If you want to get the benefits of oats but dislike the texture of cooked oatmeal, you may be wondering… is it safe to eat oatmeal raw? In this article we go through the potential benefits and downsides of consuming raw oats.
What are oats?
Oats are a kind of cereal grain like wheat, barley or rye. They are typically consumed in the form of oatmeal, a warm and mushy breakfast dish. But, oats can also be used to make oat flour or in dishes like granola or granola bars.
There are several types of oats or forms of oats, largely dependent on the processing of the oats. Here are a few of the most common forms of oats.
- Old-fashioned oats or rolled oats
- Instant oats or quick oats
- Steel cut oats
You may also find oat products like whole oat groats (whole oat kernels), oat flakes and oat fiber. Overall, oats can come in a wide variety of forms.
The origins of oats go all the way back to 2000 BC, over 4000 years ago. They were found in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Over time, the cereal grain grew in popularity and now is consumed all over the world as a nutritious breakfast dish.
Where to buy
You should be able to find dry raw oats at your local grocery store in the United States considering how popular the dish is. Common oat brands include Quaker Oats, Bob’s Red Mill, Better Oats and Nature’s Path.
Are raw oats safe to eat?
Good news! Uncooked oats are safe to eat for most people. That being said, if you have swallowing difficulties, it may be best to consume oats cooked. Please speak to your doctor before attempting to consume raw oats.
Raw oats are best when used in a recipe as opposed to consuming them by themselves. Due to how dry they are, they are going to be difficult for anyone to consume whether or not you have swallowing difficulties.
You can make your raw oats into overnight oats, oat bars, energy bites or muesli. And this is just a list to start with!
Downsides of raw oats
As mentioned above, there are some downsides to consuming raw oatmeal. Despite the benefits, consuming raw oats can lead to indigestion and they do contain anti-nutrients.
They could potentially lead to indigestion
If you have swallowing difficulties or dysphagia, it may be best to at least soak your oats before consuming them. Speak to your doctor beforehand to confirm raw oats are safe to consume.
Along with this, there is a chance the raw oats can get stuck in your digestive tract if you consume large amounts. This can lead to digestive problems.
To reduce this risk, soak your oats beforehand or, to be on the safe side, cook them before consuming them.
They contain anti-nutrients
Along with this, raw oats contain an anti-nutrient called phytic acid that can reduce absorption of minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
But, despite this downside, the effects of the anti-nutrient aren’t very strong and you can easily avoid foods high in iron, zinc or calcium when consuming raw oats.
You can reduce the phytic acid content in raw oats by soaking them. THe cooking process reduces the amount as well.
And finally, if you are consuming a balanced and nutritious diet, anti-nutrients aren’t something to worry about.
Benefits of raw oats
Despite the downsides of consuming raw oats, they also have several health benefits to consider. They can be good for your gut health, aid in weight loss, improve cholesterol levels and help control your blood sugar.
They are good for gut health
Firstly, raw oats can be good for your gut health. This may seem counterintuitive to the point I made earlier, but if you don’t have any digestive issues, raw oats can be more good than harm.
½ cup of raw oats contain about 4 grams of fiber. Their high fiber content is due to the fact that they are in the whole grains category. The fiber isn’t processed out.
Fiber is very beneficial to the digestive system. While our bodies can’t digest fiber, our gut bacteria is able to. When our healthy gut microbes consume fiber, they release short chain fatty acids, which we can use as energy.
They can aid in weight loss
Along with this, raw oats can aid in weight loss. Oats are high in fiber and contain some protein, about 5 grams per ½ cup. Fiber and protein both help create a feeling of fullness.
That being said, dishes containing raw oats tend to be high in added sugars. While some added sugars can absolutely be part of a healthy weight loss diet, try to consume it in moderation.
I would recommend only letting 7-10% of your daily calories come from added sugar. This comes out to about 35-50 grams of added sugar daily.
They can improve cholesterol levels
Since raw oats are high in fiber, they can also help lower cholesterol levels which in turn can improve your overall heart health and reduce risk of heart disease.
The Food Drug Administration or FDA states that the soluble beta-glucan fiber in oats can reduce risk of coronary heart disease and reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Overall, oats are a very heart healthy food whether you consume them raw or cooked in a dish like oatmeal.
