The Healthiest Oatmeal You Can Buy

It might seem like there's little difference among types of oats, but there is such a thing as the healthiest oatmeal. Just as there are healthier natural nut butters (versus ones loaded with added sugars and hydrogenated oils) and healthy store-bought breakfasts (versus gloried frozen fast food), there's a lot of variance among oats.

Maybe you've read steel-cut oats are among the best foods to keep your heart healthy; they're filled with fiber, which can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lessen your risk of heart disease. Steel-cut oats also have metabolism-boosting folate and muscle-friendly phosphorous. But does that ring true for rolled and instant? We're putting oats under the microscope.

Is Eating Oatmeal Every Day Healthy?

Spoiler alert: Oatmeal is really good for you, despite what carb-cutting protagonists might tell you. Oats are rich in important vitamins, minerals, fiber and even some antioxidants. They contain satiating carbohydrates and some protein to help kickstart and fuel your day. Oats are also high in fiber and, more specifically, a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Beta-glucan also promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases your feeling of satiety or fullness to stave off hunger. For these reasons, it's certainly okay to make oats an addition to your daily diet and an especially great option to eat as breakfast every day.

Healthiest Preparation for Each Kind of Oats

There are a number of ways to prepare your oats, from baking, microwaving, soaking overnight (overnight oats), and even using a slow cooker. The healthiest oatmeal preparation depends on your goals.

  • If you're trying to gain muscle mass, oats are a great way to do that. Prepare them with whole milk, then you can add calories on top with fruit and natural nut butter. For sweetness, add a tablespoon of natural maple syrup, honey, or agave.

  • If you're try to lose weight, you want to include more fiber. Prepare your oats with water and eat plain and add cinnamon for flavor.

  • If you're looking for convenience, overnight oats are a great option to prep the night before with your favorite type of liquid. To up the fiber, add a tablespoon each of flax and chia seeds, as well as your sweetener of choice. In the morning, add any additional toppings like fresh fruit.

Rather than store-bought instant oats that pack tons of unwanted sugar, the healthiest oatmeal (and the tastiest can be done the night before). Try overnight oats if you're tight on time. This blueberry-almond overnight oats recipe is made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, chia seeds, natural almond butter, Greek yogurt, and protein powder topped with fresh blueberries. It's got 495 calories, 45g protein, 49g carbs, and 19g fat, making it a stellar choice for post-workout fuel or just a nutrient-dense breakfast that'll keep you full until lunch.

Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to the Source of the Oats

Other than their production methods, there are no major differences between conventional and organic oats. Both come in rolled, instant, quick, or steel-cut forms. You can use both types interchangeably in any recipe. The main thing you want to look out for are additives of any kind. This is the main reason to steer clear of flavored oatmeal.

Keep reading to find out what is the best oatmeal for you.

Healthiest Oatmeal You Can Buy

Instant Oats

Instant oats, as are often found in single-serving packets and “cups” of oats from a deli shelf, dissolve in hot water with zero cooking. But beware: They’re high on the glycemic index, and often contain way too much sugar. You may as well eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes. If you do opt for instant, dress up the plain variety with various fresh fruit and alternative sweeteners, which will boost their nutritional value.

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These oats are clean and simple, comprising nothing but organic sprouted oats that are gluten-free and non-GMO from a family farm. Sprouted oats, similar to sprouted grains, have been triggered to germinate, then harvested and dried. This process renders them more nutritious, as they're higher in protein, insoluble fiber, magnesium, and GABA (an essential amino acid); it also makes them easier to digest for greater nutrient uptake.

These convenient single-serve cups are certified organic with no added sugar. They get a nice nutrient boost from a blend of superfoods like quinoa, amaranth, chia, and flax. The cups take the guesswork out of protein control for an easy breakfast at home or on the go.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are lightly toasted husked grains (meaning the bran has been removed), which makes them slightly lower in fiber than steel-cut oats. But since they’re much more convenient, they take a fraction of the time to cook.

They sit in a nice mid-position on the glycemic index, have nearly as much protein as steel cut, and are ideal for making your own granola or muesli. Quaker is the most popular option, though artisanal brands, like Bob’s Red Mill, have become increasingly available.

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These oats are extra thick, meaning they provide a robust, European-style oatmeal that's hearty and chewy. Only the highest-quality organic oats are freshly milled to satisfy your hunger.

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These classic rolled oats have a great whole-grain taste and serve as a pantry staple for baking and meal prepping.

Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats, like those found in McCann’s Irish Oatmeal’s metal tins, are almost fully intact, including the bran (the whole oat kernel is cut into two or three pieces by steel disks). As such, they’re high in fiber, burn off slowly, and will keep you feeling full for hours. The more whole the grain, the longer it takes for the body to break it down (it's the least processed).

Few people spend the 30 minutes it takes to make a pot of hot cereal in the morning. Skip the time suck by cooking a pot, freezing it in individual portions, then simply thawing and heating it. The healthiest steel cut oats are simply those void of any additives, plain and simple.

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McCann’s has been making steel-cut oatmeal for over 150 years, so you know they must be doing something right. Enjoy these textured, nutty oats every morning to feel satisfied and fueled for the day.

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These are exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to the healthiest steel-cut oats: They're coarsely cut for great texture made from organic whole-grain oats. They’re versatile to slow cook or make on the stove top, then top with a medley of fruit and nut butter.