Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice. Oatmeal has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and there is evidence oatmeal reduces the risk of some cancers. Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oatmeal is low on the glycemic index.
What type of oats?
With the exception of instant oatmeal, most types of oatmeal are nutritionally virtually the same. If you read the ingredients, oatmeal is the single ingredient. The major difference between the different types is texture and the time it takes to cook.
Steel-cut oats are chopped groats and the least processed type of oatmeal. Steel cut oats have a nutty flavor and chewier texture than rolled oats. Steel-cut oats take the longest to cook, anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the brand and the texture you prefer. There is an argument that because steel-cut oats are less processed, they take longer to digest, and are lower on the lower glycemic food index. I have not found any definitive information on how much lower steel-cut oats are on the glycemic index than rolled oats, but it appears to be fairly negligable.
Scottish oats are similar to steel-cut oats, but the oat groats are cut into even smaller pieces.
Old-fashioned rolled oats
If you prefer a smoother and faster cooking oatmeal, old-fashioned rolled oats may be the best choice for you. These oats are processed by steaming, rolling and toasting the oats. They are quick to prepare, taking 5 to 20 minutes to cook, depending on the brand you purchase and the texture you prefer.
These are processed just like old-fashioned rolled oats, only they are rolled even thinner to reduce cooking time.
From a nutritional standpoint, instant oatmeal should be avoided as it usually contains more than just oats, including sugar, salt, fat, coloring and other additives.
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Microwave method for cooking oatmeal
My friend Chip cooks his steel-cut oats in the microwave in just 5 minutes. You get the great texture of steel-cut without the time investment and without dirtying a pot. For two servings, put 1 cup of oatmeal and 1.5 cups of water in a bowl and microwaves on high for 3 minutes. Remove, stir and return to the microwave for 2 additional minutes. Cover with syran wrap and let sit for one minute. Add your fixings - milk, yogurt, nuts or fruit and you are good to go.
If you keep a gluten-free diet, oatmeal does not contain gluten, but there can be cross contamination with other gluten-containing products. Bob's Red Mill makes certified gluten-free oatmeal.