I am a Master's-level social worker with experience ranging from therapeutic services with children and families to medical care.
Oatmeal, also known as avena sativa, is derived from oat grains and is a type of cereal grass. In its raw form, harvested oats are generally used as animal feed. Oats are also commonly consumed by humans in cooked cereal and other products.
Types of Oats
These oats have been cleaned, toasted, hulled, and cleaned again. They tend to be chewy and take a long time to cook. Rolling or pounding oat groats may reduce cooking time.
Oat groats that are steamed, pressed, and dried are called rolled oats. These are also knowns a old-fashioned oats. They take approximately 15 minutes to cook.
Quick-cooking Oats/Instant Oatmeal
Quick-cooking oats are rolled oats that have been cute into smaller pieces and rolled thinner. This allows them to be cooked quicker. For instant oatmeal these are mashed and nearly powdered.
Oat flour is ground oat groats. Oat flour is gluten free, contains natural antioxidants that helps to increase the shelf-life of baked goods.
Oat bran is the outer coating of the oat grain. It is higher in fiber than other areas of the oat.
Unrolled oats that have been cut pieces are referred to as steel-cut or scotch oats. These type of oats tend to be very chewy.
At one time oatmeal was considered to be suitable as animal feed only.
Is Oatmeal Healthy?
With their high water-soluble fiber content, oats and oatmeal products, have become recognized as a natural wonder food amongst many doctors and dieticians since the 1980s. Because of this, the question of, "is oatmeal healthy?" may seem like a silly one. In actuality, however, the answer to this questions is yes... and no.
There are a number a benefits to eating oatmeal. The fiber found in oats can help to regulate blood sugar levels. Oats are also a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates and contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Though this may sound like a great deal, not many of us eat plain oatmeal. Instead, most of us opt for oatmeal that contains additives such as sugar, syrup, salt, and fruit. The oatmeal served at many breakfast tables equates to dessert rather than the healthy breakfast choice you may believe you're enjoying.
In 2007, Quaker Oats agreed to tone down exaggerated health claims on their oatmeal under pressure of lawsuit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
With all the "heart healthy," "cholesterol lowering", and other claims most products wear today, reading labels is the biggest key to maintaining a healthy diet. Take the case of instant oatmeal for example. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Strawberries & Cream is made of 100% whole grain oats and is marketed as "heart healthy." This may be true. But, if you look closer at the nutritional label, you will find that the second ingredient is sugar. In face, the nutritional label tells us that there are 12 grams of sugar in this oatmeal and half the fiber that is found in regular oatmeal. Furthermore, there are actually no strawberries (and, surprisingly, there are dehydrated apples).
In addition to additives and sugar, oatmeal consumers should also be aware that instant oatmeal has been processed. This allows it to cook more quickly, but it also allows it to be digested quickly within the body. The glycemic index (the measurement of how quickly a food increases the blood sugar within a two-hour period) of instant oatmeal is, therefore, higher than that of slower cooking oats. Choosing the lower glycemic option may be more effective to improving such factors as the cholesterol. Another option to combating the higher glycemic index of instant oatmeal, is to eat a little lean protein along with it. Adding low-fat or fat-free milk, a scoop of protein powder, or topping your oatmeal with some chopped nuts are great options.
A Healthier Option: Steel Oats
Though instant oatmeal is far more convenient, steel oats are far more nutritious. One serving of steel oats contains 0 grams of sugar and over 2 grams of soluble fiber. It is the fiber in the steel oats that requires the longer cooking time. But it is also this fiber that makes steel oats so very healthy.
With a cook time of approximately 30 - 45 minutes and the frequent need to stir, many of us will not even consider these oats as a breakfast alternative. There are techniques, however, that can seemingly speed up this time and make steel oats almost as convenient as instant.
Steel Oats Option #1: The overnight prep
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan
2. Stir in 1 cup of steel oats. Allow this to cook for about one minute
3. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit overnight.
4. In the morning bring the oatmeal to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 7 - 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Add your desired spice or sweetener.
6. Scoop into a bowl and add any other toppings you may deisire.
Steel Oats Option #2: The Slow Cooker Technique
1. Add 6 - 8 cups of water to you slow cooker (Use 6 cups if you intend to slow cook for less than 8 hours and 8 if more).
