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
Love the idea of portioning out and putting back in the drum! Would be great for a household w/teens to make it easy to fix a healthy breakfast.
It seems a shame to denounce a highly nutritious food based on a common misconception.
Rolled oats go through several steps of extra processing which robs them of their nutrients. Of course rolled oats are still far superior to the average American breakfast, but preparing them in the microwave is not a healthy choice!
A simple way to prepare steel cut outs is to bring the oats and water to boil first thing in the morning. Turn of the burner and come back later after showering and getting dressed. The oats will then be almost ready to go and require just a few moments of simmering. At the very end stir in milk or soy milk to increase protein and give a creamy consistency. Flax seeds and nuts can also be added at the end.
Lori Mercen, your information is false. Rolled oats have the exact same amount of nutrients in them as steel cut. You are completely misleading people who read your response, because you are just plain wrong. No nutrients are lost whatsoever in the rolled oats processing, which is simply steaming them, rolling them, and slightly toasting them. And microwaving them is not unhealthy either. What a stupid thing to say that microwaving oatmeal is not healthy. How does a microwave oven (which simply uses a microwave to rapidly vibrate water molecules, thence heating food up) make any food unhealthy or bad for a person? Many things cooked in microwaves may end up an inferior tasting or textured dish just from the way it cooks food, but it is not unhealthy or in any way detrimental to one’s health, no more than any other method of cooking. In fact, a microwave oven can actually preserve nutrient content in some foods better than some other conventional methods. These are facts.
Thank you J Meyer 🙂
Using a microwave for your food is a bad choice period. If it’s not healthy to stand in front of a microwave, I certainly don’t want to put the things that I will be eating inside of it. Research the effects of microwaves on food and it is clear that it is not wise to eat anything heated in a microwave.
Cooking in non-microwave safe containers is NOT a good idea, but in appropriate microwave safe cookware, no issue. I would very much like to see the evidence-based research behind your claim.
In my opinion, it makes more sense to not use a microwave until their is research backed evidence that it is not harmful to the food inside. There’s no need to provide evidence that cooking over stoves as humans have done for centuries is healthy and I for one prefer to minimize radiation exposure, especially when it’s something as simple as taking 10 minutes to cook oatmeal. And now in regards to the glycemic index, i believe rolled oats have a glycemic index of 62, vs 44 for steel cut oats, which will potentially have a significant impact on blood sugar and therefore insulin release. I can provide plenty of research backed evidence that insulin levels are one of the strongest predictors of obesity and other chronic diseases as well as development of diabetes. It also explains how people can be metabolically unhealthy while underweight and healthy while overweight. I do agree with you that rolled oats are exponentially healthier than the average American breakfast, but to lie about the effects of a foods glycemic load and to imply that microwaves have been proven to be safe while their effects are still being studied is just irresponsible.
Hi Scotty – thanks for your thoughtful response. I will STAND by several previous discussions re: GI/GL. Glycemic index is based upon values associated with individuals and different charts show varying information. Everyone’s body is different, reacts differently, and will have a different response to food. A lower GI/GL certainly doesn’t make it healthier (think ice cream…nothing wrong with it, I love it but lower GI does not equal health…energy, yes. Energy=calories). Rarely do ppl eat steel cut oats buck naked – cooked with nothing added to them. Generally they’ll add some sweetness (fruit etc), fat/protein (nuts eg). Adding fat and/or protein are going to change the GI response since they don’t impact glucose like carbs do. Furthermore the action of salivary amylase and pancreatic amylase (digestive enzymes) is negligible at best. Check out my colleague Dr. Jo’s 2-part video on GI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5_3XenRKZI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP-h-WO98z4. Regarding your information about microwave ovens, I’m just not going to go there. I respect your decision not to use one – that is all I will say. Be well -Neily
There is no evidence that cooking with a microwave is bad but there is also a large amount of evidence that milk is not good for long term health so I will stick with the water and groats, thank you.
Thank you @rbreau1 and I respect your opinion, however, I would like to see the evidence. I’m willing to review and expand my knowledge. By evidence, I mean high-quality studies published in peer-reviewed journals showing cause/effect not observational in nature showing correlation only. Thanks! I look forward to your response. -Neily
I put the food in the microwave, I do not go in there…You did not cite one study that shows cooking with a microwave is not healthy. The Internet is full of articles that indicate it is healthy….
Time to sell your foot pedeled car and step out of the stone age. Microwave cooking of food is safe, completely safe. Microwave rf leakage is normally caused by 1 of two things. A poorly built unit that should never have been sold or an old damaged unit that the owner should have the good sense to trash beforehand.
