The Relative Benefits of Steel Cut vs. Quick Oats

Steel cut oats are found near the regular oats on the cereal aisle.

Steel cut oats are found near the regular oats on the cereal aisle.

Sure, quick oats are much quicker and more convenient to cook than steel cut oats, but are you sacrificing your health to save time? Steel cut oats contain more nutrients. You can make a big batch of steel cut oats in your slow cooker over the weekend and reheat it for a quick breakfast all week long.

Similarities

Both quick oats and steel cut oats are whole grains that have many health benefits and are a great choice to start your day. They contain fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and move waste through the digestive tract. The FDA has stated oatmeal can reduce the risk of heart disease based on the beta-glucan content in all oats. Both contain plant estrogens that may help with cancer prevention. And eating quick oats or steel cut oats can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you fuller longer. However, the American Heart Association recommends choosing steel cut or old-fashioned oats over other forms of oats to get the most nutritional benefit.

Differences

Steel cut oats are made with the inner portion of the oat kernel, are golden brown and look similar to rice. They get their name from the steel that cuts the oat kernel into pieces. The oats retain more fiber and nutrients because through the process of being hulled, the bran and germ isn’t stripped. Quick oats, like rolled oats, are made with oats that are rolled more finely and cut into smaller pieces. This process causes them to lose more of their natural flavor and nutrients. Steel cut oats take quite a bit longer to cook, between 15 to 30 minutes, compared to the few minutes that it takes to cook quick oats.

Impact on Blood Sugar

Steel cut oats are more coarsely ground than quick oats. Thus, your body digests the steel cut oats more slowly, and when they are eaten, your blood sugar doesn’t spike and then drop as much as it would when eating other processed oats. The steel cut oats provide a consistent flow of energy to your body to help you stay fuller, longer. Quick oats have a glycemic index of 65, compared to 42 of steel cut oats. This higher glycemic index of quick oats causes a higher insulin spike when eaten. You are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if your diet contains a lot of foods with high glycemic index values.

Fiber and Protein Content

Due to the processing of the quick oats, they don’t retain as much fiber, iron and protein as steel cut oats. Per serving, quick oats contain 2 grams of fiber compared to approximately 4 grams in steel cut oats. Additionally, quick oats only contain 3 grams of protein and 4 percent of the recommended daily value of iron per serving compared to 5 grams of protein and 10 percent of the recommended daily value of iron per serving of steel cut oats.

 

About the Author

Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.

Photo Credits

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