2. Add 2 cups of steel oats
3. Add any other additions you may desire.
4. Cover and cook on low overnight or throughout the day
5. Serve and enjoy
6. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for several days and easily reheated.
Delicious Additions to Steel Oats
Mixing and matching spices and toppings can be a great way to spice up your morning oatmeal. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Fresh or Frozen Fruit: Add as much as you want. Bananas, blueberries, and even pumpkin puree are great options.
Dried Fruit: Try cherries, raisins, dates, figs, or cranberries.
Nuts: These are best used after cooking to maintain crunch. Adding before cooking will make the nuts soft but still delicious.
Seasonings and Spice: Try cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla
Sweeteners: Mable syrup, brown sugar, honey, or any other natural sweetener is great
- Oatmeal is rich in fiber
- Oatmeal is low in cholesterol, sodium, and calories
- Oatmeal contains phytochemicals which may help to lower the risk of cancern
- Oatmeal contains Vitamin B which helps the brain and the nervous system to fuction properly
- Oatmeal contains natural fats that are good for skin
- Oatmeal contains Carbohydrates for increased energy
Oatmeal Benefits for Skin
The skin soothing properties of oatmeal have been known since 2000 BC. Today, the FDA describes it as effective for the relief of dryness, inflammation, rashes, and eczema. There are four main reasons why oatmeal is so beneficial for the skin and for certain skin conditions. These are:
1. Oats contain polysaccharides which leaves a fine protective film on the skin to guard against dryness.
2. Oats are full of lubricating and healthy fats that are very moisturizing for the skin
3. The proteins found in oatmeal helps the skin to function as a natural barrier
4. Oats are filled with saponins. These are natural cleansers that gently remove oil and dirt from the pores.
Due to these many benefits, oatmeal can be used in scrubs, masks, lotions, and other skin care products. In addition, oats are great to sooth skin irritations, insect bites, and even helps with acne.
Simple Oatmeal Mask
With all the benefits that oatmeal can bring to the skin, finding ways of incorporating this grain into your healthy skin regimen is essential. Oatmeal can be used for cleansing, absorbing excess oils, and even for exfoliating. Here is a simple oatmeal mask recipe to get you started.
1. In a small pan boil 3/4 cup of water.
2. Mix in a 1/2 cup oatmeal.
3. Reduce heat and allow the oatmeal to simmer for one minute.
4. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of honey. Mix well.
5. Allow mixture to cool. When it is slightly warm apply to the face and smooth it into one even layer. Keep away from eyes.
6. Leave the mask on for 20-30 minutes then wash off with warm water.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Better Yourself from North Carolina on June 16, 2013:
Love this hub! The overnight prep is awesome and I might actually be able to use this for a healthier breakfast option. Thanks so much for sharing - great info and hub! And congrats on HOTD!
Rose T from Europe on June 13, 2013:
Very interesting and informative. I love oatmeal - for breakfast, as cake, as crumbs when I make a meatloaf. Very healthy. Love this article. Keep up the good work.
LQWILLIams (author) on June 10, 2013:
I want to thank each and everyone of you for reading and commenting. You wouldn't believe my surprise when I woke up yesterday morning to find my hub as HOTD. I still can't believe it. Thank you all again and thank you Hubpages for the recognition.
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on June 10, 2013:
This is such an in-depth article on oatmeal. I like that you mentioned how the packets of sweetened oatmeal are not necessarily healthy. I knew that, but I didn't know that the strawberry flavor had no strawberries in it!
I really like how you gave us the different types of oats, and then gave us two easier ways to cook steel cut oats. I have a container of it here, and now I am interested in trying it. I also like that you gave us a little oatmeal face mask recipe. I have been using natural ingredients in many ways lately, and this is a good one.
Congrats on winning HOTD yesterday. It's well deserved. Have a wonderful week, and enjoy the boost of visitors to your page!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 10, 2013:
Very nice---well deserved HOTD, Congratulations!
Learned a lot about Oats from this hub.
Thanks for sharing!
Maricar M. Jolo from Jubail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on June 10, 2013:
CZCZCZ from Oregon on June 09, 2013:
Very nice. I enjoyed reading through your recipes. Found it interesting to learn about the different types of oats and there qualities.
deergha from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!! on June 09, 2013:
Very nice hub...congrats on HOTD.