Hi, Unfortunately JM you are wrong. Cooking in microwave is extremely unhealthy and contributes to cancer. There has not been enough research done, as everything now is put into microwave, but this is serious problem, which will come to light in next 10 years. I live in Europe and places like UK have the most obese, most unhealthy people if you compare with e.g. Italy or France. If you eat fake food which is sold preheated in MV ( even in restaurants), this food is damaged and cant be healthy. Please make deeper research and see, speak to the experts , good dietician will tell you. You can’t compare Microwave cooking to the traditional cooking as its like comparing water melon to cabbage. They sell quick and fake food everywhere, this creates a lot of businesses and number of people getting cancer( or cancer related diseases) increases year by year. That they sell such food everywhere, does not mean its healthy. Make your own choice for yourself. My Dietician from Europe who is working with people in last 20 years told me , Never Ever eat from MV, its bad, that’s the end of it, she have seen until now everything, young kids having tumors in places you would not imagine and older people being disabled. It’s simply bad. They are still reluctant to make proper surveys and make it official on this subject, as this will create a lot of problems and many businesses will be closed, due to the fact that people slowly will stop buying. Wise people know stuff like this. Good luck, for me life without MV works really well, and you find out the difference once you try yourself. Fake food is not processed in your body, and the residue stays within your body, thus all unhealthy side effects. Good luck, I wish you happy and healthy life.
This dietitian will allay the fear of microwave ovens causing cancer. They don’t. I do encourage a whole food plant based diet – not necessarily vegetarian as I am not – but minimizing highly manufactured food-like substances, what you might call ‘fake food.’
Haha! Like you know the truth without the research to back your opinion. I do not stand in or front of the microwave while cooking with it. It is much better than frying and may even be better than boiling if throwing out the water.
That’s a great idea – need to try that – was pressure cooking till now – also heard that soaking is a good idea too
Box cereals are a major hoax, as they are nothing but an overpriced just fast food. No one should eat anything that comes out of a box.
Indeed the Big Food spends more money on the packaging (box) than on the garbage that’s inside.
So steel cut oats being better is not saying much.
Not only is your title misleading but your article is a load of crap. I bet you were the ill informed friend.
Talk about click bait at its finest. Useless drivel.
Jonathan, there is nothing misleading about the article, and YOU sir are the one who is full of “it”. Do some research before you make a fool of yourself again, because your response is “useless drivel” in the most literal sense.
Thank you J Meyer for responding with what I would have liked to have said 🙂
What part is misleading? What are the points that are useless drivel? Your response has no rationale. It has the substance of a toddler’s tantrum. I am sorry that you are so angry but why burden others with your ranting?
I agrede with what you said but not the way you said it. I am sure that with some help you can learn to use a more polite tone and still get your point across by citing supporting specifics.
Most people using the Internet expect you to do all the research for them and list the urls so they can just click on them when you disagree with an article.
You have not included a single point that you disagree with and your tone is off color. If you can not do better you should stop commenting…
I am confused. If the difference is the processing – especially including heat – then I think the steel cut oats (not processed) MUST be better. A processed food can never be the same as a food that has not been processed. Or am I wrong?
Hi Kacey – thank you for your comment. Steel cut are still ‘processed’ … simply cutting the oats is a form of processing. Steaming whole oats and toasting may slightly reduce nutritional value versus steel cut but the difference is negligible. A major point of the article is to tell people all plain oats (not the ones with added sugar) are excellent. Some do not like the taste of steel cut or have the time to cook them. (Just a side note: I wonder about some of the newer quick cooking steel cut oats…not sure how they are doing that without pre-cooking them.) Also to your point “a processed food can never be the same as a food that has not been processed.” Actually that is incorrect. Interestingly some foods yield GREATER nutritional value when cooked like in the case of tomatoes. Cooking them breaks down the cell membrane releasing more of the phytochemical, lycopene.
Perfectly spoken Neily.
Thank you: 🙂
I liked the article. Neily, it was fun to read and interesting as well. So, thank you. I feel there should be a more private platform for comments, especially those lacking corrective criticism and decorum. If I may offer a suggestion for those who did not enjoy the article, take a look at her trademark; you may not be be the intended audience. This may help you decide which articles to read in the future and most certainly to which you should offer commentary. Merely a suggestion.
Thank you for your kind words Ayesha 🙂
To simplify, as you mentioned, I cook a large batch of steel-cut oats Saturday morning to eat all week. Another cooking method to decrease cooking time is to soak overnight and then cook in the morning. This decreases the cooking time to less than 10 minutes.
That’s great idea Kelly! Thanks for the tip. Neily
I am just now getting serious about healthy cooking at the age of 60 with diabetes. Yes very similar to closing the gate after the cows got out. I love oatmeal. I am not much of a plan ahead kinda guy. For this reason I purchased a new style stove top pressure cooker. I turn the gas burner on high, drizzle some EVOO into the cooker(olive oil keeps the oats from foaming), one cup steel cut oats, and three cups purified water and attach the lid. It takes 4-5 mins to get to pressure then I turn the burner to the lowest setting(uses very little gas overall) and ten minutes later they are done. The new pressure cookers release almost no steam so all the nutrition stays in the oats and you can tell. As a side note, if you would like hard boiled eggs that just slide out of the shell every time even using farm fresh eggs and not smelly two week old eggs then pressure cook with steamer basket 5mins then ice water bath.
This is great information Kelly. Congrats on being so accomplished with a pressure cooker – terrific way to cook oats. – Neily
Kerry – You should be aware that diabetes can be reversed and even cured. Exercise and a very low carb diet are necessary to do this, but is far superior than the allopathic medical approach. Dr. mercola talks about this in depth.
