Despite its super-nutritious image, steel-cut oats are similar in nutrition to other forms of oatmeal that don’t contain added sugar or sodium. All forms of oatmeal are whole-grain, containing the same vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, including the soluble fiber shown to lower blood cholesterol. Both steel-cut and rolled oats are relatively slow to raise blood sugar and therefore classified as low in glycemic index (GI). Traditional oatmeal is referred to as rolled oats, because the whole-grain oats are softened by steam and flattened on rollers to form flakes. Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are oats cut by steel blades into small pieces without being flattened. Quick-cooking (one-minute) and instant oatmeal are steamed, cut and flattened in progressively smaller pieces to cook more quickly.
Most of these basic kinds of oatmeal differ mainly in cooking time and texture. Steel-cut takes longest to cook and has a heartier, chewier texture. Quick-cooking oatmeal is 100 percent oats and has zero sodium. A serving of instant oatmeal may seem lower in fiber than other forms when you check label information, but that’s only because a packet usually makes a smaller serving. Instant oatmeal does have added salt with one packet having about the same amount of sodium as in 20 potato chips, almost one-tenth of the most sodium you should have in one day. Moreover, many varieties of instant oatmeal contain almost three packets of added sugar (12 grams). A few varieties of flavored instant oatmeal use zero-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar, and some add gums or soy protein isolate to add additional fiber or protein. Make sure to check Nutrition Facts panel information at the store to see what’s in oatmeal so you can compare the added sugar and sodium among the options.
Most children and adults in the U.S. are getting less than the recommended amounts of whole grains and dietary fiber.
Researchers found people who did eat the recommended three or more servings of whole grains each day also tended to consume the most fiber.
Whole grains are present in some types of hot and cold cereal and bread. Previous studies have tied whole grain intake to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease among adults. The health benefits are in part attributed to the fiber in whole grains.
Eating fiber has been linked to better gut health, less heart disease and lower weights. Fiber is found in whole grains in varying quantities as well as in fruits, vegetables and beans.
Dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services say at least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. That works out to a minimum of three one-ounce servings per day for adults.
Fiber recommendations vary by age. Young kids need 19 to 25 grams of fiber each day while older kids, teens and adults need anywhere from 21 to 38 grams per day.
Consumers can read labels and look for a special whole grain stamp when shopping.