Selecting the best oat flakes includes choosing a product based on how you plan to use it, as well as its freshness and quality. Grain used for oatmeal is typically thicker, offering several health benefits. Instant flakes, however, provide convenience, and different size oats also affect food texture. Choosing fresh oats and properly storing them is also essential.
Oatmeal is perhaps one of the most common ways to eat this grain. Choosing thick, de-hulled oat flakes over smaller rolled varieties provides the best health benefits. These oats have a lower glycemic index and provide a slow-burning carbohydrate. Flakes that aren't as processed also offer more fiber.
When looking for oats that will cook instantly, select a product labeled as such. These are usually made from steel-cut oats, which are initially cut instead of rolled. Instant varieties are also often par-cooked, allowing them to prepare much more quickly than regular oats.
Instant oat flakes are commonly sold in convenient single packs, often containing added flavors and ingredients. When looking for the healthiest versions, the ingredient list and nutrition information will give clues to the product's quality. Products with a long list of additives and artificial colors typically offer less nutritional value than those with less or none at all. These cereals may also have significantly more sugar than standard oat flakes. Often, fresh fruits, honey or sugar, and nuts can be added to oat flakes instead for a richer, and sometimes healthier, option.
Choosing the best oat flakes also depends on the desired texture that you want to achieve. If you're creating a light and creamy smoothie or shake, instant or regular flakes will process more easily than thick ones. Different sizes will also affect the consistency of a meat loaf, with thicker flakes giving it a hearty quality. Baby oat flakes, however, are ground almost into a powder for an especially thin, easy-to-swallow texture that requires no heating.
Regardless of the type of oat flake that you choose, it should be fresh for best results. Spoiled product has a rancid smell, and uncovered oats or those with visible debris should be avoided. The flakes should be dry, with no evidence of moisture. Oat flakes have a high fat content compared to other grains and so should be purchased in small amounts.