What Is Oatmeal, and What's Its Deal?

What Is Oatmeal, and What's Its Deal?

Let's talk some about oatmeal, its different types, and why mixing oatmeal into your routine is a healthy must if you want to lose weight. 

Okay Carbohydrate-o-phobes, listen up!! It’s time to have a chit chat not only about oatmeal, but about carbs in general as well. Carbs are not the enemy! Our bodies and brains need them for energy. However, some are absolutely better than others.

Here’s the deal: White bread, white flour, and all of those other processed flours and grains are doing nothing for ya. When manufacturers make white bread, pasta, cookies, chips, etc., they strip off the outer bran and germ layers of the wheat, oat, barley, or whatever grain it is. 

Guess what? The bran and germ are where all of the nutrients are which is why oatmeal (which still has all of the goodies) is where the party's at. We’re talking fiber, vitamin E, the B vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

Fiber adds bulk to food and slows down digestion, keeping us full longer and keeping our blood sugar from rising and crashing. Fiber is great for lowering cholesterol and preventing lots of diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. If you’re not concerned about those at this point in your life, just know it helps with weight management/maintenance and with regularity, if ya catch my drift.

So, leave that processed wonder bread on the shelf and replace it with WHOLE GRAINS!! Always look for the world whole in the label. Whole wheat, whole grain, whole seeds…. There are lots of whole grains out there other than wheat. Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar, millet, popcorn, wild rice, and one other one that’s a perfect breakfast feature…Today, we’re talkin’ oatmeal!!

If oats are on your radar, you are ahead of the game. If not, it’s time to get on it! Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Plus you’re getting lots of good vitamins and minerals like manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, mangnesium and thiamin (B1).

Like we just learned, oats are a whole grain so we love ‘em –they are rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, enhances the immune response to infection and stabilizes blood sugar (oh, hi glycemic index!) so you don’t have major spikes in energy then crash an hour later. Basically, oatmeal is good for you, ya dig?

So what’s the difference between all of the oatmeal varieties you see in the grocery store? Do you really need to slave over the stove watching steel cut oats cook or are microwavable Quaker Oats good enough?



Steel Cut: The least processed oats. Dense and chewy texture and look like chopped up rice. Produced by running the oat grain through steel blades that slices it, hence the name.

Old-fashioned: i.e. rolled oats: Look like flat ovals- steamed then rolled to flatten. Cook faster than Steel Cut but slower than Quick.

Quick/instant oatmeal: Produced by pre-cooking, drying, and then rolling the grains. Often lots of sugar, salt and other ingredients are added.

Those are the general differences, but how much does it really matter? Well, steel-cut oats like McCann’s Steel cut are the least processed before reaching your bowl. So nutritionally speaking, those have the edge. But if you’re a student or young adult, I sincerely doubt you’ll spend 45 mins or more to make breakfast. If you have the luxury of that time, more power to ya, steel cut oats, or for that matter Cooking With Pia, are where it’s at. Maybe try making ‘em in bulk for a week or two (rice cookers are pretty awesome for this!)

If you need something a little faster, old-fashioned and instant oatmeal still get the thumbs up, and are actually very similar in nutritional value. But, before you go grabbing any old box of instant oatmeal, hold up!! Not all instant brands are created equal.

Cause while maple brown sugar oatmeal sounds absolutely delicious, there are also over 13g of added sugar and 1 measly gram of fiber. What should you look for? Check for added sugar, salt and preservatives- and make sure there is a minimum of 3g of fiber per serving. Look for, at most, 6g sugar.

Instead of the sugary options, go for plain oatmeal (always double check the added ingredients!) and add your own sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon. Or, if you desperately need that flavor, Kashi and Arrowhead Mills have a few good options. Remember, less than 6g sugar!

I always make it with skim/1% milk or vanilla soy milk for some protein (and cause in my opinion it’s tastes way better than with water) but you can also add vanilla protein powder and berries in there for an extra protein punch and flavor, or maybe you’re more of a chocolate protein powder fan with a banana. Or, you can go for my personal fave, some high protein Greek yogurt with fruit on the side. Whatever your style, breakfast is so, so important, and oatmeal is a great way to get a high-energy start to the day. So get on it!

Team 1R, if you're still not sure about an oatmeal to try after reading this, we'd recommend the following great tasting options:

  1. CytoSport Muscle Milk N Oats - Provides a complete, filling breakfast in less than 2 minutes and 30 grams of high quality EvoPro protein to support lean muscle growth
  2. Dymatize Elite High-Protein Oatmeal - 36 grams of high quality protein is the equivalent of six eggs and its complex carbs and fiber keep you full throughout the day
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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.