Mercola often has some good points but he almost as often puts out misinformation. I have no idea if you are quoting him correctly but what you said in your comment is not the way to reverse diabetes. Drs Ornish, Fuhrman, Greger and Esselstyn, to name a few, have real proof of reversing diabetes and I suggest someone interested in the subject check them out.
Basically, the solution is to focus on whole plant-based products and it is not related to low carbs but good carbs and fats.
I really enjoyed this article I was actually eating a bowl of steel cut oats and just wanted to read up about some things about them and I like them a lot… At first I didn’t but it’s also a food item that causes me to eat slower and makes me fuller nice article I appreciate a nice article.. Thanks
Thanks Josh! Glad you enjoyed the article. You might enjoy one of my latest posts about Secret to weight management honoring hunger and fullness.
I also enjoyed steel cut for many months but recently moved up to oat groats….I am not going to name the company but one famous for wholesome organic grains also sells organic groat oats at a very reasonable price, even online…
Easiest way to cook steel cut oats is in the oven. You don’t even have to measure. I cook a week’s worth in a glass bread loaf pan. I put about an inch of dry steel cut oats in the pan, put enough water in to cover the oats by an extra inch (basically double the portion of water to the portion of dry oats), cook at 350 degrees for about 35 – 40 minutes. I stir once. It makes 7 portions at 1/4 per portion.
small typo in my last sentence on cooking steel cut oats in the oven. My recipe makes 7 portions at 1/4 cup per portion. Forgot to include the word cup. Sorry!
Love this Jean! Simplicity is a wonderful thing.
Wow! Such mean and rude responses and this article is about oatmeal!! No wonder Donald Trump is leading the Republican poles! Has the American public lost its ability to state a contrary opinion without “gutting” the person being disagreed with? Thanks Neily for being brave enough to share your insights about oatmeal and for being tough enough to withstand your public.
Thank you for your support and your kind comments! There will always be haters and people who don’t agree. I very much appreciate everyone who supports me. I approve all of my comments before they go live – even the negative ones – because everyone is entitled to their opinions. (Unless it is especially hateful, which I cannot say I have received.) The thing about nutrition is everyone eats and has opinions. However, nutrition is a science, not an opinion, as I wrote here: http://bit.ly/1RpWadq Again, thank you for your comment 🙂
Why did you add a mean and rude response if you realize there are already too many?????
I picked up a can of both steel cut and regular; I don’t’ detect any taste difference whatsoever. What I do detect is a texture difference. Both are yummy with some blueberries and honey mixed in. Main point of this article; do not forgo eating oats just because you don’t like one or the other. Either are better than the alternatives such as processed prepacked sugar laden oat meals and both are awesome for your heart and help to reduce cholesterol and get your metabolism going early in the day to help stoke the fires of fat burning.
Hi Dorothy – you are right in with the point of my post. Thanks for your comment!
I like making “overnight oats” In the fridge the night or two before. Oats (steel cut or rolled), cinnamon, 1 tsp almond butter, 1/2 cup orgain almond milk (10g protein per serving!), and usually blueberries/ bananas, strawberries or cran. Whatever floats my shopping cart that week.. Keeps me full 4 hours at least. No microwave needed with 8 hours in the fridge overnight, but I do mike it for 1-2min when I want it warm. Super easy!
I should mention that i put this in a sealed mason jar but you could use any container with a lid. Unsweetened Coconut milk tastes yummy in it as well
Bravo! When I told a colleague about steel-cut oats he said they were great, but they took to long to cook in the morning. My response “Who said you NEEDED to cook them?” I usually just mix them with yogurt and eat them as they are, or sometimes I’ll mix them the night before and stuff the container in my lunchbag in the A.M..
Not sure whether it was mentioned in the article but actually not cooking oats could result in much better protection for cancer. Phytates are reduced some from soaking but more from cooking and after years of bashing the phytates in nuts and grains it is likely that it is a good protector against cancer.
Another case of nature knowing best and we humans taking many years to realize it…
As a diabetic who us extremely sensitive, I have found steel cut oatmeal the only oatmeal I can eat without raising my Blood glucose. I always pair it with a protein , the same way I tried regular rolled oats. I prepare a small pot of SC oatmeal on Sunday and eat off of it through out the week. I also found SC oatmeal helps me stay “regular” much better than regular oatmeal. Thank you for your article!
Thank you Vicky! I’m glad you found the steel cut work well for you. It just shows how important individualization of nutrition is, especially for someone with diabetes. We find out what works best and go from there!
Instant Pots make cooking steel cut oats very fast! I can have a delicious and large batch of sc oats done in under 20 minutes.
Good to know! Thanks. But personally I still can’t get over the texture thing…
Oatmeal nazis. Who knew. The Internet is full of RAGE! Your oatmeal advice is treason!
I have no idea what your comment means. Please explain. -Neily
I love Trader Joes plain steel cut oatmeal that is frozen. I add slivered almonds. Super good.
