Oat fiber, bran, flour…what’s the difference? I get it. When I was a kid, you had two choices: instant or old fashioned oats. The world has changed. But it’s OK…they may have fancy names and look a little different, but these products are still healthy oats at heart. And they’ll open up whole new realms of possibilities in the kitchen (hello healthy oat berry breakfast cake!)
See what I’m saying? WAY more appetizing than your standard bowl of oats if you ask me. It’s time to get friendly with the new types of oats! I’ll walk you through the most common types of oat products, and even the uncommon ones so you’ll know exactly what you want to buy and use in your own kitchen.
Can you believe that so many different products come from this one little grain? And it looks a little like a grain of wheat. But it’s not…that’s an oat groat, and the source of almost every product I’m highlighting today.
For most of us, oats can be a wonderfully healthy grain and a good source of natural slow burning carbs. Oats are often even well tolerated by those with gluten intolerance so long as the brand of oats you’re using are labeled gluten free. (Most brands of oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat so they are cross contaminated.) I would like to remind you quickly that food is never one size fits all. As with any food, it’s only healthy if your body processes it in a healthy way. So keep that in mind when trying oats as a part of your diet.
Oats for Cereal
Probably the most common oat product in your grocery store is old fashioned rolled oats. It’s a pantry staple here, and it consists of the whole grain that’s been steamed and rolled flat so that it cooks up quickly.
Quick cooking oats (not pictured) are simply rolled oats that have been chopped up into finer pieces so that they’ll cook even faster. Quick cook oats include some oat flour to create that instant brothy texture to your bowl of oatmeal. Unfortunately, that can also jack up how quickly your body has access to the carbs. And spiking blood sugar is not so nice for the waistline. For this reason, quick cooking oats are not recommended to eat as a cereal for those wanting a slower burning grain on plans like Trim Healthy Mama. If you want to stick to a more low carb approach, you *can* use quick cooking oats to grind into flour. Using the flour in a solid baked good vs. a broth will bring down the glycemic index. See “how to make oat flour” below.
The Irish cousin, steel cut oats are made from the whole oat kernel or groat that have been chopped into coarse pieces. This give a chewier bowl of oatmeal that has a bit more tooth to it, and it does take longer to cook. This is the type of oats that I prefer as cereal, and they stand up well to longer cooking for slow cooker recipes.
Oat Flour, Fiber & Bran
But what about the more unusual oat products like oat flour, fiber, and bran? Let’s take a closer look.
Why Oat Flour?
I first saw oats being used in a lower glycemic pancake recipe from the book Trim Healthy Mama. They were so good that I started to experiment on my own with oat flour in other recipes. I’ve found that it makes a nice, soft cakelike finished product. I love it in breakfast breads and muffins, like this banana cream cake, and berry breakfast cake.
I would not choose oat flour for recipes where you want a crunchy crust or the stretch and rise that you get with grains that contain gluten, but it’s a great fit for breads, cakes, cookies, and muffins.
How to make oat flour:
If you’ve got a blender and any type of oats in your pantry you’re in business. You’re seconds away from a batch of freshly ground oat flour.
- Measure out the amount of oats you’ll need into your blender.
- Blend until powdered
- Remeasure the flour amount needed for your recipe.
- You can use right away or store extras in the pantry or freezer for the next recipe.
Important note: If you’re gluten free, be sure to use gluten free oats.
I usually have the old fashioned style oats on hand, but you can use ANY type of oat to create flour. You can even use the quick cook oats here with no problems. But WAIT! (I can hear my Trim Healthy Mama friends gasping)
“The Trim Healthy Mama book says not to use quick cooking oats, right?”
Yes it does. It says not to use them to make oatmeal. But if the final product will be baked into a solid, the glycemic index is manageable for oat flour. So you can use your leftover quick cooking oats to make oat flour!
What Is Oat Bran?
Oat bran is made from the outmost bran or edible covering of the oat. The bran contains carbs in the form of both soluble and insoluble fiber, fat, and protein. Nutrition wise, oat bran is higher in fibers than regular rolled oats, but still contains a similar nutrient profile. (True confessions: Y’all, the photo is actually wheat bran, but it looks very similar to oat bran. Sorry! My Trader Joes was out of oat bran!)
What is Oat Fiber?
Oat fiber is ONLY the insoluble fiber (lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose)- it’s made from grinding the non-digestible oat hull. This is the one product that’s *not* made from the humble groat you saw at the top of this page. It’s made from the hull or husk that the oat was harvested from.Nutrition wise, oat fiber is really more akin to sawdust than to oatmeal. It does contain some nutrients, but because it’s essentially non-digestible, it does not provide any nutrients or carbs for the body to burn. But that’s OK, because it’s not used for its nutritional properties. It’s used in low carb baked goods as a flour sub either on its own or in a blend of other lower carb flours. It’s very affordable and very absorbent-oat fiber is capable of absorbing a lot of liquid in a recipe and can be used to add moisture to baked goods. Since oat fiber doesn’t break down in the digestive track it also helps to prevent constipation by bulking up the stool.
All in all, oat fiber is the odd cousin in the oat family, but it’s so affordable that it’s definitely worth trying out. You can find it here in the Trim Healthy Mama store (affiliate link).
Sheri Graham has perfected the art of baking with oat fiber. If you’re just getting started with this low carb flour, try her fun collection of single serving size Fuel Pull cakes made with oat fiber!
Doesn’t this look yummy!
Oat Fiber vs. Oat Bran
This was a common question when I used to admin on the THM Facebook groups. Oat bran is not a good sub for oat fiber if you’re needing to be carb conscious. The bran still contains lots of soluble (digestible) carbs, fats, and proteins, making it more akin to rolled oats in its nutrient profile. The texture of bran and fiber are drastically different as well.
What Should I Buy?
I usually just keep Old Fashioned rolled oats for baking and making flour, and Steel Cut oats on hand for cereal. Both rolled oats and steel cut oats are great healthy sources of natural carbs. I also keep a stash of very affordable oat fiber, and add it as an extender to some recipes to lower the carb count.Oat fiber is a great choice for very low carb baking, and for adding fiber to your diet.
If you’d like to know more about the nutrition comparisons between the different oat products, I’ve prepared a simple and lovely Oat Nutrition Report just for my subscribers! Pin, and then scroll down to download this sleek little Oat Nutrition Report that includes an exclusive new recipe!
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