5 Ways to Upgrade Your Oatmeal

As we covered in “Why Are Oats an All-Star Grain?”, oats are arguably one of the most nutritious grains you can eat. Oats, oatmeal and oat bran lower cholesterol, provide cardiovascular protection and immune boosting properties.

But, does the idea of a hot, steaming bowl of oats makes you want to yawn? If so, here’s five ways to upgrade your bowl of oatmeal. And the best part, these upgrades are low glycemic and will not only make the bowl more satisfying, they’ll take your breakfast nutrition to the next level.

First, let’s cover the basics on the different types of oats. Following are the various types of oats in order of cooking time and amount of water required.

  • Oat groats: Unflattened kernels. Can be cooked for breakfast cereal or for stuffing. Oat groatsrequire the longest cooking time.
    – Cooking time: 50 minutes
    – Water/oat ratio: Cook with three parts water to 1 part groats.
  • Steel-cut oats: Groats split by steel blades into pieces. Steel cut oats are known for their dense and chewy texture. Steel cut oats are also known as Irish or Scottish oats.
    – Cooking time: 30 minutes
    – Water: Cook with two parts water to one part steel-cut oats
  • Old-fashioned oats: Groatsthathave been steamed, rolled, then dried resulting in a flatter shape and faster cooking time.
    – Cooking time: 30 minutes
    – Water: Cook with two parts water to one part steel-cut oats
  • Quick-cooking oats: Basicallyold-fashionedoatsthathave been cut finely before rolling.
    – Cooking time: 10 minutes or less
    – Water: Cook with two parts water to one part steel-cut oats
  • Instant oatmeal: Partiallycookedprior to rolling thin, instant oatmeal has the fastest cooking time and the softest texture.
    – Cooking time: 2 minutes
    – Water: Cook with 1/2 cup water to 1/3 cup instant oatmeal


As you move down the list, each type of oat is increasingly processed. For example, steel cut oats are oat kernels (groats) which are chopped into thick pieces. The next level of processing is rolled oats, which are steamed, rolled, steamed again and toasted.  While each type of oat has roughly the same nutritional value, the big difference is how the body digests each type.

The more the oats are processed, the faster the body will digest it, converting the starch inside into sugar, impacting blood sugar more quickly and significantly. Because of their lower glycemic index, most healthcare practitioners recommend steel-cut oats rather than the more processed oats.


Toasted Steel Cut Oats

This tip from ‘Good to the Grain‘ is the same concept as toasting rice or nuts to add richness and aroma to dishes.  Simply melt a couple tablespoons of butter or coconut oil over medium heat in the pan you will be using to cook the oatmeal.

Stir them for a couple minutes until they start to darken and appear lightly toasted. The whole house will smell like popcorn and everyone will be happy. Then, add the water and cook the oats as usual.


Who doesn’t love brown sugar on oatmeal? But, date paste is a much healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Date paste adds nutrition (iron, calcium, potassium and minerals) without refined sugar’s roller coaster ride.

The natural sugar in dates is easily absorbed and utilized by the body for energy. Yet, their high fiber content makes them a low-glycemic index food. So, date paste, not only supports healthy blood sugar levels and elimination, but also helps you stay full longer.

To make date paste, simply soak dates in water, then process in a blender and flavor as you please or simply keep it plain. For step-by-step directions, see ‘How to Make and Use Date Paste’.


Even the most perfectly cooked oatmeal is even better with some added fat. Try adding cashew cream to increase satiety and as well as the comfort factor. Cashews, an excellent source of copper, and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, work well for blending into a cream.

Surprisingly, Cashews have a lower fat content than most other nuts.  Approximately 82% of the fat in cashews is unsaturated fatty acids, 66% of which are monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to be heart healthy.

To make cashew cream, simply soak the cashews in water overnight, then process in a blender and flavor as desired. For step-by-step directions, see ‘How to Make and Use Basic Cashew Cream’.


Rich in protein and fiber, nuts are also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Many nuts are also a rich source vitamin E, plant sterols and L-arginine, all heart-healthy nutrients. Simply chop raw or toasted nuts of choice and sprinkle on top of the oatmeal. Try chopped walnuts or pecans or flax seed!


  • Worlds’ Healthiest Foods – Oats
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.
  • Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health


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