They can help control blood sugar levels
Along with this, raw oats can help control blood sugar levels in those with type II diabetes or insulin resistance.
One meta-analysis of studies found that the beta-glucan fiber in oats improved markers of fasting and post meal blood sugar control in those with type II diabetes.
If you struggle with controlling your blood sugar levels, oats can be a good source of carbohydrates when consumed in moderation. Speak to your doctor before adding any new foods to your diet.
Now let’s break down the nutritional value of raw oats to see how nutritious they are. All nutrition facts are collected from cronometer.com using the entry “Oats, Regular or Quick, Dry” from the NCC database.
½ cup of raw oats contains about 153 calories. You may notice that this is high in calories compared to other grains. This is because the oats are uncooked and therefore more dense.
On the other hand, ½ cup of cooked oats contains about 80 calories. As the oats cook, they swell with the water or milk and become less dense and more comparable in calories to other cooked grains like rice.
½ cup of raw oats contain about 27 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fiber, giving it a high fiber content.
Nowadays, many worry about the amount of carbohydrates they consume. Unless you have diabetes or insulin resistance, I wouldn’t recommend stressing about it.
Try to consume mostly high fiber sources of carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
½ cup of raw oats contains about 5 grams of protein. While this isn’t a large amount of protein compared to meat, legumes or nuts and seeds, it’s a good amount compared to other grains.
Other whole grains like whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, brown rice or quinoa are also high in protein compared to refined grains like white pasta, white bread and white rice.
½ cup of raw oats contains about 3 grams of fat with 0.4 grams of saturated fat. Most of the fat comes from healthy fats like polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.
Compared to other grains, oats are somewhat high in fat. But, since most of those fats come from healthy sources, it isn’t something to be concerned with.
½ cup of raw oats is also a good source of various essential nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals.
They are a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to eat oats raw or cooked?
The best way is whatever way you enjoy the most. There is no significantly better option. That being said, raw oats have a bigger risk of indigestion and mineral depletion. But that risk isn’t significant.
In the end, eating oats, in any form, is beneficial. If you enjoy raw oats but hate cooked oats, stick with raw. And likewise, if you prefer cooked to raw, consume your oats raw. Whatever gets you to consume oats is the best option.
Is it ok to eat raw oats in a smoothie?
Yes! In fact, smoothies are a great way to add oats in your diet if you don’t enjoy the texture. I love adding raw oats to my pumpkin banana and mixed berry smoothies.
Adding oats can be a great way to add more fiber to your smoothies as well as increase the calories and protein slightly.
Is it ok to eat steel-cut oats raw?
Steel-cut oats have a rather hard exterior and make it very difficult to consume raw. I wouldn’t recommend consuming steel-cut oats raw and would recommend rolled oats as an alternative.
The type of oats you consume will affect the texture of the dish you are making, steel cut oats typically require cooking to have a softer texture.
Do you need to soak your oats?
Soaking your oats before consuming them is a generally good idea. It reduces anti-nutrients and makes oats easier to swallow and digest.
While you don’t need to soak your oats, especially in recipes like muesli or energy bites where they are combined with other ingredients, it’s probably a good idea.
Recipes using raw rolled oats
There are several recipes you can try using raw oats. These aren’t the only options, so be sure to do your own research to find other fun recipes out there.
- ½ cup rolled raw oats (no steel-cut)
- ¾ cup milk of choice (cow’s milk, oat milk, almond milk, hemp milk)
- 1 tbsp sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, agave nectar)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Toppings: fresh fruit, sliced almonds, honey, etc.
Combine the rolled oats, milk, sweetener and chia seeds in a mason jar. Stir with a spoon or add top and shake to combine. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight and add toppings in the morning. Then enjoy!
- ½ cup rolled oats (no steel-cut)
- ⅓ cup shredded coconut
- ¼ cup nut butter of choice
- ¼ cup flaxseed or chia seeds
- ¼ cup chocolate chips
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
This recipe was adapted from “No Bake Energy Bites” on gimmesomeoven.com. Combine all of the ingredients below and use a spatula or a gloved hand to combine. Then, roll into small balls and lay on a tray. Enjoy or store for later in the refrigerator.
Other recipe ideas include no-bake energy bars or granola bars, homemade muesli or raw oatmeal “cereal”.