Oats, also known as Avena sativa, are cereal grains that most people use for breakfast. They are mostly grown in North America and Europe, and are rich in fiber, proteins, minerals, vitamins and are low in fat.

Oats can be found in different forms such as rolled, steel-cut, or in quick-cooking. These forms differ in nutritional value as they are processed differently. Oats are commonly used by people of all ages including weaning babies. Some people use them as feeds for their animals such as horses and sheep. Read through to understand the differences between rolled, steel-cut, and quick oats, the health benefits of oats, their effects, and how to incorporate them into your diet.

Quick oats

Also known as quick-cooking oats, they are the most refined reducing their cooking time to about 3-5 minutes. They have a mushy texture and they are soft. It is packed in a partially cooked state that involves steaming.

Rolled oats

They are also known as old-fashioned oats. These are oat kernels that have had their hull removed, steamed, and flattened. The steaming makes them softer and reduces the cooking time. Rolled oats take less than 5 minutes to cook. The exposure to heat during steaming extends their shelf life too.

Steel-cut oats

This is the least processed form of oat that is close to the original unprocessed oat groat. It is also known as the Irish oatmeal. It is produced by cutting the groats into large pieces using steel blades. Due to their large size, they take more time to cook compared to quick and rolled oats. The average cooking time is between 15-30 minutes. To reduce the cooking time, you can soak them for about n hours to soften them.

Nutrition benefits of oats

  • Oats contain different nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants such as fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, magnesium, selenium, carbs, proteins, calories, iron, and thiamin.
  • It contains beta-glucan which is a soluble fiber that benefits the body in lowering bad cholesterol hence preventing heart disease.
  • Beta-glucan also helps in the reduction of blood sugars by reducing the rate at which sugars are absorbed in the body.
  • Oats can aid in weight reduction due to their high fiber content. Fiber increases the feeling of fullness reducing excessive intake of calories.
  • Incorporating oats in your diet can prevent and ease constipation. Fiber facilitates the digestion process and prevents the hardening of stool.
  • Eating oats may also aid in lowering blood pressure. Whole-grain foods such as oats and whole bread are good in reducing blood pressure.
  • Oats may also improve your skin. Eating oats makes the skin hold moisture reducing dryness and itchiness of the skin. Some lotions and face creams contain oatmeal that aids in keeping the skin moist
  • Reduces chances of colon cancer. A high fiber diet reduces the risk of colon cancer. A study showed that people who took meals that were high in fiber had reduced risks of colorectal cancer. However, the study does not indicate how fiber reduces these chances

Unlike many grains, oat is being gluten-free making it ideal for those with celiac disease. However, during processing, it might be contaminated with gluten. Those allergic to gluten should carefully check to ensure they buy the certified gluten-free brand.

However, there are some slight nutritional differences in rolled,steel-cut, and quick oats. The table below shows the differences between 112 grams of rolled, steel-cut, and quick oats

 Steel-cut oatsRolled oatsQuick oats
Fiber12 g10 g10 g
Proteins18 g14 g16 g
Fats8 g8 g8 g
Carbs54 g58 g56 g
calories416 g424 g416 g

The above table can help you to choose the healthiest variety that will meet your requirements.

Steel-cut oats are high in fiber since it is less processed. If one is looking for a high fiber diet, this is a good choice for them. However, the other two varieties are also good sources of fiber.

Steel-cut oats have a low glycemic index whereas the other two varieties lie higher in the index. Foods that are in low glycemic index are digested and absorbed slowly preventing a rise in blood sugar. Those suffering from high blood sugar should go for this choice.

While choosing among the three varieties, always consider your personal preferences as all the types may not differ much in the nutrients they offer. Those who like chewy texture and nutty flavor may prefer buying steel-cut oats. Others may prefer rolled oats for their smooth, creamy consistency. Some people may also prefer buying quick oats as it takes the least time to prepare.

How to add oats to your diet

  • Oats are very flexible. They can be incorporated in different meals to enhance taste and supplement diet.
  • They can be added to smoothies and shakes to improve fiber content.
  • Used instead of rice in making risotto.
  • Used to coat fish and chicken in place of breadcrumbs.
  • Boiled in milk for a complete breakfast meal.
  • Used to make pancakes in place of wheat flour.
  • Oats can be baked together with cinnamon, dried fruits, and nuts.
  • Then can be combined with Greek yogurt then cooled in the fridge.
  • Oats can be added while baking cookies, bread, and muffins.

Effects of oats

There are sweetened oats in the market that might not be healthy for you. Always choose the plain unsweetened oats. Added sugars may lead to weight gain and increased chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.


Oats are generally healthy especially when you choose the unsweetened ones. They contain vitamins, proteins, and carbs making them a whole meal that can be taken any time of the day.

Oats are rich in fiber that aids in the digestion of food, prevents colorectal cancer, and lower blood sugar levels in the body. One may find it hard to choose among the different forms of ats in the market. However, rolled, steel cut, and quick oats do not differ much in their nutritional value. Choose any of the three depending on your personal preferences.