Oats (Avena sativa) are popular worldwide and linked to many health benefits.
Plus, they’re versatile and can be enjoyed cooked or raw in various recipes.
This article explains whether eating raw oats is healthy.
Oats are a widely consumed whole grain.
Since your body cannot digest the kernels, they must be processed, which includes (1):
- Separating the hull from the oat groats
- Heat and moisture treatment
- Sizing and categorization
- Flaking or milling
The final products are oat bran, oat flour, or oat flakes (also known as rolled oats).
A popular breakfast favorite, oat flakes can be enjoyed cooked or raw.
This means that you can either boil them, as when preparing oatmeal or porridge, or enjoy them cold, such as by adding raw oats to shakes.
That said, due to the heating process that all oat kernels undergo to make them digestible, raw oats are technically cooked.
Summary Raw oats are rolled oat flakes that have been heated during processing but not boiled for use in recipes like oatmeal or porridge.
A 1-cup (81-gram) serving of raw oats contains (3):
- Calories: 307
- Carbs: 55 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Protein: 11 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Magnesium: 27% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Selenium: 43% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 27% of the DV
- Potassium: 6% of the DV
- Zinc: 27% of the DV
Aside from being rich in nutrients like magnesium, selenium, and phosphorus, oats are packed with soluble fiber, a type of beneficial dietary fiber that forms a gel-like substance when digested (4).
The main variety of soluble fiber in oats is beta-glucan, which is responsible for most of the grain’s health benefits (5).
Oats are also rich in highly absorbable plant protein and provide more of this nutrient than many other grains.
Summary Oats offer more soluble fiber and high-quality protein than other grains, as well as many vitamins and minerals.
May help lower cholesterol levels
Beta-glucan acts by forming a gel in your small intestine. This gel restricts the absorption of dietary cholesterol and interferes with the reabsorption of bile salts, which play an essential role in the metabolism of fats (15, 16).
Research has determined that daily doses of at least 3 grams of oat beta-glucan can reduce blood cholesterol levels by 5–10% (10).
What’s more, a test-tube study discovered that raw oats release around 26% of their beta-glucan content during digestion, compared with only 9% for cooked oats. Thus, they may affect fat metabolism and cholesterol levels to a greater extent (11).
May promote blood sugar control
Blood sugar control is vital for health and especially important for people with type 2 diabetes or those who have difficulties producing or responding to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Beta-glucan has been shown to help control blood sugar due to its ability to form a gel-like substance in your digestive system.
A review of 10 studies in people with type 2 diabetes found that daily intake of foods containing at least 4 grams of beta-glucan per 30 grams of carbs for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels by 46%, compared with the control group (19, 20).
May benefit heart health
One 12-week study in 110 people with untreated high blood pressure found that consuming 8 grams of soluble fiber from oats per day reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers of a reading), compared with the control group (23).
Similarly, in a 6-week study in 18 people with elevated blood pressure levels, those consuming 5.5 grams of beta-glucan per day experienced a 7.5 and 5.5 mm Hg reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively, compared with a control group (24).
What’s more, in a 4-week study in 88 people taking medication for high blood pressure, 73% of those consuming 3.25 grams of soluble fiber from oats daily could either stop or reduce their medication, compared with 42% of participants in the control group (25).
Healthy for your gut
Another health effect attributed to oats is their ability to support a healthy bowel by increasing fecal bulk (9).
This effect is due to the insoluble fiber in oats, which, unlike soluble fiber, is not water-soluble and thus doesn’t form a gel-like substance.
The bacteria in your intestines don’t ferment insoluble fiber to the same extent as they ferment soluble fiber, which increases your stool size.
It’s estimated that oats increase stool weight by 3.4 grams per gram of dietary fiber consumed (26).
One study in people with constipation found that 59% of participants who consumed oat fiber from oat bran could stop taking laxatives (28).
Raw oats naturally contain oat bran, though you can also buy it on its own.
May promote weight loss
In part, this may be because soluble fibers can help you feel fuller for longer (29).
Two studies determined that eating oats increased feelings of fullness and suppressed the desire to eat over four hours, compared with ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. These effects were attributed to the beta-glucan content of the oats (33, 34).
Thus, raw oats may help you maintain or lose weight.
Summary Raw oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that may lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Eating raw oats may also relieve constipation and promote weight loss.
Though raw oats are safe to eat, it’s recommended to soak them in water, juice, milk, or a nondairy milk alternative to avoid some unwanted side effects.
Eating dry raw oats could lead them to build up in your stomach or intestines, resulting in indigestion or constipation.
Moreover, raw oats contain the antinutrient phytic acid, which binds to minerals like iron and zinc, making it difficult for your body to absorb them. This could lead to mineral deficiencies over time but isn’t usually a problem if you eat a well-balanced diet overall.
Summary The phytic acid in raw oats inhibits mineral absorption. Soaking raw oats reduces their phytic acid content. It also makes it easier for your body to digest them and helps prevent constipation.
Raw oats are an incredibly versatile ingredient.
You can add them as a topping to your favorite yogurt or blend them into a smoothie.
One easy and nutritious way to enjoy raw oats is to make overnight oats by letting them soak in the refrigerator in water or milk.
This allows them to absorb the liquid, making them easily digestible in the morning.
To prepare overnight oats you’ll need:
- 1 cup (83 grams) of raw oats
- 1 cup (240 ml) of water, yogurt, or a dairy or nondairy milk of your choice
- 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon of your preferred sweetener, such as honey, maple syrup, sugar, or a sugar substitute
- 1/2 cup of fresh fruit, such as banana or apple slices
Mix all of the ingredients in a lidded container to prevent the oats from drying out and leave them in the refrigerator overnight.
If you want, you can add more fresh fruit along with nuts or seeds in the morning.
Summary Raw oats can be enjoyed in many ways. Still, remember to let them soak for a while before eating them to improve digestibility.
Raw oats are nutritious and safe to eat.
As they’re high in the soluble fiber beta-glucan, they may aid weight loss and improve your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and heart and gut health.
They’re also easy to add to your diet. Just remember to soak them first to enhance digestibility and nutrient absorption.