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Are Rolled Oats the Same as Oatmeal Cereal?

by
author image Matthew Busse
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.
Are Rolled Oats the Same as Oatmeal Cereal?
Rolled oats are one type of oatmeal. Photo Credit Olga_k_/iStock/Getty Images

Thanks to many well-studied health benefits, oatmeal has become a mainstay of nutritious breakfasts. The term "oatmeal" can be used to describe a few different varieties of oats. You may be wondering about the differences between varieties of oatmeal, such as rolled oats versus oatmeal, and whether they all provide the same health benefits.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are one very common type of oatmeal cereal. The name "rolled oats" refers to the fact that the whole oat grains are steamed and then rolled to produce flat oak flakes. Rolled oats are commonly referred to by many different names, including old-fashioned oats or oatmeal, flaked oats or oatmeal, oat flakes, rolled oatmeal, or just plain oatmeal. These types of oats required about five minutes to cook.

Other Flattened Oats

Another common type of oatmeal is instant oatmeal, which may also be called instant oats. These look very similar to rolled oats, except they are cut much thinner and are sold precooked, meaning they are ready to eat after adding hot water. A similar type of oatmeal is quick oatmeal, also known as quick-cooking oats or oatmeal, quick oats or easy oats. These types of oats are about as thick as instant oats, but they are not sold precooked; they require about three to four minutes to cook. Instant and quick oatmeal are usually not as chewy or flavorful as rolled oats, according to The Cook's Thesaurus.

Unflattened Oats

Oats may also be sold whole, without being rolled, which are known as oat groats, whole oat groats or whole oats. Before they are rolled and flattened, oat grouts look like tiny little cylinders. Oat groats are very nutritious and chewy, but they require a very long time to soak and cook, The Cook's Thesaurus explains. Steel-cut oats, also referred to as Irish oats or oatmeal, Scotch oats or oatmeal, coarse-cut oats or oatmeal, pinhead oats or oatmeal, or porridge oats or oatmeal, are also not rolled. They are chopped up into little pieces. These oats are also usually chewier than rolled oats.

Health Benefits of Oats

The health benefits of oatmeal have been studied extensively. A review of research on oatmeal conducted from 1992 to 2007 found that the evidence clearly indicates that eating oatmeal lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease, according to a paper published in the January-February issue of the "American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine." Oatmeal specifically reduces total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while not changing levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called HDL or "good" cholesterol.

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