Steel cut oats are quickly gaining popularity in this ever-changing world. Health studies on oats and other kinds of superfoods are constantly being conducted and the results conclusively show that the less processed a food is, the better it is for us. Oats are gluten free, making them a great way to get the healthful goodness of whole grains without the side effects of wheat products.
Steel cut oats are chewier and more satisfying than the rolled or instant oats you’re probably used to eating for breakfast. They can take up to 20 minutes to cook on the stove top, making them slightly less convenient than instant or rolled oats. However, choosing this tastier, non-processed option for the breakfast table will be a decision you’ll never regret.
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Types of Oatmeal Explained
Oats start off as an “oat groat” which is the grain (seed) harvested from the oat grass plant. Minimal processing is necessary to make oats shelf stable and able to be cooked into the soft, textured, wholesome breakfast meal they’re known for. The only process that’s necessary to make oats safe for storage is a low-heat roasting process which inactivates the natural enzymes which cause them to go rancid and eventually rotten.
Beyond this, the groats are then further processed to achieve different textures and varying glycemic index ratings, which is where steel cut oats and to a lesser degree, plain rolled oats really shine.
Instant are the most popular and also most processed of all oat products. They tend to be softer and less chewy than rolled or steel cut oats, and often come out soupy in texture. Instant oats are roasted, then pre-cooked, dried, and then later steamed and rolled out thinner than “rolled oats”.
Though the topic is up for debate, there’s no nutritional value lost in all this processing, largely due to the stability of the vitamins and minerals oats contain. However, processing makes them easier to digest meaning they cause massive insulin spikes, high blood sugar, and won’t satiate your hunger for nearly as long.
Rolled oats have a thicker and chewier texture than instant oats, and go through slightly less processing – though they can’t hold a candle to the taste and texture of steel cut oatmeal. Rolled oats are roasted to inactivate the enzymes that cause them to go rancid, then steamed to make them pliable, then later rolled to press them flat.
Rolled oats cook in approximately 10 – 12 minutes and are able to hold more water than steel cut oats, yet not as much as instant oats, leaving them with a chewier texture that’s close but not equal to that of the steel cut variety.
Steel cut oats aren’t rolled like the other two varieties. After the roasting process, the oat groats are chopped into fine little pieces that resemble grains of rice, using stainless steel blades. You’ll often see steel cut oats labeled as Irish or Scottish oats, depending on the manufacturer, due to the food’s popularity in those areas.
Steel cut oats are the only type that can be used to make traditional porridge, can take up to 20 minutes to cook on the stove top, and can be used as binders and flavor add-ons in a variety of sweet and savory recipes.
Steel Cut Oats Benefits
1.Low Glycemic Food + Blood Sugar Lowering Benefits
While the remaining benefits outlined apply to all varieties of oats, steel cut oats digest much more slowly than instant or rolled oats. The glycemic index accounts for both how fast blood sugar rises, and the typical elevation in total blood sugar levels in healthy individuals after consuming a given food. This slower digestion means steel cut oats have a low 42 on the glycemic index, whereas rolled and instant oats both have a rating of 66.
Slower digestion means less insulin needs to be released in the body to deal with raising blood sugar levels. This benefits healthy individuals by reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome caused by the insulin resistance that results from prolonged elevation of insulin levels over time. Slower release of sugar during digestion also benefits diabetics, who may require less medication including insulin injections, when they choose to eat lower glycemic foods like steel cut oats.
Oatmeal is loaded with nutrition our bodies need to thrive and survive. The following nutritional information is based on a 1 cup (156 gram) serving of any variety of oats:
• Calories: 30% D.V. (607)
• Protein: 53% D.V.
• Carbohydrates: 34% D.V.
• Fiber: 66% D.V.
• Fat: 17% D.V.
• Manganese: 383% D.V.
• Phosphorus: 82% D.V.
• Magnesium: 69% D.V.
• Copper: 49% D.V.
• Iron: 41% D.V.
• Zinc: 41% D.V.
• Folate: 22% D.V.
• Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 79% D.V.
• Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 21% D.V.
• Riboflavin: 13% D.V.
• Trace amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 and niacin.
Oatmeal has a unique group of polyphenol antioxidants called avenanthramides which are known for their nitric oxide producing abilities. Antioxidants are also key in slowing down the aging process in the body, which is caused by free radicals we ingest through food and water, and through the air we breathe.
