They are nutritious, taste great, can be transformed into sweet AND savory meals, and are versatile enough to be enjoyed for any meal of the day.
Plus, they are easy to prepare and very affordable.
Any guesses what this under-appreciated food is?
If you are old enough to remember and not "Out of Touch" -- we are talking about OATS, but not Hall and Oates!
Why should you be eating oats?
- Oats are cholesterol sponges! Oats will bind to LDL cholesterol and help remove them from your system. The result? Lower LDL, along with reduced risk of clogged arteries and heart disease.
- This easy-to-use whole grain is packed full of fiber and slow-digesting carbs, which help you feel full longer and help stabilize blood sugars.
- Oats are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease, prevent Type 2 diabetes and even reduce the risk of certain cancers!
Oats do not naturally contain gluten, but can be cross-contaminated in growing and milling. Just be sure to read the label if you are looking for true “gluten-free” oats.
Because oats are so nutritious, many “not-so-healthy” foods try to sell you on the fact they contain oats. Hint: if the food must tell you it contains oats, proceed with caution!
Before our REAL food transformation, we used to eat Oatmeal Breakfast Squares because we thought they were healthy…but of course, the reality is they were loaded with sugars, artificial flavorings and preservatives…including high-fructose corn syrup and many other ingredients we can’t even pronounce! Many of these processed foods (which can include some of the prepared instant oatmeals) can be high in sodium and sugars and lower in fiber compared to REAL oats.
For example, some of the instant versions have added artificial peach and strawberry flavoring — no REAL fruit here! As John Oates said in 1983, “I can’t go for that (no can do).” A much better option would be to create the homemade version yourself and add fresh fruit, nuts and seasonings such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
You knew this was coming…the key is to read the ingredients!
Ideally, there is one ingredient: oats.
Then, you can add whatever other ingredients you choose to make your own meal, snacks or breakfast!
When it comes to oats, processing is not necessarily a bad thing!
The additional processing of oats (which is really just cutting, rolling and steaming) is what makes them easier to prepare. Even the oats that are more processed, such as rolled oats, have the same nutritional value as all other oats.
It can be confusing at the store because there are so many different types of oats to choose from…old-fashioned, rolled, steel cut, instant, quick-cooking, oat flour, and more. But, don’t be confused or intimidated!
The differences really just relate to how the oats have been cut and processed. With oats, the processing doesn’t remove all the beneficial nutrients, it just affects the texture and prep time. Keep in mind, all oats start their lives as a “groat.” Groats are the result of the grain being harvested, cleaned and the inedible hull removed. These groats take the longest to cook…about one hour on the stovetop, but they work great when used in slow cooker recipes. These groats are then processed to become other types of oats:
- Steel cut oats: Also called Irish oatmeal, steel cut oats are groats that have been chopped a few times with a sharp metal blade. They cook faster (about 20 minutes stovetop) than groats because the liquid can absorb more quickly into the grain. Steel cut oats are also a good choice for slow cooker recipes and have a chewier texture than rolled oats. Surprisingly, they are excellent in uncooked overnight oatmeal if used 50/50 with rolled oats.
- Scottish oats: When groats are stone ground into small coarse pieces, they are sometimes called Scottish oats. They have a creamier consistency than steel cut oats and cook even faster…about 10 minutes stovetop or 3-5 minutes in the microwave.
- Rolled oats: These are the same as old-fashioned oats. Rolled oats are created when groats are steamed and rolled into flakes. Steaming the oats does some of the cooking, so it reduces the cook time for us. The cook time is about 10 minutes on the stove or 3-5 minutes in the microwave. Rolled oats work great in oatmeal, granola, muffins, cookies and many other meals!
- Quick or instant rolled oats: By rolling the oats thinner and steaming them longer, the result is quick or instant oats. The nutritional value generally stays the same, but the texture changes. Because of the rolling and steaming that has taken place, these oats are the quickest to prepare…just 5 minutes on the stove or 2-3 minutes in the microwave. They will be creamier than steel cut or rolled oats.
- Oat flour: One of our favorite tricks is to blend rolled oats in a food processor to make “oat flour,” which is an excellent whole-grain gluten-free alternative to using whole wheat flour in recipes. Oat flour is great for baking, especially for muffins and cookies. It is also a great option for pancakes and waffles and can be used as a thickener in soups and stews.
- Oat bran: The outer layer of the groat is ground to make oat bran. It is high in fiber and, when cooked, makes a creamy hot cereal. It has all the nutrition of a whole grain even though it technically isn’t because it is ground from the outer layer of the groat.
Say goodbye to boring oatmeal!
Sure, you can “just add water,” but where is the flavor and fun in that?! Whether it's rolled oats, steel cut oats or oat flour, there are so many ways to incorporate oats into some absolutely great-tasting meals…that are also super-affordable and easy to prepare. And, oats are not just for breakfast -- check out some of these incredibly fantastic ways to include oats in a variety of meals!
Eat your oats!
Experiment with new ways to prepare oats. Try different variations of overnight oats for a great-tasting breakfast and stress-free mornings. Try using oats in savory dishes for lunch or dinner.
What are your favorite recipes with oats?