We're all familiar with the health benefits of oatmeal―its high fiber content, cholesterol-lowering properties, and a plethora of other benefits. Oatmeal is gaining popularity as a hot breakfast cereal, especially during the cold winter months. It is available in different forms: steel-cut, regular, or old-fashioned, quick, instant, etc. These types vary depending on the amount of processing they've undergone.
While some of us are familiar with regular oatmeal, the rest of us rely on the instant variety for a quick and healthy breakfast option. So, what exactly is the difference between the regular and instant variety? Is instant oatmeal as good as traditional oatmeal? Do they have the same nutritional profile? Let's find out!
Before we try to understand which one is better, it's important to understand a few facts about these two oat varieties.
|Cooking Time||2 minutes||10 minutes|
|Processing Rate||Heavily Processed||Less Processed|
|Size||Small and thin||Bigger, thicker, and flatter|
|Texture||Mushy||Chewy and textured|
Instant oats, as we all know, is true to its name and cooks instantly. It's this low cooking time that has actually made oats such a popular breakfast cereal. It takes only a minute to cook it on the stove top, while it takes two minutes to cook if just hot water is added to it and it's allowed to rest. Rolled or regular oats, on the other hand, take about 10 to 15 minutes to cook on the stove top, because the oats are bigger and take longer to absorb water and cook.
Regular or old-fashioned oats consist of toasted oat groats that have been steamed, and then passed through rollers to form rolled or old-fashioned oats. Their husk has been removed, but they still have their bran. Instant oats, on the other hand, are rolled, thinly pressed, and steamed; however, the difference lies in the size it's cut into. It's rolled thinly and cut into very fine pieces. So, the basic difference is that instant oatmeal is heavily processed before it reaches you, while the old-fashioned version is processed to a minimal extent.
This is one major area where people find regular oatmeal better than the instant variety. Because the oats in the instant variety are heavily processed and finely cut, they get absorbed into the body much quicker than the regular version. This means that the regular version raises the blood sugar levels quicker, and it even makes you feel hungry faster. Thus, the instant variety has a high glycemic index, while the regular form has a low index reading and makes you feel fuller for a longer time.
Here comes the next question―which is better: rolled or regular oats? Does this make instant oatmeal bad? Well, the answer is no! Instant oatmeal may be heavily processed with a higher glycemic index, but it does have the nutritional benefits of rolled oats (in terms of vitamins, fiber, cholesterol-lowering properties, etc.), so it cannot be deemed as bad. In fact, all forms of oats have been processed to some extent. Then, why do we hear so much about instant oatmeal being bad? Well, the unhealthy instant version refers to the flavored varieties, like apple and cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, chocolate, and scores of other variations. These flavored ones are loaded with sugar, salt, artificial coloring, and various other unwanted ingredients, which make the nutritious oatmeal a not-so-healthy way to start the day.
Although the ideal pick is regular oats, if you're looking for a more convenient form of breakfast, then go ahead and opt for some good instant oatmeal brands that are healthy, flavorful, and with minimal ingredients. Add some chopped fruits and nuts to your oatmeal; this will not only enhance the flavor, but will also benefit you nutritionally and keep you full for longer.