Before answering this question, it’s important to be clear about what “Raw” really implies when it comes to eating oats.
Most people would associate eating “raw oats” with eating the oat groats without cooking it in anyway, but just soaking them in plain water for a few hours or pouring some milk over it (cornflakes style) – if this is your definition of eating oats raw, then rest assured that it’s quite healthy to eat this way.
But there are some people who would associate eating oats raw with eating the oat groats “dry”, without moisturizing it in anyway, and this way of eating raw oats, is not very healthy as it can lead to some distasteful effects in your stomach or colon.
Eating an instant oatmeal, like Quacker Oats, in a raw dry fashion is not good for you neither is eating steel cut Scottish oats (organic or otherwise) in a dry unsoaked fashion.
If You Don’t Want to Cook It, Just Soak It
Some people believe that eating the oats raw is more nutritious than cooking it, and they do have a point as long as they don’t imply “raw” as eating them dry.
It’s important that oats are soaked, and made soft, before consumption.
The reason is simple – the nutrition from oatmeal comes from starch, and for the stomach to digest the starch it must get through thick membranes of the cells. The softer the membrane the easier it is for the starch to be accessed and digested.
Eating raw oats, in a dry manner, is not healthy because not only would it be difficult to swallow, and chew, but it will bulk up in the stomach which could well lead to an upset stomach.
If you must eat them dry make sure you have plenty of liquids with it to follow, or else you might even get stomach cramps. Raw oats will be more difficult to digest than oats that are subjected to boiled water, which ruptures the cell membranes so the starch is easily digested. Eating dry oats will also leave you with a cotton mouth and it’s not very pleasant.
Some people mix raw oats to their shake and drink it down. This seems to be a good solution especially because you are taking in liquids along with the oats. The best thing would be to let the oats soak in the shake for at least 30 minutes before you gulp it down.
A better way to eat a cup of raw oats is to add two cups of boiling water (no hotter than 110 degrees) to it and leave it to mush for a while, say 10 minutes or so. The heat will break down the starch cell membranes and the water will make it easier for you to swallow the preparation. It will also be sweeter than eating dry oats.
There have been cases where people felt constipated after eating uncooked oats for a couple of days. The reason could well be because the lack of water caused the oats to create a thick cement like gummy residue in the colon, preventing smooth passage of the stools.
Eating Cooked Oats is a Healthy Option
You must understand that grains need to be cooked so that the starch is broken down for easy digestion.
This is the reason why we don’t eat rice or wheat raw; it would lead to digestive problems. In fact, the reason why starchy vegetables like potatoes are to be boiled well before eating is so that the starch breaks down enough for easy digestion and assimilation of the sugar.
You don’t have to overcook the oats, just make sure you cook it enough to break down the starch.
It’s true that some enzymes in the rolled oatmeal will get destroyed during the cooking process, so if you are very particular about retaining the enzymes then stick to eating the oats raw, without heating or cooking, but after soaking them sufficiently in water or milk.
Raw Oats Vs. Cooked Oats
Eating raw oats is healthy provided you soak them in some liquid, like water, milk or even cranberry juice, before eating them. Eating a raw dry oatmeal is bad for you in more ways than one, and if you must do it make sure you drink sufficient amount of water after its consumption.
The safest option is to cook your oats, at a slow heat, so that the starch breaks down, creating a gummy texture, making it easy to digest and assimilate.