Oats are everywhere these days: as traditional porridge, in smoothies, breakfast bars, cookies, and muffins, and are an excellent breadcrumb alternative. Some people sprinkle them raw over their yogurt and fruit in the mornings. Others are soaking them overnight before eating – but they remain uncooked. This raises the question if the practice is safe or healthy.
Raw oats that are safe to eat are processed ones such as rolled or instant. There is a small risk and unpleasantness to eating raw whole oat groats and steel-cut oats. Soaking raw oats before consuming them will reduce constipation or indigestion. Eating raw oats has no proven health benefit over cooked.
Raw oats can be a convenient addition to a meal or make a quick breakfast eaten with milk. They don’t taste particularly fabulous in their uncooked state, but the bland flavor improves with something sweet. It is also an easy way to add filling fiber and nutrition to the meal. But unless you like eating raw oats, there is no need to have them uncooked.
Is Eating Raw Oats Safe?
Most raw oats are safe to eat. This is because most “raw” oats are not completely raw; they get steamed and rolled. The more the oat has been processed, like rolled oats, the less likely it has any nasty microorganisms.
Therefore, unless you are eating minimally processed oats (such as oat groats or steel-cut) it is safe to sprinkle them into a smoothie or over your food without worry. Read my article on putting raw oats in a smoothie and see some tasty ingredients to add.
You can’t eat 100% natural oats. Oats in their unprocessed form have an inedible hull over them. Some people buy them completely unprocessed and will boil them in a rice cooker for an hour to release the nutritious part of the oat.
However, you can buy oats with the outer hull removed, which are sold as groats.
Oat Groats Are Not Safe To Eat Raw
Groats are not safe to be eaten raw. There remains a risk of problematic microorganisms lurking about. Also, they are still in a tough state, which makes it incredibly difficult for your body to digest and extract any valuable nutrients. However, they are very nutritious if cooked.
Steel-Cut Oats Are Not Safe To Eat Raw
Steel-cut oats are chipped groats broken into smaller pieces by steel blades or steamed groats broken by steel blades. They make nutritious food when cooked. However, uncooked, there remains the risk of unhealthy microorganisms, and they are still so difficult to digest raw that there may be little nutritional value.
Old-Fashioned Oats May Be Safe Raw
Old-fashioned oats may be safe to eat raw depending on how long they were steamed before being pressed flat. The longer the grouts were steamed, the more likely the microorganisms were neutralized. The processing also makes them easier to digest and reduces cooking time.
Rolled Or Quick Oats Are Safe Raw
Rolled or quick oats have been steamed longer and pressed further, which ensures the safety of the oat and makes them easier to digest and quicker to cook.
Instant Oats Are Safe Raw
Instant oats have gone through the most processing, making them safe to eat raw, very easy to digest, and have the least nutritional punch.
Other Grains and Seeds
There are lots of other healthy grains and seeds which can be eaten raw. See my article 12 substitutes for oats in a smoothie that taste great.
Are Raw Oats Bad For You At All?
Raw oats are not bad for you as long as you eat safe varieties. However, Harvard Health has pointed out there is no nutritional benefit, and you lose out on the nutrition released from the cooking process. Your body may also fail to fully extract the potential nutrition due to being harder to digest.
If you eat too many raw oats, your digestive system may struggle, resulting in constipation or other digestive complaints. This risk is higher if the oats are not soaked. Thus, you might want to go easy on the raw oats if you haven’t eaten them before.
You do help your digestive system out by soaking the raw oats overnight. This allows your body to get the most it can from the raw oat. But to get the greatest nutritional benefit from oats, it is best to choose a minimally processed oat and cook it.
Are There Benefits To Eating Raw Oats?
There is little evidence of any benefits from eating raw oats over cooked oats. The biggest benefit of eating raw oats is that it is a quick and easy way to add some nutrients to a smoothie or other breakfast meal.
If you are not a morning person, putting raw oats to soak the night before can give you a breakfast-to-go. Consider soaking them in kefir with some chia seeds for extra goodness. Then you can drink your raw oats on the way to work or toss in some frozen fruit and eat the concoction with a spoon.
While soaking oats takes time, it doesn’t require electricity or gas. The no-cook method provides a handy nutritional boost when you don’t have access to a cooker. Soaked oats are also a great option for people living in dorm rooms that avoid microwaves.
Can You Eat Raw Oats With Milk?
You can eat raw rolled oats with milk straight away like other breakfast cereals. To soften the texture and make the oats more easily digestible you can soak them in the milk first.
To help your body extract the nutrition from the oat, it is advised that you first soak the oats in the milk for at least 2 hours. Most people find it easier to put the oat and milk mixture in the fridge the night before.
Once they are soaked, you can add the raw oats to make a meal, such as a smoothie, or just drink it on the go.
Ways To Eat Raw Oats
Some people, like me, enjoy raw oats (soaked or not) with just a little honey to sweeten. A perfect quick, cheap and tasty breakfast. But raw oats can be used in other ways. Firstly, you could play around with what you soak your oats in.
Try soaking your oats overnight in:
- Milk or water kefir
- Greek yogurt
- Coconut water
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
You could also soak your oats overnight with a companion seed:
You can then use your soaked oats to:
- Make a parfait with nuts and fruit
- As a smoothie base
- As a cereal base, adding nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
If you are not using fruit as your sweetener, you could consider adding:
- Raw honey
Recipes with Raw Oats
Raw oats are an excellent addition to lots of different snacks and drinks. You can add them completely raw or soak and drain them first. There are plenty of fantastic recipes. Here are some of my favorites:
Raw oats can be used to add a nutritional boost to a meal or snack. However, your body will extract more nutrition from them if they are soaked beforehand. Remember not to eat groats or steel-cut oats raw, as there is a risk of ingesting unpleasant microorganisms.