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More on oats: Rolled vs. Steel Cut vs. Stone Ground

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 21:51
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Q. I have a question about oats. We all know that oats are good for you, but I have heard that rolled oats aren’t as good as other kinds. I have tried steel cut and enjoy them but they are difficult to cook, What I have found that I like the best is stone ground oats, they are the whole grain ground up. Can you compare the nutritional values of the different styles of oats?

A. As it happens, January is National Oatmeal Month, so the recent spate of questions on oats and oatmeal is well-timed!

First, some quick definitions. Steel-cut oats are hulled, toasted, oat grains that have been coarsely chopped into chunks about the size of a sesame seed. Stone-ground oats are the same thing, only ground into smaller pieces, closer to the size of a poppy seed. To make old-fashioned rolled oats, they steam the hulled toasted grains and then run them between rollers to create flakes.

The biggest differences between rolled, steel-cut, and stone-ground oats are in the texture and cooking times. They are all considered “whole grains” in that they all contain the germ, endosperm and bran of the original grain.  

Any differences in nutrition would be due to the different processing methods, but the differences are minor. Some nutrients will be lost to heat and moisture during the steaming of the rolled oats, for example. On the other hand, the steel-cut oats have to be cooked for longer (losing nutrients along the way) so it’s probably just about a wash.  Similarly, the stone ground oats may have a slightly higher glycemic impact than the steel cut because they’ve been reduced to smaller particles. But I really wouldn’t get too hung up on that –all three forms are considered to be low-glycemic foods. 

Because these minor differences aren’t going to make  much of a difference in the big picture, I’d go with whichever you prefer.

Note: Quick-cooking and instant oats are a whole different story–as
are the kind that are packaged with flavors and sweeteners.  I’d regard
all of these as nutritionally inferior.

Hungry for more? Here’s a whole lot more about oats (including two good oat jokes): http://www.formerfatguy.com/articles/oatmeal/oats.asp

Happy Oatmeal Month!

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