I always think the best way to start the day is with a bowl of overnight oats. It’s brimming with healthy ingredients, good for weight loss, and keeps you full until lunchtime. But then I started reading about raw oats being difficult to digest and their phytic acid content preventing nutrient absorption. So what’s the truth? Can you eat raw rolled oats?
Eating Raw Oats
I’ve done my in-depth research and the answer is YES! Raw rolled oats are perfectly safe to eat.
In fact, they’re an excellent source of nutrition and provide plenty of health benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about rolled oats and why they’re good for you.
What Are Rolled Oats?
Rolled oats are a type of oats made from whole oat groats that have been steamed and then flattened by rolling into flakes to remove the moisture. Technically they’re not raw. The steaming process breaks down the starch in the oats making them easier to digest and giving them a longer shelf-life.
Also called old-fashioned oats, these oats are minimally processed providing all the benefits of eating oats with less of the downsides – indigestion and poor mineral absorption.
I love the explanation in this simple video:
Raw oats contain phytic acid, which can bind to minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc making them unavailable for absorption.
If you’re a vegan it’s a big problem because you’re trying to get your essential minerals such as iron from plants. Vegans, in particular, are prone to be anemic and need to make sure they eat enough foods rich in iron such as kale, watercress, fortified cereals, dried fruit, and pulses.
Soaking or the cooking process reduces phytic acid levels significantly. Soaking activates an enzyme in the oats called phytase that naturally breaks down phytic acid. While a handful of raw oats are safe to eat, it’s always better to soak or cook them if you want to benefit from their high mineral content.
Oats are safe to eat raw because phytic acid won’t cause you any direct harm – but you will need to make sure you’re getting enough essential minerals from other sources if you always eat your oats raw. Eat too many raw oats and the phytic acid will start interfering with your mineral absorption from other foods you eat at the same time.
Dry Raw Oats Can Be Hard To Digest
I can’t imagine why anyone would want to munch their way through a bowl of dry oats as it’s not going to be a pleasant experience! The lack of water in dry raw oats can cause indigestion and constipation – so rather than eating dry raw oats, be kind to your digestive tract – it’s always best to soak them or cook them first.
Types Of Oats
It can be confusing to understand all the different types of oats available and which are safe to eat raw – so here’s a quick breakdown:
Whole oat kernels include an outer hull or husk surrounding the inner oat groats. For humans, the hull is indigestible. Eating it is unlikely to do any harm – it will just pass right through you undigested. Normally, completely raw oats are only fed to animals.
These whole grains are oats in their purest form with the husk removed. They may be safe to eat but very few people would eat these whole oats raw. It’s best to cook them or at least soak them for a long time before eating.
Steel Cut Oats
I love making porridge from steel-cut oats. Also called Irish oats, these are uncooked oats. They’re made by cutting the grouts into smaller pieces. Minimal processing means these whole-grain oats have very high fiber content and are low on the Glycemic Index (GI).
Cooking or soaking the raw steel-cut oats makes them easier to digest and breaks down the phytic acid content.
Stone Ground Oats
Often called Scottish oatmeal, this raw oatmeal is very similar to steel-cut oats. The oats are ground into small pieces using stones. Again it’s best to soak or cook the raw oats for mineral absorption.
Take a look at the video above. Most people who enjoy eating raw oats are actually eating rolled oats – and technically they’re not raw! Unlike uncooked oatmeal, these oats are steamed and flattened.
Best-selling brands such as Quaker oats like to call their rolled oats old-fashioned oats.
Instant Oats or Quick Oats
These are really rolled oats chopped up into smaller pieces – making them quick to cook and easier to digest.
Health Benefits Of Eating Rolled Oats
Oats are amongst the healthiest breakfast cereals you can find in your local grocery store. These are some of their amazing nutritional benefits:
Good For Weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, oats can help. They’re filling and satisfying so you’ll eat less during the day. That feeling of fullness from a bowl of overnight oats will keep you going until lunch!
A Complete Source Of Protein
Combined with nuts or chia seeds, oats make a delicious and complete breakfast with all the essential amino acids your body needs to stay healthy.
A Great Source Of Fiber
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are found in oats. The soluble fiber binds with water to form a gel that helps to slow down digestion. This type of fiber is also associated with lower cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibers are great for keeping you regular and promoting healthy gut bacteria.
High In Antioxidants
Rolled oats are a good source of selenium and avenanthramides – both powerful antioxidants. These nutrients help to protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
May Help Lower Blood Pressure
The high fiber and potassium content in oats can help to lower blood pressure. This is especially beneficial for people with hypertension.
Can Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Oats are a low glycemic index food, which means they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This is good news for people with diabetes or prediabetes.
May Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease
The soluble fiber in oats binds with cholesterol and removes it from the body. This helps to keep cholesterol levels in check.
Rich In Vitamins And Minerals
Oats are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They’re especially high in B1, iron, magnesium, magnesium, and zinc. These nutrients are essential for energy production, cell growth, and a healthy immune system.
This basic overnight oats recipe involves soaking oats overnight to make them soft and delicious. I like to make mine with plant-based milk full of healthy fats and chia seeds. Top with fresh fruits and a little maple syrup for a delicious healthy breakfast! Just right for an early office meeting!
So there you have it – eating raw oats won’t cause you any harm but soaking raw oats or cooked oats are better for absorption and getting the most out of this incredible breakfast cereal.
Enjoy your oats and check out some of my favorite overnight oats recipe ideas!
Saturday 1st of April 2023
Hi there. Information and helpful article on eating raw oats. I wonder, however, if you have any information (a link or another article, perhaps?) on how to soak oats, that doesn't necessarily require an overnight soak? For instance, a minimum length of time, or liquid to rolled-oats oat-soak recommendation (based on some evidence, as opposed to opinion). That would be super helpful. Thanks! :)
Friday 7th of April 2023
Hi Erin, when I researched this subject there was very little solid scientific evidence about how long you should soak oats. The main reason for soaking oats is to reduce the level of phytic acid which reduces mineral absorption - zinc, iron and calcium. The key word here is reduces - so if you're eating a healthy balanced diet, eating raw oats is unlikely to be an issue for most people because the raw oats will only affect mineral absorption for that particular meal. Phytic acid has many health benefits - it's an antioxidant and may protect against insulin resistance and reduce risk of colon cancer. The best advice I've found to reduce phytic acid is to soak the oats for 12 hours and add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the soak water to netralise the acid. One teaspoon to one cup of soak liquid appears to be a good ratio. But again there is no robust scientific evidence to back this up. It seems to be the accepted wisdom that soaking will reduce phytic acid in oats but the only robust paper I have found suggests soaking oats doesn't work if your aim is purely eliminating phytic acid. Phytic acid appears to mainly be a concern if you're vegan and all your iron comes from plant derived foods. If you think you're at risk of iron deficiency, I suggest discussing this with your doctor and get your iron levels tested. If your query is purely for making overnight oats, please take a look at these overnight oats recipes.