Instant oats are the most processed form of oats available. They’re thinner, precooked, and the fastest to prepare. They commonly come preportioned and packaged with added flavorings and sugars.

All oats are made from oat groats, a nutrient- and fiber-rich whole grain with only the husk removed.

Instant oats, the most processed form, are made by cutting oat groats into small pieces, steaming them, and rolling them into thin flakes.

This process removes a minimal amount of nutrients. However, instant oats are commonly packaged in individual portions with additives – such as artificial flavors, milk powder, and sugars — that may work against your health goals.

Because instant oats are thinner and steamed at a higher temperature than quick oats, they are even faster to prepare. When cooked, they yield a softer, mushier texture than other types of oats.

Just like rolled oats and steel cut oats, instant oatmeal is a nutrient-dense whole grain with many health benefits.

Instant oats are a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also deliver a good amount of protein and fat.

Regular consumption of oatmeal has been linked to a variety of health benefits. Some research has linked eating oatmeal with better cholesterol levels, improved blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, and reduced inflammation.

The fiber in oatmeal may help with constipation, contribute to regular bowel movements, and improve stool consistency. It may also lead to a healthier gut microbiome.

Lastly, instant oatmeal is a relatively inexpensive food. Depending on the brand, flavor, and number of servings, instant oats generally cost less than $0.30 per serving. You can buy in bulk to save even more.

And if you’re buying in bulk, you don’t need to worry about the oatmeal going bad quickly or losing its nutritional value. Instant oats are a shelf-stable food and can last 1–2 years without refrigeration.

Because instant oatmeal is precooked, it can be enjoyed cold and is very quick to heat.

For the most basic hot preparation of instant oatmeal, you can simply add hot water or milk and stir. Alternatively, you can add cold water or milk and stick the mixture in the microwave. In 1–2 minutes, your oatmeal will be ready to eat.

By comparison, rolled oats can take 5–10 minutes and steel cut oats can take 20–30 minutes to cook on the stovetop.

Instant oats are an incredibly versatile ingredient. They have a mild flavor and can be prepared savory or sweet.

You can also add them to smoothies and baked goods or use them as a gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs in dishes that require a binder or thickener, such as meatloaf, burgers, and soups.

Here’s a comparison of the nutrition data for several common varieties of instant oats.

Instant oats, Plain (1 oz/28 g)Instant oats, maple and brown sugar (1.5 oz/43 g)Instant oats, cinnamon and spice (1.5 oz/43 g)
Carbohydrates19.5 g33 g34.2 g
Protein3.3 g3.98 g4.29 g
Fat1.93 g2.03 g2.18 g
Fiber2.8 g3.1 g3.6 g
Added Sugar0.42 g13 g11.4 g
Calcium98.3 mg111 mg105 mg
Iron6.92 mg4.47 mg3.81 mg
Magnesium35.8 mg3.87 mg41.4 mg
Phosphorus118 mg131 mg145 mg
Potassium102 mg155 mg128 mg
Sodium61.6 mg217 mg195 mg

Plain, unflavored instant oatmeal and regular oatmeal are nutritionally very similar.

While instant oatmeal offers the same health benefits as regular oatmeal, many instant oatmeal packets come with added flavors and sugars.

Some brands and flavors may contain anywhere from 10 to 17 grams of added sugar. If you’re concerned about added sugars, you may want to choose a lower sugar variety or opt for plain oats and add your own toppings for flavor.

Compared with other types of instant breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal can be more filling and keep you full longer.

However, instant oatmeal may not be filling or satisfying enough on its own. Adding protein and fat can help you feel full until your next meal or snack.

For example, you may want to add fruit, nut butter, seeds, chocolate, or avocado. For a savory meal, you can add sauteed vegetables, aromatics and herbs, cheese, olive oil, or even a fried egg.

If a recipe calls for rolled or steel cut oats, you may be able to use instant oatmeal as a substitute, but it may not work in all recipes. Because instant oatmeal is much thinner and cooks faster than the other types of oats, it may change the texture or consistency of the food when cooked or baked.

Instant oatmeal is an inexpensive and nutrient-dense food that is quick and easy to prepare. It offers health benefits for your heart, gut, and arteries, as well as convenience and versatility.

While some varieties of packaged instant oatmeal include added sugars and flavorings, they can still be part of a healthy diet.

If you’re concerned about the additives, you can always opt for plain instant oatmeal and add your own toppings for flavor.