In the past few years, oats have become a preferred food for a healthy and balanced diet. Now, many brands incorporate oats in their products to create healthier versions of processed and packaged foods like (oat) cookies, (oat) cereals, (oat) protein bars, (oat) milk, (oat) flour and others.
At the same time, the good old traditional oatmeal porridge hadn’t lost its popularity, as its modifications (e.g., instant oatmeal, overnight oats) make this healthy and delicious breakfast suitable for everybody.
And in order to take the best out of this nutrient-rich food, it is key to know what types of oats exist and what is their purpose, cooking time, and other related characteristics.
In this article, you will find out what the different types of oats are, what their purpose is, and for what cooking process they are suitable for. Besides, we will guide you through the health benefits of including oats in your diet!
Let’s get started!
What types of oats are there?
Usually, you can find 4 different types of oats on the market: from oat groats (least processed), through steel cut and rolled oats, to instant oats (most processed).
According to 2014 paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition, each type of oats may have different characteristics and nutritional value.  Let’s see details of this paper!
Oat groats are the least processed type of oats on the market. The grains are whole, as only the husk has been removed from them. This is the reason why this version of oats is the cheapest one on the market, but, on the other hand, it takes a long time to cook (approximately 15 minutes). The grains retain their shape after cooking and look like wheat or rice. That being said, oat groats (or oat kernels) cannot be fully digested by the body and for that reason their consumption is unlikely provide all the health benefits that the other types of oats do.
This type of oats is a derivative from the whole oat kernels, but the grains are cut in smaller pieces (3-4 cuts per grain) which often are not uniform. The cooking time is less than the cooking time of the oat groats: around 8-9 minutes. When cooked, the starches in the grain are released. With steel-cut oats can make creamy, yet chewy oatmeal.
Old fashioned oats (rolled oats)
Yes, old fashioned, or rolled oats are the most popular type of oats. They have a flat and oval shape and are lighter in color. The companies produce rolled oats by steaming oat groats or steel-cut oats until they become soft and increase thier moiture content (that is done to prevent oats from crushing). The next step is to press the grains to flatten them and, finally, dry the final product.
Rolled oats cook fast (5 minutes), don’t lose their shape, but absorb water and are suitable for making Overnight oats.
Instant oats are oats for busy people. They as rolled oats, that are rolled in very thin slices, so that they can cook for 1 minute. Some people don’t like this kind of oats because they easily lose their shape when mixed with a liquid (and make mushy porridge). Yet, many people use instant oats not only for cooking, but also for skincare (e.g., in a homemade scrub).
What are the benefits of eating oats daily?
According to a 2015 review paper published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, oats have impressively high nutritional value and are rich in important macro- and micronutrients  , including:
- High-quality proteins
- Healthy fats (unsaturated fatty acids)
- Both soluble and insoluble fiber
- Vitamin E
Those nutrients are associated with various health benefits, includng:
- Gut health support
- Suitable for Celiac disease patients or gluten-sensitive individuals.
- Lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and balanced cholesterol profile
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk against colon cancer
- Reduced free radicals damage and oxidative stress
- Balanced blood sugar
- Improved life quality of diabetes patients (oats with higher fiber content)
- Weight loss
What are the healthiest types of oats?
All types of oats have similar nutritious content. However, depending on the product you buy, oats can be with different fiber content and different glycemic index.
For example, oat groats and steel cut oats are more slowly and not fully digested by the body (due to very high fiber content), compared to rolled and instant oats. Furthermore, Harvard School of Public Health suggests that these two types of oats are with lower glycemic index than more processed oat types.  This makes them more suitable for prediabetes and diabetes patients.
However, that doesn’t mean that the other types of oats are not healthy! They are still rich in micronutrients that can be associated with the health benefits mention in this article.