RTalloni on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this look at oatmeal. Thanks for sharing some food for thought. :)
stillwaters707 from Texas on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on HOTD!
Angie Power from North Cali on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on HOD! It is very exciting! I got HOD yesterday and I was speechless ... still am. I am definitely going to try the facial mask directions and add it to my Awesomeness Files here at home. I love it thank you for posting. Voted up.
Tirralan Watkins from Los Angeles, CA on June 09, 2013:
This is such a great, thorough hub. Oatmeal has such wonderful nutritional benefits that I didn't know about. This HOTD was well deserved!
Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on June 09, 2013:
Congratulations on Hub of the Day. I have never heard of them being called steel oats either. I either call them porridge oats or rolled oats. Anyhow they're delicious and nutritious. Great hub voted up and shared..
Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 09, 2013:
This is a great hub. Full of very useful and healthy tips on cooking oatmeal. My entire family (hubby & kids) love oatmeal. I need to get on board.
Congrats on the HOTD award.
rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on June 09, 2013:
This is an excellent and insightful article regarding the numerous health benefits of oatmeal. I enjoy eating oatmeal but now you've got me interested in trying out the oatmeal mask. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on HOTD! (Voted Up) -Rose
Imogen French from Southwest England on June 09, 2013:
Wonderful hub. I think oats are making a bit of a comeback as a breakfast food - they're so much better than all those processed cereals.
I eat porridge every morning - my favourite way is with banana and blueberries mixed in, flavoured with cinnamon and sprinkled with brown sugar. It keeps me going all morning!
congrats on HOTD - well deserved :)
Carolyn Dahl from Ottawa, Ontario on June 09, 2013:
Great Hub! I could not live without my oatmeal in the morning! I like to soak my rolled oats overnight to improve digestion and lessen cooking time, I wonder if that can be done to steel cut oats too? I'm interesting in trying steel cut oats in my slow cooker and I love fresh blueberries in mine instead of sugar.
Joanne M Olivieri on June 09, 2013:
Loved this hub. Oatmeal is a favorite of mine and I eat it regularly. Before I was diagnosed with Diabetes I used to eat the instant oatmeal thinking it was as healthy as the regular oatmeal. Now I eat it with fruit or use it plain in recipes. Congrats on HOTD! Well done and voted up.
IslandBites from Puerto Rico on June 09, 2013:
Great hub, really interesting.
Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on June 09, 2013:
Interesting and informative. I love oats for my breakfast with seeds and diced coconut but am prone to using quick oats a bit too often as they are handy. Voted up.
Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on June 09, 2013:
Oatmeal is the breakfast I eat most often. Since I don't like washing the "goo" from a pan in which it's cooked, I opt for the instant variety. I buy plain organic instant oatmeal with flax added (Country Choice brand) and add flavor/sweetening with cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla extract and SweetLeaf stevia (the pure type of stevia without all the additives). Tastes great!
I've read quite a few articles claiming that eating oatmeal regularly can help normalize one's cholesterol level. For anyone who has a tendency toward abnormal cholesterol numbers, this is another "plus" of eating oatmeal regularly.
Voted Up++ and shared
Caleb Melvern from Philippines on June 09, 2013:
This hub is beautiful! You did a great job at using different capsules and placing them in a way that is very pleasing to the eyes. And you have provided many useful information which will be useful to anyone who reads this. Congratulations on HOTD!
Jessica Peri from United States on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on Hub of the Day! I've learned a lot of things I never knew about oatmeal! Voted up - this hub is full of detail!
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on June 09, 2013:
Congratulations on earning Hub of the Day for this informative, beautifully illustrated and well written article about the nutritional facts about oatmeal.
Voted up across the board except for funny.
Mazlan from Malaysia on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on HOTD. I love oatmeal but used the instant Quaker oats. I don't remember seeing steel oat before, so must look for it the next time I go shopping.
Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 09, 2013:
Thanks for showing us the healthy and unhealthy ways to eat oatmeal. I do have a question: Are steel-cut oats more nutritious than traditional rolled oats?
