Vegan Mofo 14: O is for Oats! Oatmeal 101 and More

Given the name of my blog, it would be an offense to write on anything apart from oats. There are hundreds of oatmeal tutorials and recipes out there that provide an ocean of information. So in my Oatmeal 101, I share my personal journey with oats in addition to oat facts and trivia.

My first bowl of oats back in 2009: quick oats from Marks & Spencer. Very specifically this was what I wrote (taken from my old blog):

I would describe my first attempt as a failure: the oats were burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pan. I should have stirred more quickly. The blueberries also bled, giving the oats a sickly bluish hue. Having used less than the recommeded 180ml of fluid, my oat porridge turned out thick and lumpy.

It’s all quite amusing to read this now! I can’t really remember what was the fillip that sparked my interest in oats; perhaps it was the big bright and beautiful bowls of oats over at Kath Eats that invoked a curiosity. Before that my breakfasts were made of Gardenia bread or boxed cereal, but am I glad I’ve never touched those stuff again!

Oats were not important to man as early as wheat or barley, but were in fact considered as a weed by ancient Greeks and Romans. They were used primarily for medicinal purposes rather than food.

Oats were introduced to North America by Scottish settlers in the 17th century. They gradually became a major crop until the 20th century. The first oat flakes (rolled oats) were produced by the Quaker Mill Company in 1876. Today, with the advance of knowledge about nutrition, oats are recognized as a healthy food and is a highly popular breakfast staple.


Whole Oat Groats
Whole oat kernels with the inedible hull removed; bran, endosperm and germ remain. Takes the longest to cook, about 1 hour on stove-top. Nutty flavour with chewy texture. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 170 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (Probably the only type of oats I’ve yet to try!)

Steel Cut (Irish) Oats
Groats cut into a few pieces using sharp metal blades. Cooks in about 30-40 mins on the stove-top. Nutty flavour, especially when toasted before cooking. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 170 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (My personal favourite.)

Scottish Oats
Groats that are stone-ground, rather than cut with a steel blade, giving a coarse meal of irregularly broken bits. This method originated in Scotland centuries ago. Cooks 15-20 mins on the stove-top. Creamier than steel cut oats. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 140 calories, 2.5g fat, 23g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g protein.

Rolled (Old-Fashioned/Regular) Oats
Oat groats that are steamed to soften, then rolled into flakes. The steaming and increased surface area means that these cook in just 10 mins on the stove-top. Soft porridge-like texture. Nutritional stats (1/2 cup dry): 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (Not a personal favourite, but works for breakfast in a jiffy, or in baked oatmeal.)

Quick or Instant Rolled Oats
Groats that are steamed longer and rolled thinner than regular oats. Cooks quickly in less than 5 mins. Nutritional stats (1/2 cup dry): 180 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein.

Oat Bran
The finely ground meal of oat groats’ outer (bran) layer. Though not technically a whole grain, it still has the health benefits of one with its high soluble fiber (the oat bran contains almost all of the fiber in the oat kernel). Cooks quickly in under 5 mins, with a creamy texture. Nutritional stats (1/3 cup dry): 150 calories, 2g fat, 27g carbs, 7g fiber, 7g protein.

Oat Flour
A whole grain flour made from whole oats ground into a fine powder. Used for baking or thickening soups and stews. You can easily make your own oat flour by grinding rolled oats in the food processor or blender. Nutritional stats (1/3 cup): 60 calories, 3g fat, 26g carbs, 4g fiber, 7g protein.

Nutrition showdown: steel-cut vs rolled vs quick/instant oats
Perhaps you may hold the mantra “the less processed, the better,” and think that steel-cut oats is the most nutritious of all. But as you can see from the nutritional content above, the differences are minor. Rolled oats may be steamed, but the steaming doesn’t compromise their nutrition significantly (in fact it stabilizes the fatty acids which helps increase the shelf-life.)

What about the glycemic index? Steel-cut, rolled and quick oats have a glycemic index of 42, 50 and and 66 respectively. This means that quick oats are digested much faster and the sugars released into the bloodstream more rapidly than rolled or steel-cut oats, and may not keep you feeling satisfied as long as the latter. As a guide, foods below 60 on the GI index are considered low. Thus, instant oats may be considered low/moderate glycemic carbohydrates and you need not feel guilty for grabbing a packet of quick oats if you’re pressed for time.

The takeaway? Nutrition-wise, steel-cut or rolled is pretty much similar. It all depends on your preference of texture – chewy or creamy.

Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, iron, and the B vitamin thiamine. In fact, they have the most soluble fibre of all grains. Oats are also low-GI foods. These nutrients may deliver health benefits such as:

Lower cholesterol
The cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan (a type of soluble fiber) is well-documented. Meta-analyses of studies have concluded that oat consumption is associated with 5% and 7% reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels respectively in both normocholesterolemic or hypercholesterolemic subjects.

Stabilize blood sugar levels
Oats are considered low GI food.

Good bowel health
The high fibre content helps in bowel movement.

