There’s nothing better than a nice soak… and your oats and digestive tract will thank you for it!
Soaking Oats: Why Bother?
Here’s the thing:
Oats (and other grains) are actually really hard to digest. They are seeds. Seeds aren’t meant to be digested.
A Grain’s first job is to stay intact through the digestive tract so they can germinate and start growing when they come out the other end.
Phytic acid is one tool that helps oats stay intact through the digestive system. It blocks the digestive enzymes in the body. Phytic acid also binds to important minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium making them hard to absorb. So, phytic acid has to go!
Soaking helps to release enzymes (phytase) that begin breaking down phytic acid. The body can then absorb more nutrients (and in case you’re wondering: yes, it’s a good idea to soak other seeds and even nuts before eating them too).
Should We Eat Grains at All Then?
I don’t eat grains anymore in order to heal my Hashimoto’s. So I get asked whether grains are bad for everyone. I know there is a lot of contradicting advice and opinions on this topic, but here’s my take:
There is nothing in grains that we can’t get from other sources (more easily and in greater amounts). Vitamins, minerals, and fiber can all be found in fruits, vegetables, and animal products.
If you don’t eat animal products you can still get most of what you need from fruits, vegetables, and plant protein sources. What you can’t get from plant protein sources you can’t get from grains either.
I’m not trying to convince anyone to eat or not eat animal products, but if you want to know my take, I wrote about it here.
That being said, humans have been eating grains for a long time. Many argue that grains have been part of the human diet since biblical times, so they must be okay.
Katie at Wellness Mama addresses this argument and touches on a few interesting points. One is that grains have always been a food eaten in hard times, not during celebration. This makes me think that grains are okay in moderation but not the ideal food. Basically a whole “junk” food.
Industrialized Grains are Not the Same as Ancient Grains
Ancient humans that ate grains didn’t eat the same kind of grains we have today. Since industrialized grains came around we’ve seen huge increases in metabolic and other diseases. So, the kind of grains we eat plays a part too.
Processed and refined grains = bad.
Ancient grains properly prepared by soaking and sprouting = likely okay for some people in moderation.
Which people? Anyone dealing with health issues, especially metabolic, autoimmune, or gut health-related, should question whether grains are helping or hurting them. And of course, talk with your doctor for advice for your specific situation.
Properly Soaking Oats
Soaking oats is fairly simple, you just need to be organized to get them soaking on time!
- Oats need to soak in an acid overnight to break down anti-nutrients.
- Oats are very low in the enzyme phytase which is needed to break down phytic acid. So that’s why properly soaked oats must include something to add enough phytase, in my case I use buckwheat cereal.
- Oats should soak for at least 12 hours but 24 is best, and a little longer is ok too. I usually start them soaking at night so we can have them in the morning.
- This recipe is also gluten-free and dairy-free!
- 1 cup rolled or steel-cut oats (gluten-free if you’re gluten-free)
- 1-2 tbs. buckwheat groats or cereal (I like this one)
- 1 tbs. raw ACV (I like this one)
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Warm water
Add ingredients to a large bowl. Add warm water to cover and leave at least an inch of water over the oats. Cover and let sit on the counter overnight (12-24 hours).
When they’re done soaking rinse them in a colander under cold water.
Soaking Oats: How to Use Them
Now that you have some oats soaked and ready to go you can prepare them a couple of ways.
- Cook them quick. Place in a saucepan, add 1/3 cup or so of water or milk and cook until creamy (4-6 minutes). Add toppings or mix-ins too!
- Add them to a recipe. Replace raw oats in a baking recipe with soaked oats. You will have to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by roughly 1 cup per cup of unsoaked oats.
- Dry them in a dehydrator and use later.
- Make homemade granola. Yum!
Have you tried soaking oats? Have you noticed a difference in your digestion?
What do you recommend to make oat milk? presoaking with acid or vinegar and rinsing with cold water would yield creamy oat milk too?
I’ve never tried making oat milk so I’m not sure. It’s worth a try though!
Hi Virgie, I soak my oats with a little lemon juice added (instead of the apple cider vinegar) …you don’t have to rinse them after soaking, and can blend it all together to make your oat milk.
Len Richard Gensens says
Great site, thanks!
Is there anything else I could add instead of the buckwheat cereal?
I decided to use wheat germ tonight. Just done soaking the oats. Will share the outcome tomorrow.
Hi Mindy. Ive always soaked overnight in water and then rinsed my oats as you suggest. Many recipes have everything in a jar / bowl overnight and, hence, no rinsing. My question is: when the oats soak and make the water milky – what is that and is it good for you? Are we rinsing off the good stuff or rinsing off bad stuff in the colander?
I’d like to know answer to Tom’s question too. MANY sites say to not rinse and use that same water to cook the oats.
Nevermind. I found the answer. Better to leave water in.
Does soaking the oats and then rinsing it remove its nutrition value?
Nope, it improves it.
Joni Raskin says
How can drinking the soaking water with acv to break down the acid be good for you? Makes no sense…
You’re right. That makes no sense. Where did you see anyone suggesting that?
