A bowl of oatmeal is the perfect way to start any given day. Filling, nourishing, and endlessly versatile, there’s nothing like it to get you going in morning. However, oatmeal is often mistreated and misunderstood, gaining it its unfortunate reputation of being nothing more than bland mush. Packets of too-sweet instant oatmeals and pots of overcooked old fashioned oats have likely scarred some for life, understandably so. But, did you know that there is more to this hot cereal than meets the eye? Several different varieties of oats exist, all with unique qualities and individual flavor profiles. They boast impressive nutritional profiles, so a little exploration into the wide world of oats is only going to do your body good.  They all start off the same way, as whole oat groats. From there, the type and amount of processing determines what type of oat will be the end result. Read on to expand your knowledge of oatmeal beyond that of the cardboard canister in your cabinet.

Steel Cut Oats

steel cut oats oatmeal

(Photo Via Blogspot)

Steel cut oats are among the least refined varieties of oats on the market. Deriving their name from the process required to make them, whole oat groats are chopped into pieces by a series of steel blades to break the grain down into smaller, finer pieces. This process is minimally damaging to the grain and allows it to retain all it’s wholesome goodness while also making it more friendly for everyday use. By creating a smaller meal, this process drastically reduces the cooking time of the groats, from over an hour down to about 20 minutes. Steel cut oats have a completely different flavor and texture than traditional oatmeal, boasting a nuttier taste and firmer chew than the latter.

Per 1/4 cup: 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein.

Scottish Oats

scottish oats oatmeal

(Photo Via Nuts)

As opposed to steel cut oats, Scottish oats are created through a grinding process rather than a chopping one. The resulting meal is a mix of large pieces and small pieces of groat. There are three different varieties of Scottish oats: coarse, pinhead, and fine. While some simply throw these oats in under the category of steel cut oats, they are distinctly different in their texture. Because the sizes of the groats vary so greatly within the meal, once cooked, the resulting dish combines both the familiar porridge-texture with the occasional toothsome bite of oat groat. The cooking time of this oat variety is only about 10 minutes.

Per 1/4 cup: 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein.

Oat Bran

oat bran oatmeal

(Photo Via Honeyville)

I feel like I’m the only person on this planet that eats oat bran in the morning so I’m going to need some of you to join me. Oat bran is made of shredded pieces of the outer kernel of the oat groat, meaning it is technically not considered a whole grain. Don’t run away yet! It’s still super healthy, I swear. Incredibly high in soluble fiber, it retains all the nutritional goodies of the whole oat groat so it rightly deserves its place among the great oats. It cooks incredibly fast, I’m talking no more than five minutes. It is softy, creamy, and slightly nutty and pairs fantastically with everything from bananas to peanut butter.

Per 1/3 cup: 150 calories, 2 grams of fat, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein

Old Fashion Oats

old fashioned oats

(Photo Via Cookstr)

Here’s the oat that we all know and love: the old fashioned oat. These are the oats that have become synonymous with oatmeal and are often what you’ll find in your bowl if you order breakfast anywhere in the continental United States.  To make these, oat groats are steamed until soft before being rolled out into the familiar flakes. Doing this helps to lock in and stabilize their natural, healthy oils while also extending their shelf life. Little, if any, damage is done to the oat itself so don’t fret about the extra processing. Due to their large surface area, these oats cook pretty fast, generally between 5-8 minutes. The texture is the traditional one associated with oatmeal: mushy, dense, and slightly chewy.

Per 1/2 cup: 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein

Quick Cooking Oats

quick cooking oats oatmeal

(Photo Via Blogspot)

Quick cooking oats go through the same processing as old fashioned oats except x2. Because they’re processed for longer than their flat and even counterparts, their size is smaller and their shape less uniform. In fact, before these guys get boxed up, they are partially cooked so that their pretty much ready to go once you pour them into a pot. Because they’ve been treated longer and more aggressively, the end texture of this particular oatmeal suffers. It is a lot more mushy with next to no bite to relieve the consist texture. Some people like this, some people don’t. It’s all about preference.

Per  1/2 cup: 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein

Instant Oats

instant oats oatmeal

(Photo Via Homemade Ginger)

And finally we come to the ultimate refined oat: the instant oat. These oats are the ones that you find in little brown bags and/or plastic containers in gas stations and super markets around the country. Once again, they are steamed and rolled but for much longer than the two others. They are steamed for so long that they are actually precooked. In order to turn them into the fine, powder substance you see above, the oats need to be dehydrated before being packaged up and shipped out. The meal itself is not unhealthy; in fact, it contains most of the nutrients of its predecessors. However, instant oats are usually loaded with sugars and salts in order to make them more palatable so be sure to read the labels before purchasing any of these convenient little packages.

Per 1/3 cup: 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein.

 What is your favorite type of oatmeal?

Claire is a 21 year student hailing from New York City. She is currently in her senior year at Hunter College, where she is finishing up her English Degree. When she's not at school, she can usually be found working behind the counter at her local bakery. Claire loves to cook and spends an embarrassing amount of time looking up recipes for every dish imaginable. She is particularly fond of trying new dishes and believes that the best way to connect with people is through sharing food. Google