Oats are a healthy comfort food, rich in protein, B-vitamins, calcium, iron, and beta-glucan, an especially healthy form of fiber. Raw, unprocessed oats are gluten-free, although many oat products are cross-contaminated with gluten. Some oats are labelled gluten-free, indicating the oats were processed in facilities where there is no chance of contamination with wheat or wheat products.
From left: steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and quick oats
Oats come in many forms. Steel-cut oats, also called pinhead, Irish, or Scottish oats, are toasted oat groats that have been cut into several pieces. Every cup of steel-cut oats takes about 4 cups of water, and must be cooked on the stovetop for 35-40 minutes, resulting in a distinctive chewy texture and nutty flavor. Due to their long cooking time, they cannot be used in baked goods or cooked in the microwave. Rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats, are groats that are steamed and rolled flat for quicker cooking. They work the best in baked goods and are my personal preference for oatmeal. Quick-cooking oats are oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces and rolled thinner so they will cook even faster. Instant oats look much like quick oats but are precooked and need to only be rehydrated with a hot water.
I've read that all these different types of oats have about the same amount of fiber and nutrients (except instant oats, which are ultra-processed), but I've also read that because steel-cut oats are slightly less processed, they retain more fiber and take more time to digest so keep you fuller longer. Who knows how big the difference really is, but I don't have time to make steel-cut oats in the morning so I'm happy with rolled oats.
For the winter months when hardly any fruits are in season, frozen blueberries become one of my staples at breakfast. I try to avoid frozen foods whenever possible because of the excess packaging and energy, but lots of recent studies show that frozen produce retains more of its nutrients than produce that has been shipped long distances. So when the options at the farmers' market are sparse, I eat oatmeal with frozen blueberries everyday, for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It's so satisfying that I never get tired of it, and I like to think it meets some of my daily nutrition needs, as blueberries are supposedly rich in antioxidants, and flaxseed and walnuts provide omega-3s.
blueberry walnut oatmeal:
Makes 1 small bowl
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 2 minutes
1/3 cup rolled or quick oats (see above)
scant 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
dairy-free milk or yogurt (I use almond milk)
2-3 teaspoons ground flaxseeds
Put oats in a small bowl and pour in a little less than 1/2 cup of water, or until the water just barely covers the oats. Sprinkle on cinnamon and blueberries, and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the berries are thawed. If desired, top with nuts, milk or yogurt, and flaxseed.