Eating uncooked oats is generally safe, but it may cause some digestive upset in some people. Oats are almost always heated or cooked in some way before being consumed, but they can be eaten raw if desired.
Can you eat uncooked oats?
Yes, it is possible to eat uncooked oats. Oats are seeds from the oat plant that are harvested and processed to make oatmeal, granola bars, and other oat-based foods. Most of the time, oats are steamed, rolled, baked, or cooked in some way before eating. But oats can also be consumed raw right out of the container.
Are raw oats safe to eat?
Raw oats are generally considered safe to eat. Oats do not contain any toxins or harmful compounds that are activated or deactivated during cooking. The main concern with eating raw oats is digestibility. Since raw oats are harder and drier than cooked oats, they can be more difficult for your body to break down during digestion.
Do raw oats have nutrients?
Yes, raw oats still contain the same nutrients as cooked oats. This includes:
- Fiber – Oats are high in a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has benefits for heart health, blood sugar control, and digestion.
- Protein – Oats contain decent amounts of plant-based protein.
- B Vitamins – Oats are a good source of thiamin, niacin, folate and B6.
- Minerals – Oats provide manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron.
- Antioxidants – Oats contain polyphenol antioxidants called avenanthramides.
Soaking or cooking oats makes these nutrients more bioavailable to your body. But raw oats still provide a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant protein.
Do raw oats have anti-nutrients?
All whole grains, including oats, contain some antinutrients like phytic acid. Phytic acid can bind to minerals like iron, zinc and calcium and reduce their absorption. However, soaking, sprouting or fermenting oats can help to reduce phytic acid.
Are there benefits to eating raw oats?
Potential benefits of eating raw oats include:
- Higher fiber content – Cooked oats may lose some insoluble fiber from the cooking process.
- Crunchy texture – Raw oats provide more texture and chewing compared to soft, cooked oatmeal.
- More flavor – Raw oats have a mild, nutty flavor that some people prefer over cooked oatmeal.
- Probiotics – Soaking oats may boost probiotics, which support digestive health.
- Faster breakfast – Raw oats require no cooking and can be eaten immediately.
Are there downsides to eating raw oats?
Possible downsides of consuming raw oats include:
- Digestive issues – Raw oats may cause bloating, gas, constipation or stomach pain in sensitive people.
- Lower nutrient absorption – The phytic acid in raw oats can hinder mineral absorption.
- Grittiness – The dry, hard texture of raw oats can be unappealing to some people.
- Increased calorie density – Raw oats have less volume per serving compared to cooked oatmeal.
- Higher glycemic index – Cooked oats generally have a lower glycemic index, which is better for blood sugar control.
Do raw oats need to be soaked?
It’s not strictly necessary to soak raw oats, but soaking can make them easier to chew and digest. Soaking oats for at least 30 minutes can begin to soften them and neutralize phytic acid. You can soak oats overnight in milk or water in the fridge for maximum benefits.
Are instant oats raw?
No, instant oats are not raw. Instant oats go through a processing called pre-cooking. First, the oats are steamed for a period of time to soften them. Then, they are rolled very thinly so they cook faster. This pre-cooking process cooks the oats to some degree before you cook them again at home.
Can you eat raw oats on a keto diet?
Raw oats are relatively high in carbs, so they are not ideal for a keto diet. A 1/4 cup serving of dry oats contains about 20 grams of total carbs and 16 grams of net carbs, which is likely too high to stay in ketosis.
Can you eat raw oats on a paleo diet?
Oats are avoided on the paleo diet because they contain gluten. While oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often cross-contaminated with gluten during growing and processing. For this reason, raw oats are not considered paleo diet compliant.
Can raw oats make you sick?
Raw oats are unlikely to make you sick or cause food poisoning on their own. However, raw oats could potentially contain trace amounts of pesticides, heavy metals, or bacteria from improper handling or storage. Contamination is rare, but practicing food safety is always important.
