For decades, we’ve been eating oats in the form of porridge but the concept of having oats that haven’t been cooked and simply soaked is still alien to majority of us. Most of us have definitely come across stylish pictures of uncooked oats soaked in milk or non-dairy milk alternatives with a smattering of nuts, seeds, dry and fresh fruits in mason jars. Today, the web is splashed with numerous recipes of healthy, energy boosting quick recipes of uncooked soaked oats, targeted specially at those who are into clean eating or those looking for a quick no-fuss breakfast options.
However, speaking of uncooked oats, the question of phytic acid or phytates sure does pop up, as they contain it. Phytic acid, or phytate, is a substance found in plant seeds, which can reduce absorption of nutrients from the diet. Therefore, we asked experts if it’s safe to consume uncooked oats…
Luke Coutinho, Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine — Holistic Nutrition, says, “Oats, if of the right type i.e. rolled oats, instead of instant oats is safe to eat because the former has more fibre content. Instant oats are stripped of their fibre and most nutrients to lessen overall cooking time. Also, the process of converting groats (oat grains) into rolled oats involves soaking and steaming before they are rolled flat into flakes. This helps to get rid of most phytic acid present in them, hence, it’s safe. Having said this, a minimum of overnight soaking is still recommended to be safe for consumption.” He adds that if someone has a real trouble digesting soaked oats, then the real issue might be with their gut health, not oats.
“Oats when eaten raw provide two potential issues — firstly, it causes bloating and gas, secondly, oatmeal contains phytates. With all the processing, the enzyme needed to breakdown the phytates is destroyed, and they tend to bind with some of the minerals thus, making it difficult for our body to absorb them, but if they are soaked overnight, research shows it can significantly reduce the amount of phytates in them,” opines Pallavi Srivastava, fitness nutritionist, proprietor — Q-Slim Fitness Studio, concluding that soaked oats can be consumed as a good breakfast option.
Kanchan Patwardhan, clinical nutritionist, Kanchan’s House of Health & Nutrition and Arogya Hospital, says that eating raw oats, in a dry manner, is not healthy because not only would it be difficult to swallow, and chew, but it will bulk up in the stomach which could well lead to an upset stomach. Raw oats will be more difficult to digest than oats that are subjected to boiled water, which ruptures the cell membranes so the starch is easily digested.
WHAT’S THE BEST FORM?
The healthiest of all is cooked groats, opines Countinho. In a perfect world, one would want to consume oats as per the traditional way, i.e. soaking groats overnight followed by cooking it the next day, for most health benefits and easy digestion. However, if one does not find time to cook groats, at least overnight soaking of rolled oats is necessary.
This ensures that the oats get rid of most phytic acid. Some people seem to digest uncooked oats well, whereas some do not. So, it varies from individual to individual based on his/her gut health. A person who is more prone to bloating, indigestion, flatulence or is sick should avoid eating uncooked oats. For such people, cooked form of oats that’s been soaked well a night before seems to work the best.
If you are watching your weight, then you would want to take care of the portion size that you consume at a time as well, thus it’s cooked oats in liquid as it will expand as they absorb the fluid, making you feel fuller with lesser portion size. So, it will tend to give lesser calories and carbohydrates but also a lesser amount of protein and fibre, says Srivastava. On the other hand, she says that raw but soaked oats is better for people who are looking for a healthier and quicker option for breakfast as they tend to give more calories but also more amount of protein, fibre and fat.