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All You Need to Know About Steel-Cut and Old Fashioned Oats

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Ah, oatmeal…the poster child for heart health. Okay, maybe I’m dramatic, but it’s hard to ignore the heart symbol slapped on oatmeal containers when I’m shopping in the breakfast aisle.

There are a few varieties of oats out there. Today, I’m going to focus on the differences between steel-cut and old fashioned oats. I sometimes see (on the Internet) that steel-cut is a better health alternative to old fashioned oats. I dug deeper to see if it’s true. Read on!

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So is it actually heart-healthy? Yes! It’s a whole grain that is minimally processed; thus, the whole grain kernels are kept intact. Hello, fiber and nutrition!

Skip the flavored instant oats due to added sodium and sugar. Making oats from scratch will give you more control. It can also become an insanely nutritious breakfast if you top it with some heart-healthy ingredients like fruits, berries, nuts, nut butter, and seeds. Bonus: Oats are inexpensive and easy to cook!

TRY: Banana Peanut Butter Chia Oatmeal recipe

Physical and Textural Differences​

In general, oats are harvested, hulled, and roasted. The steel-cut version is oats sliced into little pieces with steel blades. Rolled oats (aka old fashioned oats) are rolled, flattened, and dried into their oval shape. You can observe the differences in the picture below.

Steel-Cut Oats vs Old Fashioned Oats
Old fashioned oats to the left. Steel-cut oats to the right.

In terms of texture, steel-cut oats are chewy and form a creamy bowl of oats while rolled oats are softer in texture.​

Nutritional Differences

One serving size of ¼ cup steel cut oats, and ½ cup rolled oats provide the same nutrition:

  • 150 calories
  • 0mg sodium
  • 4g fiber
  • 5g protein
  • Some iron, potassium, thiamine, phosphorus, and magnesium

As you can see, they are both nutritionally the same, just different dry serving sizes. Therefore, one is not nutritionally superior to the other!

Beta-Glucan Fiber: Great for the Heart

​Oats are infamous for their fiber content. They are the second-best source of beta-glucan fiber (second to barley). Studies have found beta-glucan can lower both your total and LDL cholesterol by 5-7%.[1] Amazing!


Cooking time is the most significant difference between steel-cut and old fashioned oats. It really comes down to how much time you have and personal preference.

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In a nutshell, steel-cut oats take longer to cook than rolled oats over the stovetop. To prepare 1/4 cup of steel-cut oats, it will take about 25-30 minutes. For 1/2 cup of rolled oats, it takes only 5-10 minutes.

Other Ways to Eat Oats

​Oats can be toasted or blended and used as an additive or flour substitution, which helps boost your fiber intake throughout the day. Use them in oatmeal cookies, granola, as a crumble over desserts, as a coat for proteins, and blended into smoothies.

Which Oats is Right for You?

Overall, both steel-cut and rolled oats provide the same nutrition and heart health benefits. The significant difference is the texture and cooking time, so it comes down to choosing the right oats for you based on your texture preference. If you love the creamy, chewy texture of steel-cut oats, you will find that it’s worth the extra time to cook it. Otherwise, old fashioned oats will do just fine.

Personally, I like them both, but I do have a slight love for the creamy steel-cut. My husband, on the other hand, likes old fashioned oats. Because of time constraints, I cook with old fashioned oats the majority of the time.

Happy cooking!

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