By Simone Jennings, Registered Dietitian
Looking for healthy breakfast ideas? Trade in your box of breakfast cereal for some steel cut oats. Most people have tried rolled oats (oatmeal), but many haven’t heard of the less processed member of the oats family, steel cut oats. They are whole grain oats that have been cut into pieces with a steel blade (hence ‘steel cut oats’). Rolled oats on the other hand are rolled flat and then steamed and toasted. All forms of oats are very nutritious, but steel cut are less processed giving them a nice ‘chewy’ texture that many prefer to the ‘mushier’ rolled oat.
Steel cut oats are on my list of highly recommended foods because of their stellar nutritional value. One cup of oats contains approximately 4 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein, and only 150 calories. They are a good source of soluble fibre, vitamins B1 and B2 and vitamin E. As a high fibre whole grain they have a low glycemic index. This means that they are digested slowly so it takes longer for the carbohydrate to be broken down to sugar, resulting in more stable blood sugar levels. Low glycemic foods are a healthy choice for everyone, but are particularly important for people with diabetes.
Not only do steel cut oats offer benefits for blood glucose control but they are heart healthy too! Studies show that the soluble fibre in oats (all types of oats) can help lower bad cholesterol. You can enhance the cholesterol lowering effects of your breakfast by sprinkling ground flaxseed on your cooked oats. Flax seeds contain heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids and when they are ground they become soluble fibre also.
So how do you cook steel cut oats? Use this recipe as a guideline, but get creative and adjust the ingredients to suite your taste buds.
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
I cup mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries) OR
½ cup mixed dried fruit (raisin, cranberries, chopped apricots)
½ cup assorted nuts and seeds (chopped or sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, shelled hemp seeds)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (per bowl)
1 teaspoon maple syrup (per bowl)
In a pot add oats, water and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer on low for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes stir the oats, at this point you can stir in the fruit and nuts and then serve each bowl topped with milk, ground flax and maple syrup. Or to make your oats a bit creamier you can stir 1 cup of milk into the pot with the fruit and nuts and then continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the milk is absorbed.
Steel cut oats take a bit longer than rolled oats but they are worth the extra effort. You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the oats in advance. Cook a large batch and save left over’s in the fridge and re-heat the following morning. If you don’t have time to cook in the morning you can use a slow cooker to make this recipe. You need to add all 4 cups of liquid (water and milk, or 4 cups of water) and lightly oil your crock pot to avoid sticking. Turn the slow cooker on low before bed and have breakfast ready when you wake up!