Better sleep!
Oats contain the hormone melatonin, which is involved in the control of the circadian rhythm, and specifically, helps induces sleep. Should we be having oats for dinner instead of breakfast, then?

Soak oats overnight to reduce phytic acid and promote absorption of nutrients.

Ratio. For steel-cut oats I use 5:1 fluid-to-oat ratio. I cook the oats in 1 cup water until most of the water boils off, then add in 1/4 cup non-dairy milk and reduce until the desired consistency. This gives a very creamy texture. For rolled oats I use 2:1 ratio.

Stirring. Especially for rolled oats, do not stir too much or it tends to become a soggy lump.

Add-ins. Add mashed banana or other starchy purees only towards the end (after the addition of the milk) and “whip” it in with a fork or whisk, like you are whipping egg whites. This incorporates air into the oats and gives a really fluffy texture.

Layering. I like to hide nuggets of “treasures” within the oats. So I pour out the oatmeal into the bowl in layers, adding a spoonful of nut butter, a square of dark chocolate, chopped nuts or fruits between each layer. It’s almost the same concept as making a chilled oatmeal parfait. However the heat from the just-cooked oatmeal will help to melt the nut butter/chocolate and soften the fruit, so you’d get to dig into a pool of awesomeness now and then. (And why hot oatmeal is so much nicer than overnight oats!)

Oatmeal Porridge; Overnight Oats-in-a-Jar (OIAJ); Smoothie-in-a-Bowl (SIAB); Baked Oatmeal; Granola; Oat Pancakes & Waffles; Oat Muffins; Oat Breads; Oat Scones.

Oat Burgers; Oat Flour Pizza Crust; Oat Falafels; Savoury Oat Porridge; In Salads (using Oat Groats); Oatmeal Risotto; Oatmeal Soup.

In Crumbles & Clafloutis. As a Crust for Pies and Tarts. Oat Milk Ice Cream; Oat Milk Panna Cotta.

Energy Oatie Bars; Flapjacks; Scottish Oat Cakes; Baked Cookies; No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites; Oat Brownies.

Here are some blogs that pay a loyal dedication to oatmeal, with creative recipes that will surely inspire you:
Chocolate Covered Katie
Edible Perspective
Kath Eats Real Food
The Oatmeal Artist
Oh She Glows

If you follow me on Instagram (@earlymorningoats), you will have seen that I often post pictures of my oatmeal breakfasts with the hash-tag #oatart. Sometimes I do wonder why I do this seemingly pointless thing – after all a bowl of oats is still yummy whether served in a pretty form or haphazard form.

I suppose Oat Art it is an outlet for creative expression as well as my feelings, just like how some people prepare cute bento boxes, or artists and painters express themselves through their drawings and paintings. I can’t draw for anyone’s sake, but playing around with shapes, colours, and ingredients – that’s easier and you get to eat your art too!

Supefood Oats | PBJ Oats | Peach Pie Oats | Mango Flower Oats | Donut Peach Baked Donut Oats | Coconut Tree Pina Colada Oats | Blueberry Cheesecake Oats | Melon Oats in Lotus Bowl | National Day Oats

My designs are inspired from a variety of sources, such as the ingredients on hand, the weather, the season, holidays and festivities, my feelings and nature. Sometimes I plan the designs ahead the night before; and other times the idea would just occur spontaneously at the last minute. More often than not, the design would come off less pretty than envisioned, but nevertheless it is an effort made.

Candy Corn Oatmeal: (from bottom) yellow corn oats, orange sweet potato oats, white chia pudding in hazelnut milk, topped with chocolate maple pecan butter.

This Candy Corn Oat Parfait was inspired by Halloween. Although the yellow-orange-white colors may not have turned out to be as intense as desired, just appreciating the beauty of natural candy corn (zinnia flowers) more than made up for it. (Zinnias are easy-to-grow flowers that come in a rainbow colour palette. A safe and pretty choice for beginners to gardening.)

Oatmeal Face Masks. The most basic mask uses just water and rolled oats, which is then spread on the face. Sounds so easy I might just try this out!

Collodial Oatmeal Baths. Colloidal oats are oats ground into an extremely fine powder, even finer than oat flour. The powder is sprinkled into bath water, and the resulting milky dispersion helps to soothe and moisterize the skin. Colloidal baths are commonly used to treat skin conditions such as itch and eczema.

Neutralize Odors. Simply leave a bowl of oats out anywhere you want to suck in smells.

National Oatmeal Month. Celebrated in January.

My most memorable bowl of oats. Of course, in none other than the Land of Oatmeal, Scotland.

This was at a bed and breakfast in Edinburgh two years ago when I was doing a semester exchange. The oats were really simple, served plain with just a side of peaches and raisins, but they had the best texture ever. I can’t fanthom whether it was Scottish or rolled oats, but it was so soft and creamy, yet with a chewy bite. And that bowl is so pretty too!

Phew! This was quite a comprehensive post although it was quite fun writing about it. I hope you have learnt something about oatmeal!

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Sabrina is passionate about all things health, wellness, conscious living and good vibes.

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