Quick Oats, Steel Cut Oats, or Regular Oats: What's the Difference?

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Quick Oats vs. Steel Cut Oats

quick oats.jpg  VS.  steel cut oats.jpg

When I talk about the benefits of whole grains, I often mention oats. They're easy, contain the phytochemical terpenoid and most people like them! In order to really understand which is better, we need to define what each type of oat is.

  • Steel-cut oats are the whole oat kernel, which is cut into two or three pieces using steel discs. They are a better source of fiber than rolled oats, but take longer to cook.
  • Rolled oats have the bran mostly removed and are rolled flat to make them easier to cook. With the bran removed, they have less fiber than steel-cut oats.
  • Quick-cooking and instant oats are rolled oats that have been cut into smaller pieces and rolled thinner, thus cook quickly. They are an easy source for preparing many oatmeal dishes.

When comparing the different types of oats, the steel-cut oats are definitely less processed and have a higher nutrient content. However, when we make them it can take a LONG TIME (20 minutes or more).

Quick cooking oats are still considered a whole grain and have less fiber, but not by much. They are certainly more convenient and I would consider them very healthy. The ones you want to stay away from are the individual packets that contain sugar and other flavorings!

Your best bet is to cook your oatmeal and flavor it yourself. For a convenient chart that compares different products, check out Grains and Losses.

Personally, I like the texture and flavor of the steel cut oats but often eat the instant because it takes less time. If you want to save time though, try this recipe for steel cut oats in a crockpot. They can be refrigerated or frozen into individual portions once they are cooked.

Crock Pot Oatmeal:

1 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup raisins, cranberries, or dried fruit of choice
4 cups water
½ cup milk, half and half, or buttermilk
2 tablespoons of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

In a crock pot, combine all ingredients. Cook on low heat
(covered) for 7-9 hours. Stir and serve. *For non-dairy
oatmeal, try adding applesauce, apple butter, or almond
butter instead of dairy products.

For your personal enjoyment, I have included a poem that my dad wrote about oats. Now you know where I get my writing skills!

A Toast to Oats:

Quaker Man, Quaker Man, in your box so round,
Taking nature's oats and grinding them on down.
Sheaths with grains of goodness, waving forth and back,
Cut and ground and stored in boxes red and black.

But now I hear this oft refrain:
Steel-cut, Steel-cut, it is nutrition's gain.
So tell me, Miss Fooditian, in your blog so soft and low,
Is this really right, or is it just not so?

I hope I've answered the rhyme master's questions!
- Julie

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Those of us who eat instant oatmeal are not children of a lesser god. Instant oatmeal has never been scientifically proven to be less nutritious than other oats. There is an especially irrational avoidance of packets. I don't know why. Also, instant oatmeal deniers paint all instant oatmeal with the same ( steel cut ? ) brush. I eat wonderful instant oatmeal frequently and it is free of the nefarious substances attributed to all instant oatmeal.

Julie, Have you got any evidence (other than anecdotal) to support your claim that steel cut oats are better?

What more proof would you need. At the very least, the steel cut oats should have the same nutrition as the rolled oats, but given that the steel cut are minimally process my guess would be that they are more nutritious. They taste a hell of a lot better...

Most of my information is actually not anecdotal. If it is, it should be very clear. I spend a fair amount of time verifying information from credible sites including the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I'm sorry to say that I can't remember exactly what I read as background information for this particular article, as it's almost 4 years old now. However, maybe I can do an update of the topic soon! Thanks for the comments! - Julie

When you read Julie's piece she wasn't bashing rolled, packet oatmeal. I read it as saying they were both nutritious. My common sense tells me that if time is a factor I am going to cook rolled oats. If I have more time will prepare steel cut oats.

I will say this as an fan of oatmeal, I like the taste and texture of the steel cut oats better than the more processed rolled oats.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN published on November 7, 2008 5:00 AM.

Lung Cancer Awareness: Symptoms, Causes and What YOU Can Do About It! was the previous entry in this blog.

Do Soy Foods Cause or Prevent Breast Cancer? Part I is the next entry in this blog.

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