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Which kind of oats should I eat?

With so many different oat products on the market nowadays, it can be difficult to know which ones you should go for. We touched on WHY oats are so good for you – and why your gut bugs love them so much in this post here: 5 reasons why you should be eating oats every day!, but is there a real difference between the different types of oats? And if so, which one should you go for? Let’s dive in –

Types of oats

All oats begin as an oat kernel. Dehulling removes the inedible outer hull – leaving us with the humble, edible oat groat. Processing methods alter the nutrient profiles of oats slightly. The different types of oats are listed below in order of least-to-most processed:

Oat Groats

The inedible hull has been removed. Oat groats take the longest time to cook, which is why most people go for rolled or steel-cut (more below).

Oat Bran

Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat groat and typically comes in a powdery form. Oat bran is often consumed as a cereal or added to foods to boost the fibre content.

Steel-Cut Oats (aka Irish Oats or Pin-Head Oats)

Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces and typically have a chewy, nutty texture and flavour. Cooking time: approximately 15-30 minutes.

Rolled Oats (aka Old-Fashioned Oats or Jumbo Oats)

Oat groats are steamed, rolled and flattened to form the rolled oats we know so well! Rolled oats are the type you find in supermarkets. Cooking time: approximately 2-5 minutes.

Instant Oats (aka Quick-Oats)

Oats are further steamed and rolled to create an even flatter texture, allowing for quicker absorption of liquid and a shorter cooking time, often resulting in a mushier texture when cooked. Cooking time: approximately 2-3 minutes.

So, which one should I go for?

We’ve pulled together a comparison of 100g of oat bran1https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5703/2, steel-cut2https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/2475764/2, rolled3https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1597/2 and instant4https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1599/2 oats:

Nutrient (per 100g)Steel-cutRolledInstantOat Bran

While steel-cut oats contain a little more fibre than rolled and instant oats, and are lower on the glycaemic index5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26330200/, the differences are otherwise minor as you can see from the table.

You may prefer the softer texture of rolled or instant oats – or the nutty, chewier texture of steel-cut oats. Maybe the shorter cooking time of instant oats works well for you! The great news is that all types of oats – and oat bran – will provide you with the fibre that your gut bugs love!

What is more important is that you opt for plain oats – regardless of which sort – that have no added sugar or sweeteners! Sugar wreaks havoc on your gut bacteria, so why not opt for nature’s sweeteners – stewed blueberries, chopped dates or use stevia in place of sugar.

How about gluten?

Oats do not naturally contain gluten.

The marketing phrase “gluten-free oats” refers to oats that have been grown and processed in a protected environment, where the oats cannot be accidentally contaminated by other gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley or rye.

Research has shown that most people with coeliac disease can tolerate gluten-free oats with no problems. However a very small number of people with coeliac disease may still be sensitive to gluten-free oat products. 6https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/living-gluten-free/the-gluten-free-diet/about-gluten/oats/

Oats do contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. However current recommendations are that those with coeliac disease do not need to routinely avoid avenin, because the likelihood of a reaction is so low. 7https://thefoodtreatmentclinic.com/coeliac-disease-oats-avenin-to-eat-or-not/

If you have coeliac disease, you should always seek the advice of your GP.

How to add oats into your diet

  • Add a handful of oats to your Daily Gut Health Smoothie for a fibre boost!
  • Top your cooked oats with sliced avocado, poached egg or mushrooms for savoury porridge
  • Mix Kefir, raw oats and fruit together and pop in the fridge overnight – the perfect grab ‘n’ go breakfast!
  • Gut-loving energy balls – mix raw oats with your favourite nut/seed butter and roll into balls for bite-size snacks
  • Oat risotto – yes, you read that right! Swap out rice for oats!
  • Add oats to your pancakes – try out El’s Gut-Healthy Pancake Recipe


Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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