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Although some may think that all oats were created equal, a deeper exam of the different varieties found in store shelves today can help us make a smarter choice, and thus, help us improve our health. Although the oats in all oatmeal come from the same whole grain oats, the way in which they are cut and processed can make a big difference.

Steel-Cut Oats vs. Regular Oatmeal: Appearance

Steel-cut oats are the whole oats (groats) that have been cut. They resemble the pellets often given to hamsters. They are robust, raw and look nothing like the instant version. On the other hand, regular (rolled) oats resemble thin, large flakes. Once cooked, steel-cut oats look like wild rice, and rolled oats look like baby food.

Steel-Cut oat vs. Regular Oatmeal: Processing Time

Both types of oat have been cut. The difference lies in the amount of processing they endure. Steel-cut oats are left raw, while rolled oats are squeezed through rollers and steamed.

Texture and Taste

Because steel-cut oats are raw, they are chewier when cooked and have a distinct nutty flavor. On the other hand, rolled oats are pre-cooked, thus giving them a mushy texture, similar to that of baby food. Rolled oats lack the nutty flavor of the steel-cut, and the taste is rather insipid.

Nutritional Value

Although steel-cut oats contain more vitamins and mineral while raw, they still must be cooked before consumption, rendering both oats at the same nutritional value. The main differences between the oats are texture and cooking time. The nutrition facts are virtually identical. However, these oats do offer more nutritional value than the instant version. So if nutrition is what you are looking for, steer away from instant oatmeal.