Oats are often commended as being one of the healthiest grains you can eat.
Renowned for being an excellent source of the soluble fiber beta-glucan, they are a nourishing addition to a well-balanced diet.
They can even help you to lose weight!
But is eating raw oats healthy?
Although there are a few reasons that dry oats are not recommended on their own, raw oats are both safe to eat and highly nutritious.
Here’s the lowdown on why you can enjoy eating raw oats, the health benefits, and the best ways to prepare them.
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Is Eating Raw Oats Healthy?
Types of Oats and How Much They are Processed
Oat grains come in many different forms, which vary in the level of processing they have undergone.
From little-processed oat groats through to ultra-fine instant oats, it’s possible to eat uncooked oats in any of their edible forms.
As you’ll see from the following explanations, most commercial raw oats are not technically raw.
Whilst ease of digestion should certainly be considered, “raw” oats can be eaten in the following forms.
And as we’ll highlight further down this article, it’s easy to prepare oats to make them more easily digested without cooking them.
1) Oat Groats
The oat groat is the least-processed edible form of oats.
Although farm animals will enjoy whole oats, they are not digested well by humans. Oat groats are whole oat kernels that have had the indigestible hulls removed.
Commercial varieties of groats may have been through heating and moisture-removal processes to prolong their shelf life.
Groats contain beneficial oat bran.
Bran is a healthy part of the oat grain that is commonly removed and sold on its own.
When they are properly prepared, groats are safe to eat raw.
However, they will take longer to digest than more processed varieties of oats. Cooking them is recommended.
Even if they are well-soaked, they’ll remain tougher to eat than more processed varieties of oats if you choose not to cook them.
2) Steel-cut oats
Another little-processed variety, these are groats that have been cut into smaller pieces.
Also known as “Irish oats”, the smaller they have been cut, the faster they cook.
3) Stone-ground oats
Stone-ground oats are ground up into small pieces using stones.
They are often called Scottish oatmeal.
4) Rolled oats
Rolled oats are sometimes called old-fashioned oats.
Much more readily available than oat groats on supermarket shelves, rolled oats are not technically raw.
They go through a steaming process before they are flattened into “rolled” oats and moisture is removed.
However, when referring to raw oats in this post, we’re going to consider all forms mentioned as raw oats.
Essentially, you’re wondering whether you can take whatever form of oats you purchase and eat them without cooking them.
From a digestibility perspective, rolled oats, and the even finer-milled instant oats are the types that you’re probably most likely to consider eating raw.
They’re also the most common types to use for baking, smoothies, or making oatmeal.
5) Instant oats
Instant oats are oat flakes that have been cut even smaller and thinner than regular rolled oats.
Doing so makes them faster to cook and digest than other forms of oats.
Also known as quick oats, make sure you check that other ingredients such as sugar, flavor, or milk powder haven’t been added.
Plain quick oats still have good nutritional content and are a valid option for convenience.
However, they generally have a higher glycemic index than less-processed varieties.
Concerns About Eating Dry Raw Oats
The main concerns about eating uncooked oats revolve around digestibility and mineral absorption.
Preparation is an important consideration to help negate this issue.
Foods such as grains, legumes, and nuts contain substances known as anti-nutrients. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in oats.
It can block the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
Luckily, the phytic acid present in oats drops sufficiently when they are soaked for long enough.
Cooking oats further reduces phytic acid levels. People who have difficulty digesting raw soaked oats may prefer cooked oats.
Raw oats that are not soaked are likely to cause digestive discomfort.
Water will instead be pulled from the digestive tract, and this could result in an upset stomach.
With that said, most people won’t be adversely affected by sprinkling unsoaked raw oats on top of a nourishing and hydrating smoothie or similar.
Overall, dry raw oats are not ideal due to the phytic acid content and lack of water.
If you decide they’re still appealing to eat, make sure you drink sufficient water along with them.
Raw soaked oats, cooked oats, and oats that have been both soaked and cooked are all nourishing additions to a healthy diet.
The Many Health Benefits of Oats
Now that we’ve determined that it’s safe to eat raw oats when they are properly prepared, let’s highlight some of the many health benefits of eating oats.
Whether you’re eating soaked raw oats, or you’ve opted for cooked oatmeal, the nutritional benefits are similar.
- Rich in highly absorbable plant protein, oats have a good balance of amino acids. Overall, they are considered to be a high-quality protein
- Oats offer a rich source of dietary fiber, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. The satiating effect of fiber can aid weight loss
- Oats are an especially good source of the soluble fiber beta-glucan. Beta-glucan fiber is associated with several benefits for health. These include lower blood sugar levels, management of healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduced risk for disease.
- Oats are a great source of prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics feed probiotic bacteria in the gut and are important for optimal gut health
- They contain many essential vitamins and are a very good source of antioxidants.
Less-processed forms of oats have a lower glycaemic index than those that are more processed, so the former should be considered for anyone who has problems regulating their blood sugar levels.
It is also possible that cooking helps release certain nutrients.
Oats are a naturally gluten-free whole grain.
However, people who are intolerant of gluten should be careful to purchase oats that have not been processed alongside gluten-containing grains.
Check the label to determine whether they are completely gluten-free.
Preparation of Raw Oats
Remember that soaking raw oats will enhance digestibility.
It will also improve nutrient absorption due to the reduction in phytic acid.
If you are eating oats without cooking them, let the oats soak for around 12 hours. Raw rolled oats simply need to be soaked in water.
Some people prefer to use milk or even cranberry juice! Just beware of how the sugar content will change if you choose something other than water.
Overnight oats are a popular way to enjoy raw oats.
Water and uncooked oats are the primary ingredients.
You can add any combination of additional ingredients to your overnight oats as desired.
These can include chopped fresh fruits, chopped nuts, chia seeds, yogurt, and other flavors such as cinnamon.
If you need a bit more sweetness, try adding a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.
Another way to eat raw oats is to add them to a smoothie. The blender will help break them up into small pieces for easier digestion.
Plus, the smoothie will provide the liquid you need to assist you with the digestion of the oats.
Raw oats work great in baking recipes.
You can also keep them raw by using them as a base for bliss balls or other raw recipes.
Again, the action of the food processor will help break them down into more of a powder so that they’re better digested.
Add your favorite flavors, such as coconut or chocolate, and something to hold it all together.
Then you have a tiny ball of delicious raw oat goodness!
Can You Eat Uncooked Oats? | In Conclusion
You now know that eating raw oats is healthy. Eating cooked oatmeal or opting to eat raw soaked oats are both healthy choices.
Some people choose to pour boiled water over raw oats and leave them for 10 minutes as another way to help make the starch easier to digest.
Consuming raw dry oatmeal is not recommended. This is due to the probability of digestive difficulties and the presence of phytic acid.
Whether they’re cooked or raw, eating oats has several benefits.
They can help keep blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control.
Excitingly, they can also assist with weight loss.
The combination of the satiating effect of the soluble fiber beta-glucan and several other factors are likely to contribute to the positive impact on weight loss.
Raw oats are safe to eat when they are properly prepared.
Soaking oats is an important preparation step for consuming raw oats, although small amounts of unsoaked oats in smoothies or on top of yogurt are unlikely to cause problems.
Overnight oats mixed with fresh fruit are a tasty and nutritious way to enjoy raw oats.