I also have some suggestions as a man married to an oatmeal fanatic for over 25 years:
- oat bran, itself, makes a great breakfast cereal for those concerned with preventing heart attack. Or, if you don't like it pure, you can add 2 TB to oatmeal or many other dishes each day.
- I would be cautious calling oats "a good source of protein." Yes, as grain goes, it has rather high protein. But grains are not high protein altogether. I've seen recent converts to vegetarianism end up with protein deficiency because they read that grains and beans were "good sources of protein."
- These days, many people are trying to get away from wheat and gluten. Oatmeal can be a good solution, but it depends. For those with complete gluten intolerance (celiac disease, among others), it is necessary to buy more expensive gluten-free oats. For those just trying to reduce gluten, any oats are good.
Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on June 09, 2013:
I love oatmeal. Since I am cooking for one I cook mine in the microwave one bowl at a time. I am cinnamon, walnuts and fruit or raisins and sweeten with artificial sweetener. I wasn't aware of some of the different forms of oatmeal. Good hub!
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on June 09, 2013:
There is a lot of great information here that is well balanced. The presentation allows for finding quick facts fast. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day.
JoanCA on June 09, 2013:
I always buy the plain Quaker oatmeal and my kids actually love it. The flavored oatmeal that's more popular is just another sugary cereal.
Fiddleman on June 09, 2013:
Great hub and I did not realize the sugar content in oatmeal was that high.
Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on June 09, 2013:
Useful AND interesting. I like oatmeal a lot and try to make a point of having it for breakfast every other day.
Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on June 09, 2013:
Oatmeal finds its way into many of the recipes that I make so that I think I am getting even more benefits from oatmeal. I add it to meatloaf, spaghetti sauces on occasion and salmon cakes. I am too lazy to try the steel oats, but you have made a good case for it.
Congrats on Hub of the Day. Voted up.
Man of Strength from Orlando, Fl on June 09, 2013:
I love oatmeal. Steel cut oatmeal is great. Though they've been around forever, they're now having their coming out party. Also I add raw oatmeal to my protein shakes. I still get all the amazing benefits when I'm on the go. Great hub. Voted up.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 09, 2013:
I grew up on Oatmeal, and still eat it a couple of times a week. I do use instant Oatmeal cause I'm too lazy to cook the rolled oats. My favorite cookie to make is an Oatmeal cookie, and I use an Oatmeal shampoo on my Schnauzer who has very delicate skin.
Congrats on a great HOTD.
Voted UP and shared. Also Pinned.
Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on June 09, 2013:
Congrats on your HOTD - well deserved. I've eaten oats in one form or another all my life and couldn't do without. Thanks for sharing a well put together and informative hub. Voted up and very useful.
Attikos from East Cackalacky on June 09, 2013:
Nicely done, Ms. Williams! The world could be a better place for many were they to follow simple, healthy diets and use inexpensive, effective home remedies of the sort this article represents. Thank you for writing it.
Up and Useful!
Jared Miles from Australia on June 09, 2013:
Congratulations on writing such an extensive and informative Hub LQWILLIams. You've provided lots of information and spread the case for oatmeal as a healthy food. I really like all the effort you've obviously gone to, and you really do deserve the HOD award.
moonlake from America on June 09, 2013:
I love oatmeal. I just bought steel cut oats and have not tried them yet. I will follow your recipe. Congrats on HOTD. Very good job. voted up.
LQWILLIams (author) on May 11, 2013:
Thank you all for reading and commenting
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on May 10, 2013:
Porridge made from oats is great stuff. As a student, many years ago, I had a summer job in an old people's home and the cook used to prepare the oat porridge for the next day, the previous evening, in a large double saucepan, so the night staff just had to turn it on the next morning to warm up, ready for breakfast. Very interesting hub, thanks.
Alison Graham from UK on May 10, 2013:
I was really interested to read your hub and had not come across the term Steel Oats oats before but now realize these are the ones I have been having (and calling them Scotch oats). From personal experience, I can say that having made just one dietary change (to have a bowl of porridge every morning made with plain oats and semi-skimmed milk), my cholesterol has gone down from 6.2 to 5.17 in just six months and my HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio has improved. It was deliberate to make no other changes as I wanted to prove that the Oats definitely did reduce cholesterol levels.
You have provided great information and I love the oatmeal mask!