Is It Safe To Eat Raw Oats?

There isn't anything much more satisfying than a steaming bowl of hot oatmeal on a cold morning, especially with a dollop of butter and maple syrup or brown sugar. And, though maligned by children, warmly-spiced and chewy oatmeal cookies — with or without raisins — are one of the most popular cookies in the U.S. for a reason (via Taste Atlas.)

Oats also have a plethora of savory applications, such as Scottish oat cakes, ris-oat-o, and even spicy oatmeal bowls with jammy eggs (via Food Network.) Of course, all of the above recipes, sweet and savory, call for thoroughly cooking the oats. So, what of dishes that call for oats to be used raw? You've probably seen oats as an add-in for smoothies, a decidedly uncooked item. Or, maybe you've been tempted to try overnight oats, where oats and other ingredients, such as chia seeds, are left to soak in water, milk, or another liquid, you guessed it, overnight.

Still, dishes featuring raw oats may leave some wondering if they're safe to eat.

Going raw

The good news, as Healthline points out, is that eating raw oats is perfectly fine and shouldn't put you at risk for foodborne illness. The benefits include a robust dose of the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The only minor downside is the level of phytic acid in raw oats. Phytic acid can decrease the absorption of some minerals, but it can be mitigated with a soak in water, which helps decrease the concentration. Soaking also softens the oats, aiding in overall digestibility.

Further, raw oats can play a part in weight loss, notes Only My Health. Like most other fiber-rich foods, raw oats make you feel full quicker and longer than many other foods. That means you might not be as inclined to reach for a snack or have a large meal in your day. Fiber is also great for the gut, and raw oats can help keep the gut running smoothly and combat constipation.

And as Healthline explains, because oat kernels must go through a series of steps, including exposure to heat, to make them digestible, all oats — even raw ones — are, in fact, already cooked.