There are many types of oats that you're probably familiar with. There's the classic rolled-cut oat, the quick oat, and even the steel-cut oat. However, while all of these types of oats are great additions to your breakfast routine, they aren't actually considered the best oatmeal to eat. Don't get us wrong—oatmeal is still incredibly healthy for you! But, if you were to evaluate the nutritional benefits of all oatmeal, the best oatmeal to eat would actually be oat groats. One dietitian gave us the low-down of why oat groats are the best oatmeal to eat, and how you should prepare them if you decide to give them a try.
Here's what she had to say, and for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
What are oat groats?
Before the natural oat is rolled or crushed into flat flakes that turn into the oatmeal we know (and can easily sit for long periods of time on the shelf), oats actually come from a whole-grain oat groat called oat groats. Oats are grown on a kernel, and when they are ready to harvest they are cleaned and minimally processed to remove the inedible hulls around the oat kernels. The oats that remain are known as oat groats, and according to Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, owner of Full Plate Nutrition and a media spokesperson for the NY State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, oat groats are considered the best oatmeal to eat.
"Oat groats are the healthiest way to eat oats. Quick oats, rolled oats and steel-cut oats all start out as oat groats," says Gentile. "Oat groats are whole oat kernels that have been cleaned and treated with heat and moisture. This increases shelf life, flavor development, phenolic content, and antioxidant activity. In the production of oat groats, only their loose hulls are removed. Groats still contain the intact germ, endosperm, and bran."
These three elements provide your body with a myriad of nutrients including fiber, selenium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, antioxidants, and iron. In particular, oat bran is the element that is packed with dietary fiber, which is the key element you need in your meals to help you lose weight. Whole oats are also known for containing avenanthramides, which is a type of antioxidant that is believed to protect your body against heart disease, according to Healthline.
Why are oat groats considered the best oatmeal to eat?
Because oat groats are minimally processed, they contain the most nutritional value compared to other oat varieties.
"The least processed oats will take the longest to be digested," says Gentile. "This equates to a slower rise in blood sugar and a lower glycemic index. The next healthiest form of oats is steel-cut. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that are cut into a few smaller pieces using a steel blade."
According to Harvard Health, the least processed oats—like groats or steel-cut—are lower on the glycemic index, and will take longer to digest compared to rolled or instant oats. Slow digestion also means your body will feel satiated and full for a longer period of time—especially since oat groats are full of fiber.
Gentile also mentions that oat groats will take the longest to cook compared to other oat varieties, but when prepared correctly, they can truly provide your body with a myriad of nutritional benefits. Especially if you top your bowl of oat groats with the right sorts of add-ons.
"To make sure either of these forms of oats remains healthy once they're cooked, add some flavor in the form of fruit," says Gentile. "Adding protein can also decrease the glycemic index. This can be in the form of low-fat milk or with the addition of nuts. Top with some flaxseeds or chia seeds for healthy fat and you have yourself a superfood."
For even more delicious toppings for oat groats, check out these 11 Healthy Oatmeal Toppings That Help You Lose Weight.