Oatmeal is not exactly a sexy food choice. Breakfast staple of octagenarians the world over, oats deserve another look for plant-powered guys and gals. A remarkable source of beta-glucan, a super soluble fibre, oats are a great grain for keeping blood sugars stable, cholesterol low and bellies full.  Feeling great? That’s sexy…so here’s what you need to know about oats.

When selecting oats, there is a range of options: from instant to quick to steel cut or Irish, how do you know which ones to choose? It comes down to how long you have to cook and how long they take to digest. Plain instant oats are great for stashing in your desk drawer or suitcase for healthy meals on the go but many instant varieties are sugar-laden. Read those ingredients! Instant oats are pre-cooked so they digest a bit faster than larger flake varieties but they are still a better choice than many popular cold cereals.

Quick oats are steamed and rolled very fine and then oats get thicker as you move to regular or thick-rolled varieties. These take longer to cook and longer to chew and digest, leading to slower, more sustained energy. Scottish oats are quite fine and result in a very porridge-like cereal. But the slow cooker award goes to steel cut oats, which are the original oat grain (called a groat) that is simply cut between steel blades. Steel-cut (or Irish) oats are a stick-to-your-ribs kind of food. They are chewy, dense and keep you full all morning long. And for those who are aesthetically minded, those Irish oats come in a fancy tin.

So what if you have steel-cut ambitions on an instant schedule? Batch cook! Cook up a big pot of steel cut oats on Sunday night, portion into daily doses in glass containers and then either heat them up each morning on the stove or tote to work with fixings like nuts, seeds and dried fruit to have a truly nourishing breakfast on the go.

Oat groats, the whole oat grain, are a wonderful change from brown rice and make nice pilafs, salads, soups or casseroles. Cook these ahead of time in big batches and portion into recipe-sized bags to freeze for a whole grain head start to weekday meals.

And if you are gluten free, know that oats don’t contain gluten on their own but most commercial varieties of oats are cross-contaminated with gluten in manufacturing and processing. Pure, uncontaminated oats are available so you can enjoy oats in your diet but know that it is recommended that oats are added to a Celiac diet only after the gut has healed because there is some concern over cross-reactivity to the avenin protein in oats. Learn more about oats and a gluten free diet here.

What is your favourite way to prepare oats? Let me know on my Facebook page!