The problem with oats grown in America, including rice, corn, wheat and soy beans have ALL been genetically modified (GMOs)…. Big big health hazard…. Europe, Japan and Canada do NOT allow GMOs. There is a reason!!!!! Research it and you will be disgusted at what our food giants are doing to us….. And our government condones it… It’s called capitalism….
Hello Deborah – I am pleased to clarify some misinformation. Perhaps you were not aware there is no genetically engineered (GMO) wheat commercially available? Were you not aware Japan is strong supporter of biotech crops? Are you not familiar with the extensive 420 page document by the Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects authored by the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Quite an impressive array of authors. http://www.nap.edu/23395 Go ahead read it. I’ll wait.
Im glad GMO is part of the discussion. Research shows the suitability of GMO grains for human consumption, but not the impact of glyphosate residue. Most GMO plants are engineered for glyphosate resistance, and while residues are usually minimal, it is now used on 80% of American wheat as a “dessicant”, that is, to kill the crop field at the same time, so it will dry uniformly for simultaneous harvest. This is a non-label use (or at least used to be, not sure if the USDA has signed off on this). It is applied shortly before harvest, unlike its use for weed control. European studies show major deleterious effect on the human gut biome, but we can’t get such studies funded here.
If you do some searching and read labels you can find oats, soy and other grains that are not GMO.
The EU does allow GMO products http://www.ecowatch.com/europe-gmo-debate-not-over-eu-votes-to-allow-gmo-imports-despite-oppos-1882107256.html
Almost all of Canada’s canola is GMO. Japan allows some GMO imports. When you state that a certain country does not allow GMO it is necessary to specify imports or home grown because the ban can be for one and not the other.
The chemicals that are used for some GMO products bothers me so I only consume non-GMO soybeans. Almost all of the corn commercially available in the US is GMO so to avoid that you need to avoid corn.
China is one of the largest producers of GMO products. That alone should tell you something about the safety of consuming GMO products.
Beg pardon, but
“China is one of the largest producers of GMO products. That alone should tell you something about the safety of consuming GMO products.”
All that tells me is that (as usual) China doesn’t give a toss about the health and safety of their citizens. Or anyone else for that matter.
Seriously. This is the country where food adulteration is so common and so potentially dangerous that many Chinese nationals will only buy imported food – if they can afford it. I mean seriously – melamine in the milk? That’s literally poison!
It isn’t that GMO foods are poison – my issues with GMO have more to do with contamination due to cross-pollination with non-GMO crops and the proprietary nature of GMO seed. It isn’t a nutritional hazard so much as an agricultural one.
Citing China as an example of food safety is definitely NOT where you want to go with this.
Steel cut oats are a 42 vs a 66 on the glycemic index. I would personally not call a 38% difference insignificant.
Hi Dirk! Thanks for your comment. Perhaps, but glycemic index has so many inherent issues…Check out this excellent video and its follow up https://youtu.be/S5_3XenRKZI. Rarely do people eat food exclusive of any other. Steel cut oats alone may have a GI of 42 however, MOST people consume them with other foods containing fat and protein which changes the GI and makes it almost meaningless. Furthermore JUST because a food is low GI doesn’t mean it’s healthy… (think ice cream and chocolate…not that you shouldn’t eat these foods)
It’s always funny (by funny I mean disappointing) to me when ppl in the nutrition fileds (or drs or pretty much anyome for that matter) push animal products. More and more research shows dairy (cow or goat breast milk) is not necessary or healthy for us. (Nor is animal flesh, but that’s another story).
I say this even though this post is about oats (Which I can see your point about), because you keep bringing up cow milk, ice cream etc. as recommended ingredients or good foods to eat.
Appreciate your comment Samantha and point of view. And you’re right I do talk about dairy milk. That along with Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are my go-to protein sources in my flexitarian diet. You can read my post Why I don’t drink almond milk. You may choose not to consume cow’s milk and that is your prerogative and I won’t judge. Conversely I appreciate not being judged on my choices because the argument it (dairy) is not healthy for us is weak. Please show me the evidence. There are few absolutes in the world of nutrition.
Like a couple other commenters I was confused by the title of his post. I appreciate your calm responses to some of the the more interesting comments, and I’ll be reading other posts on your site.
Thanks for your supportive comment Danielle – it’s most appreciated! I approve all comments – the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, fortunately there haven’t been any ugly). Everyone is entitled to their opinion. The world of nutrition is vastly confusing and this is a forum for me to help spread the word of evidence-based nutrition. (Sorry for the confusion but right away I did state about the title, “Okay that title is a bit harsh and perhaps misleading. Let me explain.”)
The reason why steel cut is “healthier” and contains a lower GI and GL than other forms of Oats is quite simple… each piece of steel cut oat has a much lower Surface Area for enzymes to act upon per unit volume compared to all other forms. Think of it like this, which takes longer to melt… a brick of ice, a thin sheet of ice or a sheet of ice that is pulverized into tiny little pieces. One can’t say that Steel Cut Oats are more “nutritious” (compared to rolled oats) when looking at the content that is extracted from it but one could say it is “healthier” from an energy perspective.
Hi Austin – appreciate your comment and argument. I stand by my previous discussion about GI/GL being nearly worthless in the context of how people eat. And just because a food has a lower GI/GL certainly doesn’t make it healthier (think ice cream…nothing wrong with it, I love it but lower GI does not equal health…energy, yes. Energy=calories). Rarely do ppl eat steel cut oats buck naked – cooked with nothing added to them. Generally they’ll add some sweetness (fruit etc), fat/protein (nuts eg). Adding fat and/or protein are going to change the GI response since they don’t impact glucose like carbs do. Furthermore the action of salivary amylase and pancreatic amylase (digestive enzymes) is negligible at best. Check out my colleague Dr. Jo’s 2-part video on GI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5_3XenRKZI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP-h-WO98z4
Wow and wow.. I googled steel cut oats trying to find an intelligent answer as to why people are thinking they are better than regular oats.. Theres some very diverse opinions and some great research.. Its good you post both for and against so people can see all arguments and formulate their own opinions.. From the reading i have done, on the subject of raw and digesting of nutrients, and this is just judging on what i have learned on human digestion, cooking at least light cooking (and soaking can be included here too) plant foods helps our bodies digest things much better..if u look at our digestive tract compared to many plant eaters like bovine animals for example, they have a very long and comprehensive one, some having numerous stomachs..we have one stomach, and relatively shorter one much like carnivores..so just that alone leads me to believe we aren’t as equipped to handle raw plants as other animals are.. Kind of left of centre of this post but i would appreciate anyones feedback on this…
Thanks Chris. Yes there is a very diverse opinion regarding this topic. I approve posts and there has not been one (yet) I have not. Not all have been favorable (obviously). Regarding your comment I don’t know the answer. I do know there is a big difference between the human GI tract and other species. The cow e.g. has a 4-compartment stomach. No comparison to ours.
Edgar Cayce (a famous mystic) said in quite a few of his readings not to eat rolled oats. He advocated steelcut.
Also, the Q&A session on kryon.com (channelled by Lee Carrol who coined the term indigo children and has channelled at the United nations) says to avoid the use of microwaves as they make the food unhealthy.
Another story: blood has to be heated when performing blood transfusions. There was a case where someone microwaved the blood and after the transfusion the person died. If a microwave does that to blood think what it does to food.
Take it or leave it.
There are many more harmful ways to cook than using a microwave. Dry heat administered during baking and barbecuing create AGEs which are very harmful. You should depend more on science instead of wives tales for your diet.
Oh for … Blood has to be warmed, yes, but slowly. The problem with microwave blood warmers is that there is sometimes not enough control over how fast they warm the blood, ending up with increased hemolysis. The same thing can happen with “regular” blood warmers if they are improperly calibrated. It is a problem of how fast it warms the blood, not how you are warming the blood. Microwaving is perhaps not so great for warming blood at this point.
However, home microwaves do to food exactly what they are SUPPOSED to do – COOK it.
Edgar Cayce was a fruitcake and/or a conman. He had a 9th grade education (INCOMPETENT to give medical advice). He believed that human beings were created simultaneously as racially distinct entities (BIGOT as well as ignorant). He thought animal souls could mix with people souls and create giants (LOONY). He believed in Atlantis and Ancient Astronauts (LOONY). He claimed to be psychic, that he could tell the future and contact the dead (LOONY).
If you’re going to take medical advice from someone like that (and even in his time he was considered a quack, let alone now) no one can help you.
Lee Carol is another crackpot and/or conman. He also thinks he can talk to dead people. ’nuff said.
Sorry to go on – steel cut oats can be easily cooked in a Thermos flask in 45 minutes. You can even prepare it the night before and open it in the mornING, rdy to eat.
How to do it-
Put 1 part steelcut oats in a pan with 2 and a half parts of boiling water from a kettle.
Boil it on a stove until it is bubbling vigorously.
Pour the oats into a thermo’s using a funnel. Seal the thermo’s. Shake it. Lay it on its side. Open the next morning or in 45 minutes. That’s it. Use a stainless sfeel Thermos with a wide rim for this, not a thin glass one
Last comment – steelcut oats or any other wholegrain must never be eaten raw. Swallowing improperly cooked wholegrains is very dangerous. They have to be cooked properly; it’s very important or you will harm the body.
Where do you get your information? Many people eat oatmeal without cooking and are very healthy. Look into soaking them overnight and letting them ferment some without cooking and eating in the morning.
The starch molecules in wholegrains have to be broken by heat so they become tender, thereby being able to be absorbed by the intestines. Soaking alone won’t achieve this, only cooking. I know this from years of personal testing. What happens is that the uncooked wholegrain remains lodged in the intestines – until eventually a colonic irrigation to get out the rotting matter will be necessary.
If you search Google for steel cut oats long enough you’ll find accounts of people who have actually tried eating them raw to their detriment.
If you want to eat raw grains, Rye flakes are better as they have already been heat treated. But they have to be chewed thoroughly – grinding them into powder in a blender with a little honey, free range egg yolk and lemon juice works well. But then there’s the gluten – cooked quinoa is superior, or puffed quinoa which also doesn’t have to be cooked because it’s already been exposed to heat.
Your personal experience means nothing, you are one person with who knows what wrong with your intestines. Try researching some valid studies instead of making comments about your personal experiences…
Quinoa has 222 calories per cup with 45g of carbs, 4 of which are insoluble fiber, so 41g of carbs that matter.
Oatmeal has 145 calories per cup (cooked) with 25g carbs, 4 of which are insoluble fiber so 21g of carbs that matter.
I know which one I’m having for breakfast (hint: It does NOT begin with a “q”)
We can eat grains raw perfectly well. We just don’t get as much nutrition out of them. Human beings started cooking for a reason – it improves availability of nutrients. But that doesn’t mean raw foods including cereals are totally indigestible without it. Eat too much raw grain and sure, you might get a tummy-ache – but unless its ergot-ified Rye, it is unlikely to kill you or do any real harm at all.
And just for the record – I only care about carbs for reasons of … diabetes. Otherwise the whole low carb thing is just another crazy diet fad.
I meant INDIGESTIBLE fiber. Not insoluble. Dang me, LOL!
Free range. Lol do you honestly believe those labels mean anytjing I’m regards to the animals treatment or life? Well they don’t. Nice way to make you feel good about doing the wrong thing. That’s all those labels do. Oh and let the company charge you more.l…
Thanks for a thought-provoking and useful page!
At this time, imo, mainstream medical thinking is that the lower GI of steel-cut oats (vs rolled) can be used to advantage to help prevent diabetes.
It isn’t as simple as picking one over the other. More-thorough cooking increases the GI. As you point out, the GL is the same regardless of how you cut or cook the oats. That GL and the time one takes to eat a meal are major factors in the body’s insulin response to that meal. The other foods in the meal also matter. And people vary in ways not yet understood. Steel-cut oats are just one more arrow for the quiver.
…”one more arrow for the quiver.” I like that! Thanks for your input Rich.
No, GL is NOT the same no matter how you cut or cook the oats. GL is GI x the actual amount of digestible carbs in the food. Cooking and processing changes GI. It doesn’t change the amount of carbs in the oats – it can in pasta or potatoes as some starch is “cooked out” into the water which is discarded.
But we don’t discard the “cooking water” when cooking oats, whether rolled, flaked, steel cut, or whole groats. It is absorbed into the oatmeal. Net carbs remain the same, only the GI changes.
BECAUSE of this GI is highly variable even for a uniform batch of oats. If you “overcook” you may increase palatability of steel cut oats or oat groats – but you also increase the GI. I contend steel cut vs rolled oats isn’t significant because most of us are going to cook them longer to get a creamier less chewy (and less objectionable) texture – ultimately the GI won’t be that much different between “overcooked” steel cut oats and “regularly” cooked rolled oats. For a “normal” breakfast amount of approx 1c cooked the difference will likely be negligible. Or maybe not. But maybe.
And oats aren’t uniform. Variety, growing conditions, moisture content, fertilization, heck, basically everything that happened while they were growing will make them highly variable from season to season and from one field to the next. Same is true of ALL foods.
Thus GI isn’t much good for much of anything actually practical because it is so variable. Plus, it is based entirely on the reactions of a handful of people. It varies with testing methodology. It varies with the way measurements are made. It varies with the way items are cooked, processed, and what variety they are. I’ve seen papers showing differences in ultimate GL depending on how they are CHEWED. And that’s not even considering environmental issues while the farmer was growing them.
Then there are population statistics to be considered. I can guarandamntee you that Inuit persons are not going to show the same GI measurements you get from Europeans.
And if GI isn’t definitive, GL CANNOT be definitive.
The idea of GI/GL is certainly attractive. However the reality is just as homely as trying to control your blood sugar just counting carbs – more, in my opinion.
And frankly – total carbs varies with all these factors as well, just not as much. Heck, we think of rice as a pretty uniform product – at least within a particular variety. But total carbs for, say, Basmati rice varies between 40g per cup (cooked) and 56g – due to variations in varieties, growing conditions, cooking procedures, and testing methodologies.
GI/GL is even more variable than that. There’s just no such thing as a standardized GI/GL value for any crop or food. Just look at the plethora of GI/GL tables all over the interwebs. None of them are the same. And ultimately, none of them can be meaningful because even if we COULD pin down THE Glycemic Index for a given crop or food, it would change depending on how it is cooked. Baked? Roasted? Boiled? Microwaved? Fried? DEEP fried? For how long? At what temperature? Constant temperature? Or did it vary? HOW did it vary? Did you slice/dice/mash it? Did you peel and/or pit/seed it?
And let’s not forget – the GI values are based on the blood glucose reactions/profiles of HEALTHY individuals. There is no guarantee that folks with diabetes will react in the same fashion, or that there aren’t significant differences between Type I and Type 2 or even within the types depending on other factors such as vitamin/mineral deficiencies (or lack thereof) etc etc etc.
Talk about a can of worms. Not a system I would want to have my diebetic diet relying on.
The 2008 International list of glycemic index of food determined by measurement of multiple subjects’ response to the food shows rolled oats to have a LOWER glycemic index than steel cut. The two, however, are within the margin of error of each other. (Diabetes Care 2008, 31(12) ) GI vs glucose, Porridge, rolled oats 49+/- 8; porridge steel cut oats, 52 +/- 4. They are statistically within margin of error of each other as they should be from identical composition, but based on the number alone you should say rolled is lower glycemic.
So far, Vicky’s experience above is the only DATA I have seen favoring steel cut. I could imagine that steel cut, if cooked “al dente” could be lower GI since it’s sort of “encapsulated” and might take longer to digest. I didn’t cook it that way. I took two hours cooking and stirring it until it was the same consistency as the rolled. I don’t know how the Diab. Care people cooked them.
I have a suggestion, though, if people also have high cholesterol. I lost weight, exercised, got my waist below 40 inches, etc. got body fat % down 4%, did all the stuff you’re supposed to do…and my cholesterol went UP to 270 TC, 190 LDL (from around 250). Doc wanted to put me on statins. I added 10g of soluble fiber and 20g of insoluble to my diet (oatmeal + Allbran bran buds + blueberries; beans) and arranged it so I had soluble fiber with each meal. In 3 weeks my TC was 200, my LDL 131 and my HDL 55. Doc no longer wants to “treat” me. What I noticed on that list is that Allbran is quite a bit lower GI (30) than oatmeal. So if you have an A1c problem, and a cholesterol problem, that could be a way to go worth checking out.
The “bran buds” Allbran have added metamucil, giving them 3g soluble fiber per 30g of cereal. I suggest letting them soak a while in whatever fluid you’re using, as they are too crunchy straight for my taste.
Thanks for your comment! I would bet though the cholesterol lowering had much more to do with adding the soluble fiber than anything to do with glycemic index. I’m not sure if that is what you were insinuating, but yes, the soluble fiber in oatmeal is terrific and the reason why it can carry a health claim – that it helps with cholesterol lowering.
I went through a phase last year when I was eating them rolled oats straight out of the can. Raw oats, albeit already somewhat processed when rolled. These are the quickest oats around, basically require zero cooking time ? The taste is unique and interesting, and requires a bit of an effort to imagine that I am not actually eating the cardboard they came in… But overall, yummy and healthy. This year I am going through a 10 lb box of Costco oats, microwaving them (without sticking my head into the appliance ;-), and enjoying with a dollop of raisins. Another phase for me, I suppose.
Hey! Whatever works! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
The easiest way to make creamy steel-cut oats? Bring one part oats to three parts liquid to the boil, cover the pot with a lid, turn off the heat and leave to sit overnight. Your oats will be ready in the morning.These oats are closest to their original grain form. They are made when the whole groat is cut into several pieces with a steel blade.They often have skim milk powder, emulsifiers and other preservatives added to help them develop a creamy texture when you cook them.
Great suggestion Anna! Very simple. Thanks for your comment. -Neily
I bought a rice cooker for the sole purpose of cooking steel cut oats. It’s so easy- put measured amounts of water and oats in the rice cooker and close the lid, set the automatic timer for wake- up, go to bed. Wake up to hot, perfectly cooked oatmeal!
I’ve heard using the rice cooker…great suggestion! -Neily
Should have said, ” set automatic timer for wake-up TIME”
I believe the quick cooking steel cut oats have been cut into smaller pieces than the long cooking steel cut oats. Since they are thus smaller and cook faster I also suspect that they digest faster and would spike the blood sugar levels more than the regular steel cuts which would give to sugar more slowly. The nutrition is probably the same but if you have cardio vascular disease and diabetes like me, the lower the sugar spikes the better.
Hi Stephen – thanks for your comment! Yes smaller pieces of oats will yield a higher glycemic index (GI) – what you refer to as spikes in blood sugar. IF you eat oats exclusive of any food yes it might make a difference. However most people eat oats with some combination of protein and fat which changes the GI. I recommend making oats with dairy or soy milk (because of the protein which other ‘milks’ lack) versus water and adding some whole fruit like berries or apple plus some nuts, my preference walnuts. Try to get at LEAST 20 grams of protein (25-30g if possible) at the breakfast meal.
I eat steel cut oats with zero cook time, by mixing a few spoonfuls into a container of greek yogurt. I enjoy the crunchiness. As I eat the oats soak up moisture and the chewing gets easier. Thanks for your article.
I eat either reqular quaker oatmeal or steel cut- I have found that either one, if I put it in a container add the hot water – cover tightly and take to work. By the time I get to work, and am ready to eat either is ready. No they are exactly the same texture as if I had cooked on stove, but close enough. I didn’t use steel cut until recently because I thought it had to cook on the stove for an hour. I tried this method that I have been using for regular oatmeal and it works fine. I don’t use quick oatmeal.
I never liked oatmeal until I tried steel-cut. Regular rolled oats are just too sticky and gluey for me (and instant are even worse); I love the chewiness of the steel-cut oats, and the toasty flavor.
Thank you so much for this article. I feel better about my preference for old-fashioned oats!
It’s a shame we’re all arguing over details instead of the substance. Steel cut oats do have a lower glycemic index, about 2/3 That of rolled. And any instant grain or canned legume has been precooked fast under high heat and pressure. This breaks long complex carbohydrate chains into shorter segment, more quickly digested, spiking blood sugar faster. It goes without saying that the added ingredients in instant packages of oatmeal make them unacceptable for diabetics.
