How to Enjoy Oatmeal

Oatmeal, that venerable, old cereal known in some cultures as porridge is showing a strong come-back in recent years, and with good reason. Not only is it a very filling start for the day, oatmeal also has many health benefits, including:

  • High in fiber
  • Low in calories
  • Low sugar content
  • Sodium free
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Gluten free

For about $.30 a serving, or a little more if you want steel-cut oats, you can have a hot, filling, nutritional breakfast that only takes a few minutes to prepare. With all this going for it, there is little wonder that oatmeal is showing up more and more on the breakfast table, and on the go.

There are two main types of oatmeal; rolled and steel-cut. Rolled oatmeal comes in three varieties; instant, quick-cooking, and old fashioned. Old fashioned, rolled oats are the type with which people are most familiar with which many people grew up. They are also the least expensive. Preparation of all types is basically the same; you mix the oats with hot water (and milk if desired) and cook until done. The difference is in how long the cooking takes.

Instant oatmeal is the quickest, with just a few seconds in the microwave. The downsides to instant oatmeal are they are highest in sugar, salt and other additives, and they are the most expensive. Quick-cooking only take a minute or so to cook once you have the water boiling and have none of the added ingredients. These are the best combination of cost, convenience and nutrition, but they can be a little softer and don’t have quite the flavor of old fashioned oats.

Old fashioned, or rolled oats, only take a few minutes to cook and have a much better texture and flavor than the quick cooking variety. They also retain more nutrients and don’t affect blood sugar as much as instant as they have a lower glycemic index.

Steel cut, or Irish oatmeal, is the current favorite in oatmeal. As with old fashioned oatmeal, steel cut oatmeal contains full grain oats, but they are processed differently. Instead of being rolled and flaked like old fashioned oats, steel cut oats are whole oats cut into small pieces (with steel blades, of course). Steel cut oatmeal takes longer to cook as the pieces are thicker and many people feel that they are more nutritious, although this is debated by many. They also have a nuttier flavor and a chewier texture. Steel cut oats are denser, so you start with a smaller serving size, but they absorb more water. A ¼ cup of dry steel cut oats ends up with identical calories and almost identical nutritional values as a ½ cup of dry rolled oats.

One way many people enjoy the convenience of instant or quick cooking oats while enjoying the nutrition and whole grain goodness of rolled or steel cut oats is by cooking up a batch on the weekend, refrigerating and then microwaving a serving each morning. However you choose to cook your oats, they are a great way to start each day, or for a healthy snack in the afternoon.

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