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Why instant oats are NOT healthy breakfast options

Here is all that you need to know about oats and how to ensure you are having a healthy bowlful of the same.

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : July 20, 2016 5:17 PM IST

When it comes to choosing breakfast cereals, most of us will choose oats because of its various health benefits. However, the instant masala or flavoured variety of oats that becoming a rage these days in the name of healthy breakfast aren t all that healthy after all. Anything processed is bad for your health even if it means processing the healthy oats. Remember processed foods are high on additives, have preservatives to increase their self-life and are high in sodium content, which makes it an unfavourable food and not a healthy option, says Dr Bhavi Mody, Homeopath, Vrudhi Homeopathy and Wellness Centre, Mumbai.

So should you stop having oats for breakfast?

No, oats as a whole is a healthy breakfast cereal; you just need to be a little cautious before you prepare breakfast with oats. Choose the right variety of oats and avoid adding too much off artificial sweeteners into them.

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What are the different varieties of oats that one can choose from?

Here are the different types you can choose from,

Steel cut oats: In this variety, the grain is just cut and packaged without undergoing any artificial processing. This variety of oats has all the essential nutrients intact and is high on fibre content, says Dr Mody. However, in Indian markets steel cut oats aren t easily available. Although, you may find them at high-end supermarkets and online organic stores.

Rolled oats: The next best option that you can go with is rolled oats. In this variety, the raw grain is cut, ground and partially processed. Mostly unflavoured, this kind of oats takes a longer time for cooking and has the essential nutrients intact in them. To make sure that you are picking up the right kind of oats read the label carefully, during your grocery shopping.

Instant oats: This is the easy- to cook, a flavoured variety which isn t as healthy as its other counterparts. The instant oats are processed, pre-digested and pre-cooked. The entire process breaks down the nutrient content in them and also the fibre content decreases rapidly. The flavoured variety that has honey and strawberry to it increases one s sugar cravings and can result in fluctuating blood sugar levels. These instant oats can also lead to bloating, loss of bone density among other problems, informs Dhvani Shah, paediatric nutritionist, Mumbai.


To find out, which one is better for you, check out the comparison in the chart.

DescriptionSteel cut oats per servingRolled oats per servingQuick oats per serving
Total Fat3 g3.5 g3 g
Saturated Fat0.5 g0.5 g0.5 g
Cholesterol0 mg0 mg0 mg
Sodium0 mg0 mg0 mg
Carbs29 g32 g27 g
Fiber5 g5 g4 g
Sugars0 g1 g1 g
Protein7 g7 g5 g

Glycemic index

While the nutrition content in them is pretty similar, one thing that sets them apart is the glycemic index. And when it comes to your blood sugar, the lower the glycemic index, the better is the grain. Instant oats have a higher glycemic index than steel cut or rolled oats. That would also mean that a bowl of instant oats will not keep you satisfied for longer. Steel cut oats can be the best choice as it will keep you feeling full for longer, keeping your energy levels up, and helping you lose weight.

Added sugar

Also, sweetened instant oatmeal has added sugar which may be a concern if you are trying to lose weight. Some instant varieties contain 13g of sugar just in 3 teaspoons. So, if you want to stick to instant oats, it is always a better bet to buy the unsweetened version and top it with honey for flavour. Also, find out about other worst breakfast items you are eating.

Preparation time

While instant oats can be prepared in a few seconds, the least processed oatmeal take up to 30 minutes to make. However, soaking steel cut oats overnight in milk or water can shorten the cooking time. Alternatively, you can also grind steel cut oats in a grinder to reduce the cooking time.

Bottom-line While the nutrition content in different types of oats is similar, steel-cut oats are not only unprocessed, but it has a low glycemic index. So, if you are a diabetic or are trying to lose weight, steel cut oats could be a better bet.

How to make your oats healthy?

Follow these tips to make your breakfast with oats healthy and wholesome:

  • Choose the steel cut or rolled variety of oats and avoid having instant oats.
  • Steel cut type might need 30 minutes for preparation, and the rolled variety might take a little more than ten minutes. Instant oats can be prepared in three minutes flat, and that is the reason for you to stay away from it. Anything that can be prepared instantly will have low nutrient content, says Dhvani.
  • Choose the unflavoured variety and avoid adding dollops of honey or sugar to it. Instead, a scoop of protein powder, dry fruits, pieces of fruits, and lean milk are an excellent addition to it.
  • If you are not fond of dairy and like to add spices and condiments to your oats make sure you don t add too much salt in your preparation. Add freshly cut vegetables and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for flavour and its health benefits.
  • Even if you aren t having instant oats make sure that you consume cooked oats soon after it is made.
  • To make the cooking process easy for steel cut oats, you can soak them for few minutes in water before you start to cook them.

Image source: Getty Images

Co-authored by Tania Tarafdar

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