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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
Hi Sarah. Even though I like the texture and flavor of steel-cut oats, I’m trying to reduce the phytic acid by soaking them 12 hours in water and ACV. I read somewhere that adding freshly ground wheat berries is even better at reducing phytic acid (I use a stainless-steel tea ball infuser), but is time consuming. Do you agree with this extra step?
I don’t do it myself. I’ve not had a problem with digestibility of oatmeal skipping that step.
Hello Sarah, first of all I would like to say a big thanks for always sharing all this good information. I have a question about using oats for making oat milk. I normally soak my rolled oats with whey for 48 hours or in other acidic liquids before drying them inthe oven for granola or cereal, but this time I want to make oat milk. can the soaked oats be blend for oat milk or will i have to dry them first in the oven and then do my oat milk?
I hope you have any comments on this one.
I’ve also found One Degree Organics in the Charlotte NC area. They’re organic, certified Non-GMO, and Gluten-free.
I used to fanatically soak my oatmeal the night before with a bit of my sourdough starter, but I’ve stopped for nearly the past year when I read that rolled oats are lightly steamed. I couldn’t understand how we could affect an already cooked product, so I gave up the chore. Do you have any explanation?
I continue to do it simply because I notice a big difference in how I digest it and how long I am able to go until lunch without feeling hungry.
I have experienced the digestive benefits from soaking oatmeal. I have also read your helpful post on No Granola is Good Granola where one person soaked, then toasted her granola, so I understand that a more intense dry heat than 200 degrees is required for maximum digestibility benefits, but I have a follow-up question. In recipes which call for oat flour, and for the sake of “frugality”, would it be feasible for one to receive the same benefits of soaked and cooked oats, if one pulsed the rolled oats to make a flour, then added in the wet ingredients for an overnight soak, and in the morning added the remaining ingredients before finally baking at 350 to 375 degrees? I am wondering about this feasibility because the oatmeal would have to reach at least 212 degrees to boil on stovetop but if the heat is much higher in the oven, could that same nutritional benefit be achieved with this process to “make” soaked oat flour? Thank you for all our efforts in helping others eat “truly” healthy.
That may work fine. Try it and see if you digest it as well as a soaked/cooked bowl of porridge. If you get symptoms of poor digesting (bloating, fatigue, etc), then you know the anti-nutrients weren’t broken down enough using your method.
Hi Sarah. The Sprouted Flour company uses non filtered municipal water (probably containing chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, ammonia and other heavy metals) to sprout their Organic Rolled Oats. Would you still recommend this brand knowing this?
Thank you so much for all the information you put on your blog.
I highly doubt what you write as in my experience using chlorinated tap water prevents the sprouting of grains!
I recently found One Degree Organic Foods sprouted oats for sale at a local food cooperative.
I’ve seen some recipes calling for spelt or a sprouted flour in the overnight soak as well. Any thoughts as to the reason why they would suggest this. Thanks. 🙂
It is to supply phytates to help break down the phytic acid in the oatmeal. I don’t find it necessary personally, but you can add some if you like.
I’ve been reading different instructions for soaking grains. Just about all of them require changing the soaking water to fresh, new water. Assuming this is because antinutrients are leaking into the soaking water, why is your recipe using the soaking water for cooking the oats?
You don’t need to use fresh water for cooking because the anti-nutrients are deactivated. It’s not going to accomplish anything to change out the soaking water … just cause you an extra step and time wasted. I don’t know about you, but in the morning, wasted time is a big deal to me trying to get the lunchboxes packed and the kids out the door to school! 🙂
If you want to rinse the soaked oats and change out the water, go ahead. It doesn’t make the oats any healthier by doing this.
Stutzman farms sells organic, sprouted rolled oats also.