When you hear oats, you think healthy, heart friendly, high-fibre. Oats also evoke the textural description of sludge or mush, the words ‘bland’ and ‘gooey’, and the labels ‘old people food’ and ‘good bowel movements’. But never underestimate the effect a good bowel movement has on your WHOLE day. It makes you feel so much lighter, taking off almost a quarter kilogram.
Historically, apart from being consumed by humans, oats were used as cattle feed and given to horses for a quick boost in energy and nutrition. What is the fuss about oats then? Why has it got a place of honour in cereals, breakfast foods and most importantly, The Huda Bar? Well, here’s why:
- Protein: They are the only cereal to contain protein similar in quality to soy and therefore, by association, equivalent to meat and egg protein quality. Whole grain oats have between 12% to 24% protein as its total content.
- Soluble and insoluble fibre: Sustained 3 grams of soluble fibre intake per day lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and eventually lowers your total cholesterol levels. Talk about a smart carb!
- Vitamins and Minerals: Rich in Vitamin B1 and B5, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, zinc and iron. It helps boost immunity and aid muscle regeneration
- Complex carbohydrates: Compared to simple carbs that are found in fruits, the sugars in complex carbs are broken down slower providing a steady source of energy throughout the day.
- Tryptophan and Melatonin: Need to regulate your sleep cycle? Try a bowl of oatmeal before bed. Its Tryptophan content relaxes your body, while the Melatonin regulates your sleep.
- A hardy plant: Really quite a pest and disease resistant plant. Their vigorous growth also greatly discourages the presence of weeds.
- We found certified organic oats grown in India, YAY! So buying these oats helps to support our local economy.
Primarily, oats are classified based on how they’ve been processed. While there are five varieties worldwide, India sells only three kinds:
- Whole Oats or Oat Groats - Hardly ever sold in India (We think we can get our hands on some)
- Steel Cut - Rarely sold in India but you’ll find them if you’re persistent
- Scottish Oats - Good luck finding them. We’ll give you a whole loaf of seed bread if you do
- Rolled Oats - Difficult to find retail, can be found online and we have them!
- Quick Cooking Oats - Most commonly found online and in stores
The good thing about oats is that the nutritional profile remains relatively the same despite processing as they are 100% whole grain and contain all parts of the oat. So buy the kind you like best. Or in this case, the one easily available to you!
Whole Oats or Oat Groats:
Oats Groats are whole grain oats, after removing their hull/husks. They are similar to whole wheat and generally include the bran. All oats are hulled, cleaned, and kilned at 100 degrees centigrade to stabilize their fats so they don't go rancid quickly. Funny smelling oats? They haven’t been stabilised. Grains that are broken during husk removal are called broken groats and they come in coarse, medium and fine varieties. We’ve never seen them in India yet, maybe if we pester our grower for some, but he’s a very by-the-book dude.
Cooking time: 50 - 60 minutes
Texture: Creamy with a chewy al dente consistency. They go great in soups and hearty stews.
Steel Cut Oats:
These are whole grain oats that are cut into 2-3 pieces by cutters (usually with blades of - you guessed it - steel). They are akin to wheat dalia (cracked wheat or bulgar) and cook a little quicker because they are broken and allow faster water penetration.
Cooking time: 10 - 25 minutes
Texture: Tiny, creamy nubs of chewiness that go really well with honey, cinnamon and fresh fruit. Treat it like dalia.
The groats are stone ground instead of being chopped up by blades. They have a much creamier texture. Fun fact - in Scotland, oats are also referred to as corn sometimes. It’s a-maizing. Another fun, unverified fact - you must stir these with your right hand, clockwise. Otherwise the Devil’s coming home for dinner.
Cooking time: 10 - 20 minutes
Texture: Porridge-like but more texturally interesting. We reiterate our offer of a full seed bread loaf if you can get us some.
This is where the confusion starts, at least nomenclature-wise in India. We have had more than a few, loud, impassioned discussions with our grower who also mills and rolls his flakes. Our grower calls them Jumbo oats. We call them rolled oats and so should you. These are also old fashioned oats and are easily found worldwide. When you process groats by steaming them and then pressing them flat using smooth or corrugated rollers, you get flat, discoid shaped oats that still look like an oat grain, albeit squashed. We use these in our bars, in conjunction with quick cooking oats, because they have more fibre and make our bars look cooler.
Cooking time: 10 - 12 minutes
Texture: Creamy and chewy but you can still see the separate grains. Excellent for savoury dishes and sweet bowls of goodness. Works especially great with overnight oats left soaking in the refrigerator for when you’re lazy.
Quick Cooking Oats:
These little shards or particles of oats are called ‘rolled oats’. They are rolled to death and then rolled into the afterlife, usually between 0.4 to 0.6 mm. It is then passed through steel cutters and cut into pieces before being sent through a specific mesh size to ensure uniformity, goopity and civil obedience. Textural diversity is not encouraged. These take 2 minutes to cook just like instant noodles, in fact, you don’t even need to cook them, just soak them in a covered bowl of hot water. Still 100x better nutritionally than instant noodles, just a little less fibre.
We use these oats in our bars to soak up the good stuff which are in a liquid form, primarily organic honey, virgin coconut oil, date syrup or butter. They are also great for oil spills - BP take note.
Cooking time: 2 minutes or less
Texture: A soft and mushy consistency that makes for a quick breakfast. It is also extremely convenient to use in chia or basil puddings while prepping ahead on a busy day.
Who can eat it?
- Runners – Unlike other processed cereals, oats consist of complex carbohydrates. These are slower to digest and contain more fibre that prevents a glucose crash or hypoglycemic conditions making it ideal as a pre-run meal.
- Gym-Goers – Apart from complex carbs and proteins, oats are packed with zinc and magnesium. These minerals are used up by the body to build muscles, restore sore muscles and boost immunity. Avoid instant oats as they tend to have a higher glycemic index.
- People watching their diet and calorie intake – Slow digestion of oats helps you stay full longer. Due to its low fat content, it is an ideal substitute for breadcrumbs or flour, making it a great alternative to your savoury and sweet treats.
- Trekkers/ Cyclists – A bowl of oats is super easy to whip up and works great for treks and similar outdoor activities (all you need is hot water or milk). For places with no access to hot fluids, one can stock up on trail mixes or energy bars that are easy to carry on-the-go.
Here is your printable certificate stating you have read this article and now definitively know the difference between Groats, Steel Cut, Scottish, Rolled and Quick Cooking Oats. Display it with pride and show off your oat superiority!
We have Certified Organic Oats, both rolled and quick cooking varieties available on our website. We also have rolled Rye Flakes directly from our grower in the Himalayas if you’re interested. Go check it out at www.thehudabar.com
Written by Aarti Birdi
Photographs from unsplash, by Jocelyn Morales and Melissa di Rocco