So just what is the difference between rolled oats, quick oats and instant oatmeal? The difference between traditional rolled oats, which one could cook to make oatmeal or add to recipes, and quick cook oats is size. Quick oats, such as 5 minute cooking oatmeal, has been chopped into smaller pieces. You can actually see the whole texture of rolled oats, but quick oats are essentially the same thing only cut finer. Instant oatmeal has been further processed to cook even faster (in the microwave) but all three have the same nutrition profile. If you’re looking to add whole grain to your diet or trying to lower cholesterol, instant oatmeal is a whole grain and contains the same fiber, protein and other nutrients as the slower cooking varieties.
Having said that, being processed to cook in basically an instant means that it is processed by the body much quicker as well. Instant oatmeal has a more immediate effect on blood sugar levels, giving it a higher glycemic index. If you buy a flavored variety that has been pre-sweetened, you could be loading up on sugar as well. Here’s the good news: you can lower the glycemic index of instant oatmeal by adding things that are good and good for you. Microwave a bowl of regular flavor instant oatmeal. Skip the butter and sugar and replace with honey. A tablespoon in one cup of oatmeal should be plenty. Adding nuts and or fruit will provide additional nutrients and fiber and lower the glycemic index of the meal. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, which also enhances the health benefit. Flavor is added, calories are not.
I was raised on instant grits, which I still eat from time to time. I was also raised on instant coffee, which I prefer to do without. I do keep it in the house just in case. The nutritional benefits of adding whole grain to one’s diet have been proven, and instant doesn’t necessarily mean bad for you. Regular instant oatmeal can be made delicious, and still be better for you than bacon and eggs or biscuits with sausage gravy.