Can raw oats cause digestive problems?
For most people, raw oats are well tolerated with no issues. But some individuals may experience digestive problems like bloating, gas, cramping or constipation when eating raw oats. This is more likely in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or gluten sensitivity.
Do raw oats have gluten?
Oats are naturally gluten-free grains. However, many experts advise against eating uncooked oats if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity due to cross-contamination risks during growing and processing.
Are steel cut oats raw?
Steel cut oats are not considered raw, because they are created by cutting up whole oat groats with steel blades. This mechanical processing provides some heat that lightly cooks the oats. So while not fully raw, steel cut oats are still less processed than rolled or instant oats.
Can babies eat raw oats?
Most sources recommend not feeding raw oats to infants or babies. Raw oats may be choking hazards or difficult for babies to digest properly. Older babies can start eating well-cooked, mashed oatmeal around 6 months old.
Can dogs eat raw oats?
Yes, dogs can safely eat plain, uncooked oats in moderation. Oats provide dogs with fiber, manganese, and healthy carbs. But don’t feed dogs flavored instant oats, which may contain sugar, salt or artificial flavors.
Can cats eat raw oats?
It’s generally not recommended to feed raw oats to cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and digest plant foods poorly. Raw oats could upset your cat’s stomach or lead to indigestion. Cooked oatmeal should also be fed sparingly to cats, if at all.
What do raw oats taste like?
Raw oats have a mildly sweet, nutty flavor. They taste similar to whole wheat grains. Raw oats have a firm, crunchy texture that becomes chewy when soaked. Most people find the flavor of raw oats pleasant, though bland compared to cooked oatmeal with mix-ins.
How to eat raw oats
Here are some ways you can enjoy raw oats:
- Add raw oats to smoothies or protein shakes for extra nutrition.
- Sprinkle raw oats on top of yogurt, fruit salads or chia pudding.
- Use as croutons replacement on soups or salads.
- Mix into homemade granola bars, energy bites or trail mixes.
- Soak overnight then add milk and toppings for raw oatmeal.
- Use in place of breadcrumbs to coat chicken, fish or tofu.
Recommended serving sizes
It’s best to start with small servings of raw oats to see how your digestion tolerates them. Here are some suggested serving sizes:
- 1/4 cup dry oats (about 20g)
- 1/2 cup soaked oats
- 1/4-1/2 cup raw oatmeal
- 2-3 tbsp raw oats added to smoothies or yogurt
Here is the nutrition breakdown for a 1/4 cup (81g) serving of dry oats:
DV = Daily Value
Potential health benefits
Here are some of the top evidence-based health benefits associated with oats:
- Heart health – Oats contain beta-glucan fiber which can lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Blood sugar control – The fiber in oats helps moderate blood sugar spikes after eating.
- Weight loss – Oats are high volume and high in fiber, which promotes fullness.
- Digestion – Oat bran acts as a prebiotic and helps encourage healthy gut bacteria.
- Regularity – The insoluble fiber in oats adds bulk to stool and prevents constipation.
Risks and precautions
It’s important to be aware of these precautions with eating raw oats:
- Practice proper food safety and storage to avoid contamination.
- Introduce raw oats gradually and drink plenty of water to ease digestion.
- Soak or cook raw oats if you have digestive issues or sensitive GI tract.
- Consult your doctor before adding raw oats if you have a gluten-related disorder or IBS.
- Don’t eat raw oats if you take medication that requires food to be cooked.
- Avoid raw oats if you have difficulty chewing or swallowing.
The bottom line
Eating raw oats is perfectly safe for most people. While less popular than cooked oatmeal, raw oats still provide a range of nutrients. Soaking raw oats can reduce phytic acid and make them easier to digest. Raw oats offer more texture and faster preparation compared to cooked oats. Still, cooked oatmeal is lower on the glycemic index and may be better tolerated overall. As with any new food, add raw oats to your diet in small amounts to assess your personal tolerance.