Why You Should Soak Your Oats - How to prepare oats correctly (and other cereals)
When someone asks me if cereals are healthy or not, I always answer: "compared to what?" Wholegrains better than refined? Clearly. Better than ultra-processed products? Evidently. Better than fruits and vegetables? Not really.
It is also important to mention that some cereals are better than others. Oats are better than wheat, for example. But wheat is a natural food, right? Yes, but we must differentiate from the wheat that our ancestors ate to the one we eat today. Starting in the middle of the last century, wheat was subjected to a multitude of crosses and experiments that resulted in a smaller and more abundant wheat, which is what we consume today. The result was a massive production and less health for the population.
One study compared whole oats to modern whole wheat. The latter was found to worsen coronary risk markers. It also increases LDL cholesterol levels, not only the level itself, but also the number of particles, which is a better indicator of cardiovascular risk.
Besides the scientific part, who doesn't like having a rich bowl of oatmeal for breakfast? I'm personally a fan of eating oatmeal in the morning or after a good workout with a scoop of protein and my favorite milk.
Soaking oats allows them to be more digestible so we can better absorb its nutrients, as well as those of other foods that we eat with them. Many of us consume it, but very few know how it should be prepared correctly to avoid antinutrients.
Here I will tell you why to soak it, how to do it, and which one is better.
Why soak oatmeal?
Oats are composed of 50% starch, which for many people is heavy and, if soaked, it will be easier to assimilate and digest (study).
Also, oatmeal contains antinutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, phytic acid, and lectins.
Phytic acid: it’s an organic acid that contains phosphorus. It is present in foods of plant origin such as legumes, nuts and cereals in different amounts. It can bind to minerals in the gut before they are absorbed and influence digestive enzymes. Phytates also reduce the digestibility of starches, proteins, and fats.
It's not a big problem for people who have generally healthy, low-ultra-processed diet rich in vegetables, protein, and good-quality fats. But in people with a deficiency of certain minerals such as iron, zinc or calcium, or who suffer from a digestive problem or intestinal permeability or who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases, it is important to reduce the amount of phytic acid in the diet (study, study) .
Enzyme inhibitors: refers to the fact that it does not allow you to absorb nutrients. It is correct, all this time that you have consumed oatmeal without soaking it, you have not absorbed all of its nutrients and probably you have not digested it correctly due to the amount of starch. Failure to soak oats can lead to gas, irritable bowel, inflammation, and even leaky gut. For this reason, it can be the cause of why you feel inflamed towards the afternoon or night-time if you consume it without having previously "transformed" it.
However, when oatmeal is cooked, this beneficial transformation is also achieved. This is why, if you make recipes with it such as pancakes, cookies, muffins, etc., it is not necessary to soak them before.
But how should I do this soaking process?
How to soak oatmeal?
1. First, place the portion of oats that you are going to soak in a bowl or container.
2. Fill with water until all oats are covered.
3. It is convenient to add an acid to the process as 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar or lemon.
4. Don't mix the oats.
5. Leave it in a cool place. The ideal is to leave it at least 10 hours, so I recommend doing it the night before
6. When you are ready to prepare it, strain it and rinse it with more water.
* Note: It is not the same if you are going to make it to prepare a recipe for overnight oats. If so, add the milk and ingredients you’ll use and then put it in the fridge. You can see my recipe here.
Here are some delicious and healthy recipes with oatmeal that you can prepare at any time!