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When It Comes to Oatmeal, This Is the Healthiest Kind to Buy

All oatmeal is healthy, but to optimize your benefits, opt for this specific type of the cereal grain.
steel cut oatmeal

Think of a healthier breakfast than oatmeal—we'll wait. In all seriousness, oatmeal is just one of our favorite healthy breakfasts (yes, there are more than one) because it's rich in fiber, healthy carbs, and essential nutrients. Plus, it's the perfect base for even more healthful add-ons like protein- and healthy-fat-full nuts, and fiber-rich seeds. If you're looking to get even more out of your morning porridge, there's a quick tip that the registered dietitians we spoke to want you to know: all oats are good, but steel-cut, organic oats are really good.

Thick, steel-cut oats are the least processed form of oats. They are whole oat groats (groats are hulled, whole oat kernels that include the three parts of the grain: germ, bran, and endosperm) that are cut into smaller pieces—that's it!

"Steel-cut oats are the least processed [type of oats] and the best option health-wise," says Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with Within Nutrition. "The fibers in them are very healthy for the gut, hormones, satiety, and weight loss."

You may be more familiar with rolled oats, which are steamed groats that are then flattened (rolled), and then there are quick/instant oats, which are the most processed. Instant oats are steamed until they are just slightly undercooked, so it only takes you a minute or so to finish them off.

"While old-fashioned rolled oats are a great choice, steel-cut oats are like an A+ choice instead of an A," says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD, a registered dietitian at Next Luxury. "All oats come from groats; steel-cut oats are groats that have been cut into small pieces but aren't flattened like rolled oats. They take longer to cook, but have more fiber per half-cup dry portion (8 grams of fiber per ½ cup versus 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup in old-fashioned rolled oats)."

As Ivanir and Gariglio-Clelland note, steel-cut oats are a slightly more healthful option out of the three oat types because they are higher in fiber and protein due to being less processed.

What's perhaps more important on the health front than the actual cut of oat is the source of the oats. And Ivanir highly recommends buying organic oats.

"Ideally, buy organic oats because oats are highly sprayed with a toxic pesticide called glyphosate. Too much glyphosate can impact our gut health, hormone balance, and overall health," says Ivanir. In fact, in 2019, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found traces of glyphosate in more than 95 percent of popular oat-based food samples.

Now that you've bought the healthiest kind of oats you can, it's time to cook them into oatmeal.

"To prep steel-cut oats, soak them overnight, and then pour out the water the next day. Then you can cook them on the stovetop with some water or plant-based milk," Ivanir suggests.

This soaking technique isn't just a clever cooking tip; it's also a secret nutrition hack!

"Soaking the oats overnight helps make them easier to digest. Soaking also reduces the natural phytic acid (an anti-nutrient) found in oats which will help your body better absorb the nutrients," says Ivanir, who adds that "soaking the oats also increases the amount of resistant starches which help keep you feeling fuller for longer and also feed the good microbes in your gut!"

Ready to reap the benefits of oats? Head out and get yourself a bag of organic steel-cut oats. And for more on our favorite cereal grain, check out the Surprising Side Effects of Eating Oatmeal, According to Science.

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Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more
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