Okay that title is a bit harsh and perhaps misleading. Let me explain.
A number of years ago a client told me she didn’t eat oatmeal because of not having time to make steel cut oats. She had heard—by an ill-informed friend—that if she couldn’t eat steel cut oats not to bother. Reason number one I ‘don’t like’ steel cut oats—someone not eating a nutrient-rich food like oatmeal because she was told if she couldn’t eat steel cut not to bother.
I absolutely love oats as part of a healthy breakfast. It has a ‘stick to your ribs’ quality that you just don’t get with cold cereal. More than 75 percent of fiber in most cold cereal is insoluble fiber—good for you without a doubt. It’s what gives bulk to stool. However roughly half the fiber in oatmeal is soluble fiber. This beta-glucan type of soluble fiber gives it a gummy consistency which effectively makes it helpful at lowering cholesterol. That’s why oatmeal can bear a cholesterol-reducing claim. But all fiber—soluble and insoluble—is great at helping to manage weight.
I had another client tell me why he didn’t eat oatmeal. He also was ill-informed by a well-meaning friend (maybe they had the same friend) who said steel cut was the only way to go because it was healthier. But my client didn’t like the chewy consistency. He just didn’t like the way steel cut tasted. I’ve heard that before. Reason number two I ‘don’t like’ steel cut oats. Some don’t like the taste and others incorrectly believe steel cut oats are better for you. Nutritionally steel cut and rolled oats are no different. The difference is in the processing and therefore texture. From least to most processed here is a snapshot of oats:
- whole oat grains or kernels (oat groats) – oats are harvested and the outer hull is removed
- steel cut oats (or Irish oats) – oat groats are cut 2 to 3 times with a steel blade (hence ‘steel cut’)
- whole rolled oats – oat groats that have been steamed, rolled under heavy rollers and lightly toasted
- quick-cooking whole rolled oats – essentially whole rolled oats but smaller pieces that cook more quickly
Some may argue the glycemic index is lower with steel cut and it is. But it’s not a significant variance, can vary from brand to brand and in method of preparation. Furthermore I recommend using milk versus water and adding nuts for added fat—all of which will make the glycemic index irrelevant.
The bottom line—steel cut or regular—eat oats. Please do however avoid the prepackaged, pre-sweetened oatmeal. Compare the ingredient label of whole rolled oats in a drum versus the package. One ingredient: whole rolled oats versus four lines of ingredients. Look at the labels below.
In the same amount of time you can microwave ½ cup whole oats and then add your own sweetener, fruit, dried fruit, nuts etc. Much better for you.
What I tell people is to take plain oats and measure ½ cup portions into snack bags. Put the bags back in the drum. Grab and go! You can also have the nuts and dried fruit ready to go the same way as well.
- To bump up the protein always make with nonfat or low fat milk (or soy) versus water. (Avoid almond or rice milk—unless you must avoid dairy—which have negligible protein. Read my post Why I don’t drink almond milk if interested.)
- Avoid pre-packaged oatmeal including plain. Just that extra processing adds ingredients you don’t need, like sodium. (Compare the two labels above.)
- Steel cut have no extra nutrition clout. Some may say their low glycemic index make them better, but all whole oats have a lower glycemic index. Any variance is insignificant.
- Don’t have time to make steel cut?
- Use a slow cooker and make them overnight—they’ll be ready in the morning
- Make a big batch on the weekend, portion out and freeze (can also do with regular oats)
Neily’s Easy Steel Cut Oats (makes two servings) photo above
I’m in dire need of a trip to the grocery store so would have added a bit of dried cranberries to this recipe if I had them.
- ½ cup dry steel cut oats (Bob’s Red Mill is the brand I happen to have)
- 1-½ cups nonfat milk
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or less depending on desired sweetness)
- Cinnamon to taste (I use Korintje cinnamon – a little goes a long way)
- 2 tablespoon almonds or walnuts
Directions: Heat milk to low boil on stove, add oats. Reduce heat to low and simmer. Cover and stir every few minutes for 15-20 minutes depending on desired texture. The longer you cook the creamier the texture. Add in brown sugar and cinnamon to taste—a few easy shakes (I’m not very good at cooking by absolute measures with spices). Turn heat off and let stand covered a few minutes. Spoon into bowl, sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon and top with one tablespoon nuts. Enjoy!
Nutrition information per serving:
Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach