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Oats: A Buyers’ Guide

Oats - A Buyers' Guide

Image source: www.toahealthyfamily.blogspot.com

Eating oats regularly helps to protect against a wide variety of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as aiding weight control.

There are a number of different oat products available for those who want to incorporate this nutritious whole grain into their diets.

Oat groats: Oat groats are hulled oat kernels that can be used in stuffings or cereals. They have a more rounded shape because they have not been sliced or rolled like most oat products.

Steel-cut oats/Scotch oats/Irish oats: These oat groats are sliced but not rolled like quicker-cooking oat products, so they’re thicker and coarser, with a dense, chewy texture. Cooking time to make porridge with steel-cut oats is approximately 30 minutes.

Rolled oats/old-fashioned oats: These oats are flatter than steel-cut oats because they have been steamed and then pressed flat with a roller. They only take around 5 minutes to cook, so they’re typically used in baking or eaten as a breakfast cereal.

Quick-cooking oats: Quick-cooking oats are cut more finely into smaller flakes before rolling, so they only require 3 or 4 minutes to cook. They can be used in the same recipes as rolled oats.

Instant oatmeal: Instant oatmeal blends contain partially cooked, thin-rolled oats. They require only mixing with hot liquid to prepare and are not suitable for baking. Most instant oats are sold in packets and premixed with sugar and other flavorings. Be sure to read the label – many products contain artificial ingredients.

Oat bran: Oat bran is derived from the outer grain layer (just inside the hull). This high-fiber oat product is included in steel-cut and rolled oats, but can also be purchased separately and used in baking, sprinkled on cereal, or cooked as a hot cereal on its own. Oat bran is slightly lower in calories that other oat products.

Oat flour: Oat flour is made from oat groats. It’s not always available in mainstream supermarkets, but it can be found in many health food stores.

Oats are gluten free. However, many oat products become contaminated with gluten at some point during their growth or processing, so this is not necessarily a risk-free alternative for those who can’t tolerate gluten. People with celiac disease should purchase only from companies that grow their oats in dedicated fields, process them in gluten-free facilities, and test for gluten contamination, such as Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods.

Beck, L., RD., “Oats – January 2007’s Featured Food,” n.d.
The George Mateljan Foundation, “Oats,” World’s Healthiest Foods, 2012.

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