Why I eat steel cut oatmeal


steel cut oats

Grandma O’Malley had curly bright red hair no doubt maintained by her hairdresser in later years, a fondness for hairnets, a tiny house on a nondescript street in a small city in the midwest, and an upright spinet piano that she played on Saturday nights when the dishes were done and the food had been put away.  She had learned to quilt at a very young age from her grandmother, and was very proud of the handmade antique quilts that adorned every chair and sofa in her house.  She was very loving, was always ready with a hug and a smile, and she always served me steel cut oats. I didn’t get to see her very often because we lived so far away, but the memory of those visits lives on…

I find that I have certain favorite foods that are related to a memory of one sort of another. The crab souffle we served at our wedding reception, caramel topped chocolate cake that my mother always made, nasi goreng an Indonesian rice dish from my childhood, and steel cut oats with walnuts and raisins, to name a few.  Do you have certain foods like this too?

Aside from my grandma, I eat oatmeal because I really do like the way it tastes.  I eat it steaming hot with raisins, walnuts and a little skim milk on top. I don’t add sugar because I find the sweetness of a few good raisins is enough for me now even though I used to be a sugar fiend as a child and added more than enough in my early years to last a lifetime. Oatmeal is also an easy hearty breakfast that keeps me from getting too hungry mid-morning when the donuts, bagels and other pastries spontaneously appear on the conference room table. It’s also good for you — as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I suppose people expect me to lead with the facts…the facts are important to me, but personally I mostly eat it because of the way it tastes and the way it makes me feel.

So why does oatmeal help us with our health?  Oatmeal is a food that is high in fiber and contains beta glucans which are a type of soluble fiber in oats.  There are two types of fiber found in plant foods – soluble and insoluble which have a different effect in our digestive system when we eat them.  Fiber comes from the materials that make up the parts of the plant cell. Soluble fiber takes up water in our digestive system and can help slow down the rate at which our stomach empties. Insoluble fiber is largely undigested in our system and adds bulk which can help keep things moving.  Some research has shown a relationship between feeling full and the fiber that is present in oats. Other research has shown that the fiber in oatmeal may help reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into our bloodstream.

Now you know why oatmeal, especially steel cut oats, is one of my favorite go-to treats.  What about you?  Do you have a similar favorite food story to share?


Barbara Spalding RDN Culinary Dietitian

Hi, I am

Barbara Spalding MS, RDN, Culinary Dietitian

As a dietitian and world traveler, I love bold flavors — in food and in life. 14 years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole into Breast Cancer Wonderland. Since then, I’ve learned to cook differently while savoring the pleasures of food and companionship. I’ve built a resilient new life and a bold new kitchen. Let me show you the flavors of the world.
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  1. Breaking Fast on October 18, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Great information!

    • barbara spalding on October 19, 2013 at 3:57 am

      Glad you liked my post. I thought your quick banana pancake recipe on your site looked interesting too — will have to try it. I will probably make it with egg whites and not use coconut oil but spray canola instead. Have you tried making it with egg whites instead of the whole egg in order to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the dish?

  2. Breaking Fast on October 19, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for having a look at my site. No I haven’t actually but that’s a great idea! Might attempt it this weekend 🙂

    • barbara spalding on October 19, 2013 at 12:21 am

      Let me know how it works out. I’m at FNCE (the Food and Nutrition Conference) for the next few days so won’t be able to try it myself until next week.

      • Breaking Fast on October 19, 2013 at 12:32 am

        Sure thing! Oh that’s really interesting, would you be making a post about the conference then?

  3. barbara spalding on October 19, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Will do – the conference is just getting started today so will try to post sometime later this weekend. Stay tuned!

  4. Ashley-Marie on October 22, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Hey Barbara, how’s FNCE going? Thanks for sharing the memories you have of your grandmother from eating steel cut oats — it’s crazy how powerful a certain food can tie in with memory. For me, it’s little blips of memories, like how dark chocolate salted caramels remind me of my old job because a girl set up her confections shop in the same building, or how certain filipino dishes remind me of specific family members.

    • barbara spalding on October 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Hi Ashley-Marie – I’m having a great time at the FNCE conference, but have been so busy attending all the sessions and events, haven’t had time to put together a proper post (sigh). Will still try to manage it sometime this week, but in the meantime would love to hear more about the filipino dishes you mentioned. Do you have a favorite?

      • Ashley-Marie on October 23, 2013 at 5:03 pm

        I do actually. It’s a fish or sometimes pork stew with a tamarind based broth called sinigang – it reminds me of being a kid at my mom’s dinner table, so it’s like comfort food to me!

        • barbara spalding on October 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm

          I’d love to know more about sinigang. Do you have a recipe for it that I could make?

          • Ashley-Marie on October 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm

            I’ve never tried making it myself, but I’ll ask for the recipe the next time I visit my mom. Everyone has a slightly different version, depending on the region they’re from or who taught them!

          • barbara spalding on October 23, 2013 at 11:59 pm

            Thanks. That sounds great. What type of dish is it?

  5. hmazur on October 24, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Steel cut oatmeal is great in the slow cooker also….put it in the night before and breakfast is ready in the morning!

    • barbara spalding on October 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Great idea! I’ll have to dig out my slow cooker this weekend.

  6. Brook Manville on November 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    What’s the real difference between steel cut and regular? Never been clear to me….both taste and prep….

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