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Oat is one of the favorite food for the “health” addicts. Many of you may have replaced your meal with oats. You must have seen various kind of oats in the market. Are you aware that the benefits of oats largely depends on its variety? Are you eating the right type of oats? Let’s figure out.

Oats are healthy…but is it a cereal or a legume?

Oats (Avena Sativa) are a type of cereal grain just like rice or wheat. Oats are best grown in countries where summer heat is less. Therefore European countries and countries like Russia, Canada, Poland, Finland are leading in oats production.


How can we classify oats?

Just like any other cereal, oats get classified based on its degree of processing. Note that processing is necessary to make the food grain edible. There are largely 3 types of oats available in the market –

1. Steel- cut Oats or, Pinhead Oats or, Coarse Oatmeal

2. Rolled Oats

3. Instant Oats or, Quick Oats


Steel- cut Oats: The first step of oat processing is dehulling where the inedible hull (the coarse outer layer) gets removed. Then the edible inner kernel get chopped by a steel blade into 2-3 pinhead sized pieces. These whole oats are called steel-cut oats.

Rolled Oats: After dehulling, oats are steamed and passed through a roller to make oat flakes called rolled oats. These are of two types- thick rolled oats and thin rolled oats. Thick-rolled oats are large whole oat flakes whereas thin-rolled oats are smaller, fragmented oat flakes.

Instant Oats- When rolled oats undergo further processing, it get highly fragmented and become able to absorb water more easily thus get cooked faster called instant oats.


Is there any difference between oats and oatmeal?

Oats are whole grain like rice or wheat whereas oats porridge is referred as oatmeal. Oatmeal is generally prepared by steel-cut oats or rolled oats using milk, fruits or with water and vegetables.

Does oat type really matter for nutritional benefit?

Of course, nutrient content of any cereal depends on the method of processing. It is quite clear that if you are looking for health benefit, the least processed oats i.e Steel-cut oats should be your first choice. It may take 10 minutes extra cooking time but will give you the expected health benefits.

Rolled oats (thick or thin variety) both have similar nutrient values. So you may consider this as the second choice. Oats specially steel-cut and rolled oats are good source of micronutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B complex etc which completely lack in instant oats.

The texture of instant oats are almost like coarse powder mixed with very small fragmented oat flakes. Instant oats are highly processed and available in various flavours. Instant oats are loaded with added sugar, refined salt, sodium, and various preservatives. Therefore if you are eating oats for health reason, pleases don’t get fooled choosing the instant oats.


The table below compare the nutritional value, cooking time and price of different types of oats from most popular brand in India –

Steel-cut oats Rolled Oats Instant Oats

Degree of Processing

Least Medium HIgh

Energy (Kcal)/100gm

386 408 365 – 400

Protein (gm)/100gm

16 11.5 9 – 11.5

Fat (gm)/100gm

7 10 5.25 – 8

Carbohydrate (gm)/100gm

66 68 64 – 76

Fiber (gm)/100gm

11 10 7.5 – 11

Approximate Cooking Time (minutes)

15 – 20 5 2 – 3

Approximate Price (INR) per 100 gm

24/- 19 – 28/- 37- 42/-

Does oats actually helps to lose weight?

If you are trying for weight loss, you must have heard the concept of creating calorie deficit basically eating less and burning more calories. Whole oats are a great choice if you are serious about weight loss for two simple reason.

1. Oats are high in soluble fiber. This form a thick gel and delays emptying of the stomach and absorption of glucose into the blood. So helps to keeps us full for long period.

2. The soluble fiber beta glucan helps to release a satiety hormone (Peptide YY-PYY) controlling our food craving and calorie intake.


What are the other benefits of eating oats?

Whole oats are high in antioxidants. It has avenanthramides, which is a potent group of antioxidants only found in oats. These components have anti-inflammatory properties and help to increase production of nitric oxide, which dilate the blood vessels and reduce the blood pressure.

The soluble fiber beta glucan helps to reduce LDL and total cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin response. That means oats are effective to improve your lipid profile as well as diabetic condition. The soluble fiber-beta glucan helps to regularize the bowel movement, cure constipation and increase the growth of good gut bacteria which provides multiple health benefits.

If you are struggling with eczema or such skin issues, ground oats can be your solution. Remember there are many skin care products contain finely ground oats. So think about including oats to your skin care routine.


Bored of oats porridge….. can we make anything else with oats?

You can make variety of dishes with oats other than porridge. Try making salty items like khichri (combination of oats, green gram and vegetables), upma (with oats and vegetables), chilla (pancake with finely chopped vegetables). If you have sweet tooth like me then try for smoothie or milk shake (may be with any fruit/milk). You can be creative making muffin, cake, cookies, pancake, overnight oats or even breakfast cereal.

Also read-

Pick the best cooking oil in India

Which is the best chocolate in India?

White sugar vs. brown sugar vs. Jaggery

White rice vs brown rice, what to eat?

Bottom Line

Oats are healthy and can be a good choice specially if you are trying for weight loss. If you are a diabetic or suffering with high blood pressure or poor lipid profile, adding oats to your daily diet is a wise decision. But always remember your expected benefits of oats will only come from the steel-cut oats and from rolled oats to some extent. Don’t consider instant oats for any benefits and don’t kill the goodness of whole oats by over consumption. So if you are thinking of replacing rice or roti with whole oats then stop there. Obesity/ diabetes whatever be your concern, be mindful on your food choice. Try to keep a variety in your diet. Have oats as a part of any meal but not for all meals. Eat everything but eat in moderation. That’s the greatest key to health. What do you think?

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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  • Purnima Dey , 4th March 2019 @ 4:56 pm

    Please mention the reason why it’s not recommended for gouty patients only due to its high purine content or there are any other reason?.My another question is if it is a cereal then why it is bad for gouty patients?

    • Dr. Soma Chakrabarty , 4th March 2019 @ 6:35 pm

      Hi, thanks for bringing such an important aspect of oats. Well, oats or milk protein does not contribute any risk to the patients suffering from gout. Yes, research suggests oats or other vegetables even animal protein source like milk or chicken contain purine but does not increase any risk. But as we always mention very clearly that never ever depend on any one particular type of cereal or pulse or any food product. It is always wise to keep the variety to our daily diet. For more details , you may go through this article


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