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.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.