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Which Oats?


I’ve been getting lots of questions recently about oats, so thought it worthwhile to do a post about this illustrious food.

Why are they so great?
Recent studies have indicated that consumption of oats can reduce obesity, abdominal fat, and improve liver function. They contain a substance called beta-glucan. This in particular has been shown to improve cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and enhance immune function. They are also high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, which helps with improving bowel function. Oats are higher in protein and fat when compared to wheat and rice. Because of the fat content, they are often heated and rolled to prevent the fat going off. They also contain calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium, along with some B vitamins as well.

Thanks to Free Digital Photos for the picture

Thanks to Free Digital Photos for the picture

What are the different types?
Rolled Oats
Oats that have been steamed and flattened with a roller. These have a low glycemic index (GI) of 51, and are the most commonly found type of oats. They will cook in about 4-5 minutes if making porridge.

Quick Oats
These are the same as rolled oats, however they have been ‘chopped up’ into smaller pieces, so that they cook more quickly. However this results in the GI being much higher, thus they will not keep you full for as long, and the benefit of blood sugar stabilization is not as high. Standard rolled oats are a much healthier option, however quick oats can work well in smoothies, as the oat will be cut up anyway throughout the preparation process.

Steel Cut Oats
Oats that have had only the hull removed (it’s inedible). These are called ‘oat groats’. They are then chopped with a blade. These have the lowest glycaemic index, of 42. However they take much longer to cook, between 30-40 minutes. However if you soak them over night, they will cook in 5 minutes.

Oat Bran
The ‘left over’ part from making traditional rolled oats. It has many of the same benefits, including reducing cholesterol absorption, improving bowel function and prevention of bowel cancer.

Which oats do you use?

Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you’d like our help in managing diet-related health issues.

  • Belinda

    Good article Chloe…, you know how much I love my oats! 🙂

    • Thanks Belinda! You certainly do- you should give the steel cut ones a try! 🙂

  • Andrew

    Hi chloe. I can’t stand porridge but love my muesli. Are the health benefits the same whether you heat them or not? Dumb question…is bran related to oats and are they just as good? 🙂

    • Hi Andrew,
      Having them raw isnt an issue at all. The glycaemic index is actually a little higher in raw oats than cooked oats! Not a silly question at all! Bran, as in oat bran is the left over part from making rolled oats. You can also get wheat, rice, corn, barley and millet bran, and same as oats, is the by product that is left over from making other products.

  • Fiona

    Hi Chloe, I don’t eat oats very often myself but get asked about them all the time! Although the GI of quick oats is a lot higher than the traditional oats I try and be cautious about deterring people completely. If they are definitely not going to use the traditional oats, do you agree that the quick oats are still a better choice than some of the other high GI, high sugar cereals on the market that they are likely to choose as an alternative?

    • Spot on Fiona, the quick oats do still have other nutritional benefits, and are a much better option than many of the other high sugar cereals available 🙂

  • Herman

    Hi Chloe, Is Uncle Toby’s ‘Traditional Oats’ rolled oats? I know they come in ‘Quick Oats’ as well.

    • They sure are! I would recommend getting the traditional ones, as they are lower GI and less processed than the quick ones, ie, they keep you fuller much longer