Those of us with grandparents born prior to World War II may well remember that they made a practice of soaking oats in a pot of warm water overnight before cooking it up the next morning.
In fact, prior to the 1950’s, Quaker Oats used to include an overnight soak in the instructions printed on the box!
Somehow, this healthy, traditional practice was gradually abandoned as the popularity of convenience foods such as quick oats and microwave oatmeal packets gradually took hold with Baby Boomers and later generations.
The truth is that soaking oatmeal overnight before cooking it up in the morning makes it infinitely more digestible and nutritious as the practice helps to break down toxins and anti-nutrients like phytic acid. These anti-nutrients are present in all grains and very effectively block mineral absorption in the gut and can cause gastric distress or bloating in sensitive individuals. Oats contain the highest amount of phytic acid of any grain, so proper preparation is very important.
The thing I most enjoy about a bowl of soaked oatmeal in the morning is that it fills you up all the way until lunchtime, unlike those enticing and so incredibly convenient microwave oatmeal packets or a bowl of quick oats which (have you noticed?) leave you hungry and looking for a doughnut fix by about 10 am.
Boxed breakfast cereal even if organic is not a healthy option for those seeking a convenient alternative to traditionally soaked oatmeal. To make boxed breakfast cereal in the factory, the grains first have to be subjected to such intense pressure and heat that they actually liquify into a slurry. This slurry allows the grains to be quickly and easily shaped into the puffs, flakes, and other shapes that make each cereal distinct.
The manufacturing process used to make boxed cereal is called extrusion and it is so violent and denaturing that the proteins in the grains are actually rendered toxic and allergenic by the process. This is why organic boxed breakfast cereal is more toxic than nonorganic – because organic boxed cereal is whole grain and thereby has more protein in it! The more protein, the more toxic the boxed cereal!
For those making progress toward the reincorporation of wise preparation methods of generations past, remembering to put the oats on to soak before turning in at night can seem like a simple enough task. However, I receive many emails from folks who just can’t seem to remember to do it and are truly having a difficult time establishing this regular habit.
Until the habit of soaking oatmeal is established, my recommendation is to keep a bag of sprouted rolled oats in the pantry as Plan B.
Sprouting grains functions in a similar fashion to soaking as it breaks down anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and renders the grain much more digestible and satisfying.
Sprouting has the added bonus of increasing a number of nutrients substantially such as beta carotene and certain B vitamins. China is credited with developing the method for germinating seeds many centuries ago and on long ocean voyages, Chinese sailors used sprouted mung beans as a source of vitamin C for preventing scurvy. Vitamin C is produced in significant quantities when you sprout grain. On a side note, ascorbic acid in isolation is not true Vitamin C – it is lab created, synthetic, and usually GMO.
Preparing Sprouted Oatmeal
Sprouted oatmeal is cooked up exactly the same as regular rolled oats you buy from the store. You just put the desired amount in a pan, add water, a bit of sea salt and cook up for a few minutes on the stovetop.
I keep a bag of sprouted oats in my pantry even though I’ve been soaking my oatmeal for well over 12 years! A bag of sprouted oatmeal comes in handy in case the family wakes up with a hankering for oatmeal when no one seemed interested the night before when I was available to put a pot on to soak.
Where to Find Sprouted Oatmeal
If you are interested in investigating whether a bag of sprouted rolled oats makes sense for your food budget, this is the brand I use. It is both organic and gluten free. Sprouted steel cut oats are also available now!
While you can definitely make sprouted oatmeal yourself, trust me on this one – it is a rather laborious process! Sprouted oatmeal is particularly time consuming as the additional step of flaking the dried, sprouted oat groats.
If you prefer the homemade sprouted grains method, I sprouted my own grains for years and teach you how to do it in the linked video. If you prefer a written recipe about how to sprout grains, the linked article tells you how.
Despite the ease of buying a bag of sprouted oatmeal, I do recommend going the soaked oatmeal route as much as possible because this is the most budget friendly way to go. Sprouted oatmeal is obviously going to command a premium price due to the time intensive process required to produce it. However, keeping a bag of sprouted oatmeal in the pantry for that occasional need is a reasonable food expense for most households in my experience.
How to Adjust to the Taste of Soaked Oatmeal
Thank you Sarah! Best ways to cook the oats? Stove, oven (roasted), slow cook?
Stove top in water or broth
Do sprouted oats need to be soaked for extra benefits? How can I make energy balls that call for raw oats if it is better to cook the oats to protect the gut?
Sprouted oats need to be cooked to be safe for the gut and digestible for the body. Sprouted oats do not need to be soaked.
I would suggest leaving out raw oats that are in energy balls … raw oats even if sprouted should not be consumed.
Do sprouted oats need to be cooked? I would like to make over night oats without cooking the sprouted oats first.
Thanks for your great help!!
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes sprouted oats need to be cooked. A thorough cook after sprouting completes the deactivation of the anti-nutrients and renders them much more digestible. Yes, you lose some nutrients this way, but the huge increase in digestibility is well worth it. NO traditional cultures ate oats uncooked. If you just eat them after sprouting, they are still highly indigestible and the potential exists to damage the gut.
FYI–A company called PureLiving also makes a line of sprouted grains & flours. We found them on Vitacost this week. Thanks for all the great info. you share on this site. 🙂
I have seen One Degree Organics sprouted rolled oats sold at Whole Foods, Target and Amazon! It’s organic & gluten free!
Hello Sarah what about with for example oatcakes which have been processed but not soaked are they still going to contain lots of phytic acid etc?
Yes, oatcakes will have quite a bit of anti-nutrients still in them.
Hi. We eat oatmeal every morning without soaking. How do I soak. Just add water and leave on counter over night?
Here’s the recipe. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-how-to-cook-oatmeal-the-right-way/