Thursday, February 26, 2009

Question of the Week: Oats

Pat said:
whats the difference between quaker oats one minute oatmeal and the regular. Does it effect nutrition? Did they precook it?

If you’ve ever seen raw oats or oats in horse feed, you probably noted that they look plumper than what you see in your oatmeal. Humans can’t really eat raw oats — the bran shell makes them indigestible. So you’re three choices are steel cut (like the name says, cut between fine disk blades), rolled (slow cooking), and quick cooking (also rolled, but rolled finer and usually cut again).

Nutritionally, if you gave steel cut oats a 100, then rolled/slow would be around a 90 and slow cooking maybe an 85. It’s a personal question whether the extra nutritional gain is worth the extra cooking time.

Lots of folks advocate eating more oats. If you’re fighting high cholesterol, cancer, or celiac disease, you’ve probably read that you should eat more. So here are a couple of tips.

For one, avoid the individual packets of oatmeal. They are highly processed and contain tons of sugar. And they’re expensive. Just buy a big tub of oatmeal and add your own brown sugar, maple syrup, walnuts, dried fruit, unsweetened coconut, or whatever you want. For three bucks you get eight individual servings, or for three bucks you get a tub of oats that will last you a month or more.

Second, if you’re going to microwave your oatmeal, then there is no difference in cooking time between regular and quick cooking oats. They both require the water to get right up to boiling, so you’re not saving any time and you’re losing a tiny bit of nutrition by picking the quick cooking.

For baking applications, I have found that quick cooking give you a chewier cookie while regular give you a crisper one. We use the regular in our granola, because I like that smokier taste of the browned, crisp oats over the softer, quick cooking ones. But both work and there’s no time adjustment to the baking.

Finally, you can grind oats in your coffee bean grinder and make oat flour. Substitute about one half cup of oat flour for one half cup of wheat flour for every two cups of flour called for in the recipe, and you’ll probably get the same results (in terms of rise and baking time) with a slightly nuttier flavor and bit of a nutritional boost.


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