Overnight oats is the hottest (cold) breakfast around — and for good reason. Simply soak raw oats in milk in the evening, and by the next morning, you’ve got a dish that’s a filling grab-and-go option for busy days. But you may wonder if you can eat raw oats on a regular basis and still get the benefits from this pantry staple. Well, it turns out that eating uncooked oats is more than okay — it can be an even healthier choice than hot oatmeal! To find out what gives raw oats the nutritional advantage over the cooked kind, we tapped a registered dietitian who reveals their bonus benefits. Keep reading for these insights and three recipes for enjoying uncooked oats all day long, not just in the morning!
How oats are made and processed
If you’ve ever wondered how your rolled, steel-cut or instant oats are made, it all starts with the same source: oat grass. This plant produces seeds (also called grouts), which are then processed to yield the hearty grains that end up in your breakfast bowl.
Instant oats are the most processed variety as the grouts are steamed and rolled thin so they cook in 1 to 2 minutes. Meanwhile, steel-cut oats are made by cutting the grouts into smaller pieces — no heat or pressing used — which results in a 30-minute cook time. Rolled oats fall in the middle because they’re steamed and slightly flattened similar to instant oats, but they cook in about 5 minutes.
Regardless of your oat preferences, this pantry staple is brimming with nutty flavors and healing properties.
The health benefits of oats
Oats being viewed as a superfood is no exaggeration. A ½-cup serving of plain oatmeal contains approximately 150 calories, 5 grams of protein and less than 3 grams of fat — all of which fuel cell growth and energy storage. Additionally, research highlights more benefits of enjoying oats on a regular basis.
1. They help ward off chronic inflammation and diseases.
The nutrients found in oats do wonders for helping you look and feel your best. In fact, 1 cup of oats contains about 9 grams of fiber, 42 grams of calcium and 293 milligrams (mg) of potassium. These nutrients are essential as they’ve been shown to protect against inflammation, chronic disease, high cholesterol and premature aging.
2. Oats help improve mood.
Oats are bursting with complex carbohydrates that can benefit your mood. According to research, this is due to complex carbs raising insulin levels, which encourages the production of a hormone called serotonin. “Serotonin is crucial not only to control your appetite and stop you from overeating; it’s essential to keep your moods regulated,” Judith Wurtman, PhD, says.
3. They help quell hunger cravings.
That full feeling you experience after eating a bowl of oatmeal is all thanks to fiber, more specifically soluble fiber. Research published in the journal Foods notes that this fiber turns into a gel-like substance that helps slow digestion. As a result, soluble fiber is linked with promoting satiety and curbing hunger cravings. (Click through to learn about the weight loss benefits of soluble fiber.)
Raw oats vs. cooked oatmeal
Although the benefits of oats are well-documented, you can get extra nutritional perks by eating them raw. The reason: Oats retain more of their nutrients when they’re not exposed to heat, providing you with maximum benefits.
One key nutritional difference between raw and cooked oats is their levels of resistant starch, a type of starch that’s not digested by your small intestine. It’s reported that ¼ cup of uncooked oats contains more than 4 grams of resistant starch, whereas one whole cup of cooked oatmeal contains less than 1 gram of the starch. “Since raw oats contain more resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic, they support the growth of healthy gut bacteria and promote digestive health,” says registered dietitian Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN. (Read our story on the potato diet to discover more benefits of resistant starch.)
On top of this, uncooked oats typically also offer greater blood sugar control than their cooked counterparts. “Raw oats have a lower glycemic index compared to cooked oats, meaning they cause a slower and steadier increase in blood sugar levels,” Arsenault explains. “This is helpful for regulating your blood sugar, especially if you live with diabetes.”
Ultimately, leaving oats in their raw state is a smart choice for creating a healthy and hearty meal. Plus, uncooked oats require minimal prep when including them in your everyday meals!
4 ideas for adding raw oats to your diet
Below, Arsenault shares five dishes where raw oats add a nutrient, flavor and texture boost.
1. Overnight oats
Combine raw oats with milk or yogurt, fruits, nuts and seeds. Let it sit in the fridge overnight for a quick and nutritious breakfast. We’ve got a tasty recipe inspired by apple pie below. (Click through for more insight on why overnight oats are a healthy breakfast choice.)
Blend raw oats into your morning smoothies for added fiber and a thicker texture.
3. Yogurt parfait
Layer raw oats with yogurt, fruits and nuts to create a delicious and satisfying parfait.
Crush 1 to 2 Tbs. of raw oats in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse mixture. Then, sprinkle the oats on top of a salad for extra crunch.
3 delicious uncooked oats recipes
For recipes featuring raw oats, check out these three below. Whether you’re craving a filling breakfast, nourishing snack or delicious dessert, there’s an oat recipe for you!
Honey Nut Energy Balls
These energy balls are the perfect pick-me-up that also satisfies your snack cravings.
- 1½ cups oats
- ½ cup nut butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup protein powder
- Toasted or plain sesame seeds
- Active: 10 mins
- Total time: 15 mins
- Yield: 12 energy balls
- In medium-sized bowl, mix oats, nut butter, honey and protein powder until sticky dough forms.
- Form mixture into even-sized 12 balls, placing each on plate after forming. Sprinkle enough sesame seeds to cover surface of separate plate; roll balls in sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Apple Maple Overnight Oats
There’s no better way to start the day than these overnight oats!
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ tsp. + pinch of ground cinnamon
- 2 apples, cored, diced
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- Active: 10 mins
- Total time: 8 hrs
- Yield: 4 servings
- In 8-oz. jar, combine ½ cup oats, ½ cup milk, 2 Tbs. maple syrup and ⅛ tsp. cinnamon; stir and cover. Repeat with 3 more jars, remaining oats, milk, syrup and remainder of ½ tsp. cinnamon; chill overnight.
- Dividing evenly, top with apples, walnuts and pinch of cinnamon. Serve.
No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
This recipe is from Quaker Oats and offers a taste of decadence in each bite!
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ cup low-fat milk
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 cups quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 2 hrs, 20 mins
- Yield: Approximately 4 dozen cookies (each cookie is 1 Tbs. in size)
- In large saucepan, place sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat and stir often. Allow mixture to continue boiling 3 minutes, while still stirring. Remove from heat and add oats. (Note: For old-fashioned oats, let mixture cool in saucepan 5 minutes.)
- Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper, should make about 48 cookies total. Let cookies stand at room temperature until firm, around 2 hours.
- Store in airtight container and enjoy within 5 days.
For more nutritious additions to your daily diet, click through to these stories:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.