Oatmeal is an inexpensive and delicious way to get more fiber into your diet. One reason oats are such a good choice is that only the inedible outer hull of the oats is removed in processing. The oat bran stays on the kernel, so you always get some bran whenever you eat oat foods. The oatmeal shelf at the supermarket can be a little confusing. Here's a rundown:
Steel-cut oats. The most expensive kind, these are oat grains that have been cut very roughly. They take a long time to cook (20 to 30 minutes—plus you have to stir them a lot), but the extra-chewy, nutty flavor is worth it. Tip: Save some money by buying your steel-cut oats in bulk at your health food store.
Rolled oats. Also called “old-fashioned” oats, these are the oats that come in the familiar round carton. You can also buy “table-cut” oats in bulk at health food stores. To make these oats, raw oats are steamed, rolled into flakes, and dried. Rolled oats cook in just five minutes; table-cut oats take a few minutes longer.
Quick oats. Basically the same as old-fashioned oats, but the flakes are rolled thinner so the oats cook faster. They have slightly less fiber, but take only three minutes to cook.
Instant oats. These oats are flaked into such tiny pieces that all you have to do is add boiling water and stir. The processing reduces the fiber content a little, but the real problem is that these products almost always have added sugar and artificial flavorings.