So why not go for the best option? Personally I prefer the texture and nutty flavor of steel cut to the mushyness of rolled, but that’s a matter of taste. In a breakfast I add cinnamon, which gives an impression of greater sweetness, and lowers blood sugar to boot. Also dried fruit and nuts, almost no sugar. I cook a big pot over the weekend and dole out servings during the week. Heat in a pan or MW, your choice.
I also love them as a pilaf, with onion, garlic, parsley, etc (no sugar of course, just salt and pepper). It resembles risotto (look up recipes) and makes a great savory side dish with dinner.
An aside, eating rolled oats (not instant) almost daily brought my bad cholesterol down 25 points in 2 months. The next time (2 yrs later) I had discovered steel cut, same portions, and it was 60 points in 2 months. I’ll never bother with rolled again.
Oh, and for breakfast I do always add dairy
There are studies cited on Dr Greger’s site in many videos relating dairy and milk to prostate cancer and other cancers. You might also read his book “How Not To Die” and focus on the chapters about cancer.
I understand your argument about GI, but fat with the carb does help slow down the process so therefore your argument there may not stand if taken into account the type of fat. If I add fat ( unsweetened coconut milk )to my steel cut ( better sugar response than any other firm for me ) my insulin and energy stays more stable versus just plain oats.
Thanks for your comment Kimber. Yes, agreed. I believe that’s exactly what I said in this statement, “Furthermore I recommend using milk versus water and adding nuts for added fat—all of which will make the glycemic index irrelevant.” Congrats on the good BG control! -Neily
Thank you Neily! Unfortunately, it’s easy for some people to harshly criticize, rather than respectfully offer a different opinion. I will be following you!
Thank you Christine – appreciate the follow. I *think* you are referring to the comments people leave aobut my post?
People do have strong opinions and since I approve all comments before they’re posted I don’t mind opinions differing from mine. I follow the science and my goal is providing unbiased relevant nutrition information so people make educated decisions. Take care! -Neily
At this late stage, the superstition that microwave ovens cause harm to foods or people is not worth the energy to argue against. There are people who will believe anything. Not only are microwave ovens safe, but they have saved many lives by reducing the number of house fires caused by conventional ovens. Some people live in fear of radiation as others have of witches. But without radiation life is impossible. We are all exposed to radiation from minerals in the Earth, which is known as background radiation. In fact, the states with the highest background radiation (the Rocky Mountain states) are among those with the highest average life expectancies, and those with the lowest background radiation (the deep South states) are among those with the lowest life expectancies. There are places on Earth with enormously high background radiation, perfectly natural, but the people who live in the places show no ill effects. Food would be cheaper and many lives saved if fresh foods were irradiated to kill microbes, but companies won’t do it because of irrational fear which will reduce product sales. (Most spices sold commercially have been irradiated for decades.) People would rather die from food poisoning that live with the irrational fear of radiation. Radiation hormesis is a theory, widely accepted among radiation health specialists, that exposure to some radiation actually improves health and increases life span by stimulating immunity. Radiation is not something invented by humans, it is an indispensable aspect of life. Our own bodies produce small amounts of radiation.
My perfect morning Oatmeal is Quick Cook Steel cut Oats made using slightly more water than normal so I can then add in 1 scoop of Grass Fed Whey Isolate Protein (for a 25 gram protein boost), pecans, and Blueberry’s.
Sounds wonderful! You could also consider making the oatmeal with milk vs. water to boost the protein (then can cut back on the isolate). Just a thought! -Neily
I really enjoy your balanced, evidence -based responses, especially when people try to hijack the discussion with emotional reactions. We all have our personal response to food. I discovered late in life that I enjoy the chewier texture of steel cut oats, cooked on a stove top, even more than I have the porridge mouthfeel of rolled oats. As a non-diabetic, the GI doesn’t matter as much to me, but I stil find it interesting and possibly significantly for those struggling with it. I’d just add here another plug, made earlier, for savory ways to include this magnificent grain. Steel cut, cooked in broth, enhanced with aromatics, is a side dish to anything. Even a quick scoop for breakfast. Who decreed that breakfast must taste sweet? Eggs and sausage, anyone? Most of these arguments are really cultural, habitual, patterns. Keep up the good work.
Thank you David – I appreciate your thoughtful response! Yes, everyone has interesting opinions about food and their way of eating. I subscribe to the idea there is no ONE perfect way for everyone. What works for one may or may not work for another. I’m hearing more and more about the savory way to eat oats! -Neily
Making steel cut oats is no problem, really. I put the oats and 4 times the water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid at night, bring it to a boil and then turn off the burner. The next morning the oats are done and can be stirred and reheated in a microwave. You can also cook steel cut oats in 8 minutes using a pressure cooker.
I love oats, but I’ve been noticing that I have a hard time digesting steel-cut. I guess I need to go back to rolled.
Maybe the steel cut are just too “large” (that sounds rather weird :)) for your GI system? A thought. -Neily