Ever notice how certain foods (and sometimes even nutrients) seem to take turns going between the spotlight and the hot seat? I’ve seen that a lot lately with Oats, and I think I know a reason why:
Did you know the way you prepare a bowl of oatmeal completely determines its nutritional value?
Based on a few key decisions that begin in the supermarket, your oatmeal can either become a heart-healthy, fully satiating meal OR an overly-processed cheap snack full of artificial flavorings, refined sugar, and empty calories. Up to you!
It’s because the processed kind you buy in packets off the supermarket shelf is drastically different than the type I love to make: old-fashioned oats that you soak overnight.
Also known as Overnight Oatmeal, this is the version that keeps your energy levels soaring and your body thriving, and it’s as easy to make as 1, 2, 3!
Make it With Me!
Yield: about 4 Servings
You will need: measuring cups and spoons, saucepan with a lid, mixing spoon
1 cup oats
2 Tablespoons of an acidic medium of your choosing:
- apple cider vinegar
- lemon juice
The Night Before:
1. Place oats in large bowl and cover with 1 cup warm filtered water, and mix in 2 Tablespoons of your acidic medium (I use apple cider vinegar in the video).
2. Cover and leave on counter (not in fridge) for at least 7 (but no more than 24) hours.
The Next Day:
3. Strain off soaking water from the oatmeal and give the oats a quick rinse with fresh water.
4. Combine soaked oats with 1-1.5 cups of fresh, filtered water on the stovetop. Allow to simmer for several minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add in or top with anything that sounds good to you, like nuts, fruits, spices, seeds, honey, raisins, or maple syrup. What you don't eat right away can marinate in those flavors while you store it in the refrigerator.
To optimize the absorption of the fat-soluble nutrients, try serving it with coconut oil, coconut milk, or coconut cream.
Choose Your Oats Wisely
All forms of oatmeal derive from oat groats, which are whole, unbroken oat grains. When you're at the grocery store, you want to look for "steel cut oat groats” or “rolled groats" (sometimes called “rolled oats” or “old-fashioned oats”). These oats were sent through a rolling machine, producing thick flakes of oatmeal, and are the most wholesome option.
The flatter groats are rolled, the more processed they become. Do yourself a huge favor and avoid the 5-minute oats, the quick-cook oats, and definitely those processed instant oatmeal packets I mentioned above.
Processing grains removes many of the vital nutrients and reduces the amount of fiber the whole grain contains. And we want that fiber! It’s fiber that allows for a slow, steady release of energy after you eat the oats, and it’s fiber that stabilizes your blood sugar.
Additionally, keep in mind that whole grains can actually cause digestive issues when prepared improperly (which unfortunately, most people actually do)!
Consider this: all grains contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid, a phosphorous-bound compound that binds to important minerals when it passes through our stomach (like zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper), blocking their absorption into our systems.
Grains also naturally contain a variety of enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion and put stress on the pancreas, sugar complexes the body can't break down, hard-to-digest proteins like gluten, and irritating tannins.
These substances are not meant to harm us - they are simply part of the plants’ protection adaptations to prevent premature sprouting - but they can have harmful side effects if consumed in large quantities over time.
So what to do? Well, to make grains easier for our system to process so we can utilize all of their wonderful nutrients and energy, we simply need to take simple steps to remove those substances.
In order to fully benefit from all of the nutrients they contain, we need to prepare grains in a way that imitates nature’s process: they need a little warmth, a little time, and a bit of acidity to sprout properly.
This brings us to our next step, an important one rooted in ancient traditions from around the globe. Our ancestors knew what modern society has all but forgotten: that soaked, sprouted and fermented grains reap bigger benefits!
Soak, Sprout or Ferment
Soaking, sprouting or fermenting your grains for as little as 7 hours allows for things like the breakdown of the phytic acid, the neutralization of enzyme inhibitors, and the dismantling of the complex gluten-protein into simpler components, all of which add up to easier digestion, increased nutrient intake, and more energy!
Including this prep step also adds beneficial enzymes to the grain, noticeably increasing the amount of B vitamins (which have a host of benefits, like helping us convert food into fuel!)
What’s more, soaking effectively begins pre-digestion of a grain so that your body doesn’t have to struggle with handling it, and can focus on enjoying that long-lasting, stable energy you get instead.
These days, it’s pretty common to know someone (or be someone!) who chooses to eat a gluten-free diet. Sometimes that’s a well-thought out plan, but sometimes, it’s an unnecessary trade-off.
Sometimes, what is ACTUALLY needed is to add this gluten-busting step to your food prep or to look for products that do.
Have you ever tried Tru Roots sprouted quinoa or Ezekiel sprouted grain bread? You can find them in the freezer section at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and many other grocery stores.
I know lots of people who have had luck transitioning from a gluten-free diet to a soaked/sprouted/fermented diet, so experimenting might be something to keep in mind!
Remember though, just like “gluten-free” doesn’t automatically mean “healthy”, neither does “sprouted.” Nutritional theory, information, and best practice is an ever-evolving science, and we are each unique in our physiology, so YOU are the expert on your body and your health.
Always, always read the food label, and be aware of what else is in your gluten-free or sprouted product -- if it’s lots of added sugar, you probably want to re-think it.
I'd love to hear about your experience - have you experimented with eliminating gluten, eliminating grains, trying out sprouted or sourdough breads, fermented or sprouted grains, or have an opinion?