Patrick Connolly says
how does rinsing improve it’s nutritional value?
It’s the soaking that has the benefit.
Is there something we can use besides the buckwheat cereal?
Barley has a high amount of phytase but it’s not gluten-free.
The problem with no grains for someone like me (I have adrenal issues and need a lot of carbs.) is that there aren’t that many other high carb sources out there. Winter squash can’t compare in carb content to grains. Potatoes can (and maybe beans if you can eat them), but that’s it. Having said that, I am in a bind because I also have auto immune issues and do experience some symptoms when I eat grains. So I need them for hormone health (and good sleep) but my immune system reacts to them, even with soaking. I’m going to see it soaking the oats for 24 hours vs just overnight helps.
I have always wondered about the soaking vs not soaking and wether to use the soaking water. I believe I have a better understanding now.
How do others handle nuts and seeds in this way?
We eat plant based and are trying to go next level on how to handle grains, nuts and seeds properly.
Tracy Matesz says
Hi, I’ve come to similar conclusions. I had consumed fully plant-based and macrobiotic diets in the past, which were grain and bean heavy. Ugh. Not going back there again! I do enjoy a little sprouted or naturally fermented rye bread again, after 2+ years w/o any grains. Animal centered, w/ focus of fruit first for carbs, yet the Manna Organics sprouted breads or their sourdough works ok for me, tho I typically only eat one slice (50g of the fully sprouted.) I was putting together a whole grain e-book, mostly because I had a ton of whole grain recipe books out while macrobiotic, but removed them from the market, and some people have asked for them. I thought I’d have them available for those interested. I wanted to add an oatcake recipe, and wondered about soaking the oats first, so that’s how I found your site. Thanks for the info. I’m wondering if you’ve ever soaked in kefir or even milk? Just curious, because I usually use milk instead of water in the recipe. I never thought to add another grain higher in phytase either, so I will need to see what I have. We gave away a TON of good quality grains, including lots of barley earlier in the year before relocating!
Diego Riveron says
Do i have to cook my oats after 12 hours being soaked? Because i cook them like 5 minutes
I guess you could skip cooking them if the texture works for you :)
Claire Leonard says
I guess your article is about whole oats. I buy partially pre-cooked organic oats – steamed I think (that are then re-dehydrated for package+sale ) that I use for making porridge. Would the pre-cooking break down the phytic acid?
I don’t know for sure, but I would think not. I believe some people find those easier to digest though.
Rosa Dominguez says
Mindy, is it good to drink the water where you soaked the oats /
I’m not sure about this. Why Would you want to?
If I wanted to make overnight oats after soaking, do you have any tips? Will they keep for 3+ days after this process? I like to make them in batches.
I’m not sure but I would think they would be fine for overnight oats. I would think they would be good for a few days too.
Do the 1-2 tbs. of buckwheat groats have to also be soaked overnight, along with the oats?
is the buckwheat used for taste or to help with the phytic acid removing? also is salt as good as CV for taking out phytic acid? Lastly, if using a bain marie – is it still 1/3 cup of milk to cook? thanks so much for your help
The buckwheat is to help remove the phytic acid. I’m not sure about using salt to help remove the phytic acid. I’m also not sure about the bain marie as I’ve never used one. Sorry! Let me know if you try the salt or bain marie!
It’s really great to find an article that actually mentions how to properly reduce phytic acid! I’ve been researching anti-nutrients and it’s amazing how many people don’t know this, people who write articles and believe soaking (without added phytase) is enough.
I don’t know if it helps with my digestion because all of the oatmeal goes to my dog, lol. He has kidney disease and oatmeal is one of my favorite foods for him. I didn’t know about soaking with rye flour or buckwheat until very recently though! I’m glad I finally figured it out.
Glad you did too!
apologies for double post..
kaaren burk says
I bought sprouted oats … do these need to be soaked?
I would think they are already soaked if they are sprouted, but I’m not 100% sure.
Thanks for this needed info. It makes my life a bit more complicated but I welcome being able to use oats without guilt or digestive issues. Oat crackers had become a staple, and I look forward to making them after soaking the oats.
May I use organic whole Spring wheat flour instead of buckwheat cereal? I have read that there is phytase in wheat….
Sounds like it might work.
I’ve heard that soaking the oats in black tea works. Would this make sense?
I’ve never heard of using black tea. Does it contain phytase?
I don’t know
you kind of went back and forth on the “rinsing” of the oats after soaking over night….. is it more nutritious to rinse or not rinse the soaked water the next day off of the oats before cooking?
The directions say to rinse them. I don’t see anywhere else where I say not to rinse.
My daughter in Baltimore told me a year ago about soaking oats but she didn’t tell me about rinsing them afterwards!
I am learning so much from terrific responses to questions and I thank you so very much!
One question remains for me….. is it okay after I do all that to cook them in the microwave?
Yes, you can cook them in the microwave if you prefer.
Craig M. Berg says
Should I soak quick oats overnight?
You could if you want!