the often consumed quick oats.  You can purchase oats from each of the different stages of processing.  Below, each stage of the processing is explained, as well as how to use each form of oats.

Oat Groats

Oat groats are the unflattened kernels of oat.  They are produced by removing the inedible outer husk of the oat.  The remnaint is high in fiber and contains the germ, the grain and the endosperm.  They are not processed much so they retain much nutritional value.  However, because they have undergone minimal processing, oat groats take a long time to cook.  Oat groats are chewy and are great for making porridges or stuffing.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are also called Scottish oats and are made by cutting oat groats  into two or three pieces.  This step allows steel cut oats to cook faster than oat groats.  They still take a long time to cook and can be easily made overnight in a crock pot.

Oh She Glows has some of my favorite oatmeal recipes.  Below is a link to some of her most gorgeous steel cut oat recipes.

Old Fashioned Oats

Old fashioned oats are oat groats that have been steamed and then rolled.

As they have been slightly processed, they have a slightly higher glycemic index than steel cut oats.  The glycemic index will be addressed in a later post.  A higher glycemic index means that old fashioned oats break down into sugar in our bodies faster than steel cut oats.  This results in a greater spike in blood sugar seen after eating old fashioned oats than after eating steel cut oats.

Instant oatmeal, such as those in packets from Quaker, have been precooked and dried before sugar and flavoring is added.  It is best to stay away from these highly processed oats.

There are so many recipes for old fashioned oats.  Below is a great collection of recipes and ideas.

This one is her pumpkin pie oatmeal…yum!

Oat Bran

Oat bran is the outer layer of grain.  The bran is found in rolled oats and steel cut oats, but it can be purchased separately.  It has the consistency of flour and can be used in muffins or baked goods.

Other uses for Oatmeal

Oatmeal makes great face masks and soaps!

Follow this recipe for an easy and refreshing face mask with oatmeal.


What is your favorite way to eat oatmeal?  Have you had all the different forms of oat?


11 Responses to “Understanding Oats and Oatmeal”

  1. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Since I cook mine at work, I usually have to go for the rolled old fashioned oats. I like pairing them with berries & nuts or protein powder, though I have had them in muffins and meatloaf too. So versatile!

    • naturallyhealthyandgorgeous November 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      I use the old-fashioned too because I take mine to work. You can try to cook the steel cut in a crock pot on the weekend and just heat them up everyday with some water or milk. After writing this post, I’m going to try that to get all the health benefits of steel cut!

  2. Liz @ Southern Charm November 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!! YUM!

  3. Annie @ Naturally Sweet Recipes November 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    Just found your blog, love your site! What a great post, love all the delicious recipes! Thanks!

  4. Paige @ Running Around Normal November 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    I love scottish oats!! They’re a little bit smaller than steel cut oats and just so delicious!

  5. peaceloveandoats November 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    I love hearing all these great things about oatmeal! I eat it almost every day!

  6. tinkerbelle86 December 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm #


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