Left unchecked, these free radicals cause atherosclerosis, along with premature cell death and mutation (eg., cancers of all kinds). Antioxidants like avenanthramides help gather free radicals by attaching to them and shuttling them out of the blood stream via the liver and digestive tract.
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber that offers several potential benefits to the body. Once it’s consumed, beta-glucan turns into a gel inside the gut. This action helps you feel fuller quicker and feel satiated longer, while also lowering blood sugar, insulin spikes, and cholesterol levels. Several studies have proved that beta-glucan induces the excretion of cholesterol rich bile, causing total and LDL (bad) levels to lower in the blood.
Beta-glucan also provides long term benefits to stabilizing healthy gut flora too, as detailed in this study which showed ingesting 60 grams of oatmeal every day led to improvements in healthy gut flora levels and decreases in the bad variety that causes digestive disturbance and leads to poor overall health.
Inflammation occurs everywhere within the body, in each and every cell. There’s no way to stop inflammatory processes altogether, as it’s this process that leads to aging and eventual death. However, the process can be slowed down by improving gut health and ensuring one consumes an antioxidant rich diet full of leafy green vegetables and low glycemic fruits.
Consuming oat groats daily helps to accomplish both these goals by improving gut health, leading to improved digestion and uptake of other key antioxidants like vitamin C (though oats do not contain them). Best, studies show that the avenanthramides and other phenolic compounds in oats work synergistically with vitamin C to prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream – potentially the most deadly of all inflammatory conditions in the body.
Oats contain plenty of antimicrobial saponins and antioxidant phenols. These compounds are believed to be responsible for the age-old use of oatmeal for skin irritations of all kinds. When ground up fine and mixed with water, called “colloidal oatmeal,” oat groats become a powerful and inexpensive skin care remedy.
Colloidal oatmeal is well known for its ability to soothe itching, and even help skin heal from cracking; a painful symptom that occurs with eczema sufferers. Colloidal oatmeal’s properties make it an effective cleanser, moisturizer, and buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent.
7.Weight Loss Aide
One of the biggest issues facing people attempting to lose weight is the inability to cut calories effectively. This is a result of years of over-indulging and the effect that has on the body’s in-built hormonal systems which tell us we’re full and to stop eating. The fiber in steel cut oats, particularly beta-glucan, helps trigger the satiety hormone Peptide YY (PYY), which is almost always deficient in people suffering from obesity.
Potential Side Effects
Though it’s very uncommon, some people are allergic to oats (see symptoms here). Obviously, if you start showing signs of intolerance, it’s advised you see your doctor and have any suspicions confirmed by taking a food allergy test.
Most people shouldn’t expect any side effects from consuming oats, even if they’ve never tried them before. Due to the high fiber content, it’s advised to start out with smaller servings to avoid gastrointestinal tract issues like increased flatulence, upset stomach, or diarrhea.
Steel Cut Oats Reviews
Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
Bob’s Red Mill is one of a distinct few varieties of unadulterated, non-GMO steel cut oats to be labeled as a world champion oatmeal. Bob’s team traveled to Scotland, quite possibly the original birthplace of the oatmeal breakfast, and won the prestigious ‘Golden Spurtle’ competition which crowns a new championship porridge each year. Bob’s did it and that’s about all you need to know – if the Scots couldn’t turn their head up at these American grown steel cut oats, you won’t either!
McCann’s Steel Cut Oatmeal
McCann’s is renowned for sealing the quality taste and texture of their steel cut oats into every 1 pound tin of product they sell. Loyal customers swear they’ve never tried a better tasting oat in their life. The big defining quality of McCann’s is they strive to cut each oat groat in perfectly uniform proportions, making the visual presentation in your morning bowl of groats just as pleasing as the taste. Give this variety a try – see if you don’t agree!
Honeyville Farms Steel Cut Oats
Since oats are completely dry when purchased, they can last for years in a low humidity environment. This 50 pound bag from Honeyville Farms is a great deal, especially considering the shipping is free to most places in North America! While they certainly haven’t won any awards like the Bob’s Mill brand, these steel cut oat groats are of the highest quality, and you can buy with confidence considering they have an average 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Steel cut oats are definitely the most tasty of the three varieties (steel cut, rolled, and instant). While the health benefits of each are the same, minus the fact that steel cut oats have a much lower glycemic value, many purists out there including Whole Food’s CEO John Mackey, insist on eating the least processed form of oats to start their day off right each morning.
Gluten free, and packed with nutrition including protein, fiber, minerals, and B vitamins, oats of all kinds definitely deserve their superfood designation. Here’s to a healthier, happier you!