Oatmeal is good for you. It's rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, folate and potassium -- and that's before you add any fruit or flavorings -- and can help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. But when you're standing in the cereal aisle, it quickly becomes clear that not all oatmeal is created equal. There are four oatmeal options: steel cut, old fashioned, quick cooking and instant. The basic difference here is how processed the oats are.
Steel-cut oatmeal is the least processed of the bunch. A bowl of steel-cut oatmeal contains the most amount of fiber per serving, about 4g. It takes longer to cook than other types of oatmeal and the finished product is chewier than the oatmeal you may be most familiar with, which is made of rolled oats. Old-fashioned oatmeal, or rolled oats, is often used in granola, muesli and oatmeal cookies. The oat flakes are thinner than steel-cut oats, which means they take less time to cook, but you sacrifice fiber for less prep time. Quick-cooking oatmeal eliminates more prep time and the final bowl of oatmeal is smoother than steel-cut or old-fashioned -- and again, each time you lose minutes off preparation, you lose fiber. Instant oatmeal is convenient. It comes in pre-portioned packets, a variety of flavors, and you can make it with hot water from a kettle or in the microwave. If you prefer instant oatmeal, beware of the tradeoff, though -- convenience equals added sodium and sugar.