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18 February 2015

Soaking your oats

If you're looking for a nutritious and thrifty breakfast that will take only a few minute to prepare, go no further than rolled oats. I'm not talking about quick oats which are processed much more than rolled oats, I'm talking about the plain old traditional rolled oats your grandma used to cook.


Years ago, when I read in Nourishing Traditions that virtually all pre-industrialised people soaked or fermented their grains before making porridge, I related to it immediately. I hadn't been soaking oats before I cooked them but I clearly remember mum and dad, and my grandma, soaking rolled oats in water or milk over night for a quick and easy breakfast the following morning. Almost all cultures used to do this. It was common practice in many African and European countries, the Indian sub continent, Scandinavia, and some Asian countries to soak or ferment grains before they were eaten. I remember that recommendation being on the packet of oats when I was young. I don't think it's there now, which is a pity. If you make sourdough you're doing this by using fermented starter for your bread. It's the same principle.

All grains, including oats, contain phytic acid, which can combine with minerals in the gut to block the absorption of nutrients in the grain. Soaking or fermenting the grains beforehand releases enzymes to help breakdown the phytic acid and gluten which is present in many grains, especially wheat, but oats as well. Oats contain more phytic acid than any other grain so it's important to soak them.

All you have to do is to measure out the required amount of oats into a saucepan, cover them with water or milk, plus another cup, then add ½ cup whey, buttermilk, kefir or yoghurt. Place your saucepan in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you'll see the oats are soft and creamy, like they've already been cooked. Stir the oats, add more liquid if they need it and heat them for a few minutes and serve. They'll be on the table in less than five minutes. If you have a lactose intolerance, use water and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar instead of the milk based liquids. The Nourishing Traditions recipe has ½ teaspoon sea salt in the porridge but I leave that out.


When I was younger and my oats were cooked for me, my parents always added a knob of butter to the oats. Well, it turns out that cream and butter both help with the absorption of minerals contained in the oats.  It also allows the oats to be absorbed over a longer period of time. Isn't it amazing what the old folks knew. And I thought they did it for the taste. :- )

And if you'd like a price comparison to seal the case, here are the prices for Uncle Toby's and organic oats at Woolworths:
  • Uncle Toby's Oats Quick Sachets Original 340g: $4.40 or $1.29 / 100g
  • Uncle Toby's Oats Quick 1kg: $6.76 or $0.68 / 100g
  • Macro Organic Oats Rolled 500g: $4.03 or $0.81 / 100g
We use Homebrand Rolled Oats 750g: $1.06 or $0.14 /100g. The Homebrand oats are good quality, Australian and taste just fine. You know how sometimes rolled oats have that powdery material in the bag? That's usually from some sort of insect that's been eating the grains.  I've never had a packet of Homebrand like that and always the grains are whole and perfect.

So there you have it. Yet another food item that is as convenient as the modern version but more nutritious, and so much cheaper. So don't believe the advertising that tells you that you need the expensive quick oats and a microwave. Just soak your oats instead and you'll have a much healthier breakfast.

How do you prepare your oats?  Will you try this?

68 comments:

  1. I am going to do this! I have always bought rolled oats, the quick stuff is like eating paste:-(, and I always soak them before adding to my sourdough bread mixture. And I do put a tablespoon of butter in my oatmeal - to keep it from boiling over and because I like the taste. And now I can say it's healthier too! Thanks Rhonda, have a great day!

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  2. Morning Rhonda. I don't always remember to soak the oats the night before but it is so worth it when I do. Thanks for the reminder. They cook so quickly and are so creamy. I didn't know about the absorption of minerals with cream or butter but I am so happy about that!
    Cream, some of our own honey and a few walnuts. Mmm Mmmmm.
    kxx

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  3. Hmmm... very interesting. I knew about the phytic acid, but I thought you had to discard the soaking liquid in order to rid them of the phytic acid - like you do when you soak beans. But your enzyme/fermentation thing makes sense so now I'm confused. Guess I'll have to do a bit more research!

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  4. Gosh oats with cream and butter? I can imagine how many people I know would say that sounds unhealthy, we (gen Y) are so conditioned to hunt down the lowest fat/sugar options. I've always used the quick oats (Aldi brand) simply because they are, well, quicker. I feel like a goose now, I never thought to get them ready the night before! Dumb question, but if I used milk to soak them, wouldn't it then go off sitting out overnight? I would have automatically popped the saucepan in the fridge

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    1. Larissa, recent research tells us that the guidelines for eating low fat foods was wrong and should never have been issued. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/10/fat-guidelines-lacked-any-solid-scientific-evidence-study-concludes

      I only eat oats in winter and the room temperature here overnight is quite cold. I'm going to change my post because it does depend on the temperature of the room. Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, leave the saucepan in the fridge overnight.

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    2. Absolutely agree with Rhonda.
      The big 'Fat' lie... in truth, eating fat is healthy for your body and brain, and increases metabolism. So long as it is animal fat or from fresh fruit (coconut, avocado) or nuts (macadamia, almond etc). Polyunsaturated veg oils like canola, and trans fats are terrible for our health.
      The second reason why low fat foods are the main cause of increasing obesity, heart disease and diabetes, is because they are laden with sugar, which is what the nutritionists should have demonised, rather than fat. Sugar is the true cause of weight gain.

      Christine Cronau's book "the fat revolution" is enlightening. She goes further to cut out all grains but I have found plenty of benefit from simply choosing full fat foods and lowering my sugar intake.

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    3. Ha! I'm glad I asked about leaving the milk out, or my family might have gotten all gotten a tummy ache ;) I'm fairly sure that even on the coldest mornings in winter here (Melbourne) my kitchen has still been about 15 degrees, though I assume it would be colder overnight. In the fridge makes more sense :)

      The fat thing is very interesting to read, and realise the truth of. So many people I know are almost fearful of ANY form of fat, even the likes of avocado and nuts. It's a shame for them, as they then miss out on the benefits, as well as the delicious taste ;)

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  5. I haven't had oats since winter but back then I was adding prunes (to counteract a certain chemo side effect) and coconut oil. Thank you for this post I will try soaking the oats overnight in the future.

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  6. I'm eating pre-soaked Homebrand oats, cooked with ginger and cinnamon and a splash of hemp oil and that little dob of butter added after, as I read this :) Oats is my breakfast all year round. Sometimes I add fruit but not always. I always make a little extra for the chooks.

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  7. They get put in the bowl with milk the night before, and micro-waved in the morning, add a bit of milk if needs be, only takes 2 or 3 minutes.

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  8. I usually cook oats in winter so will keep this in mind, Rhonda. I remember the rolled oats my mum cooked were very creamy and quite delicious.

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  9. I will definitely try this. I had never heard of doing the overnight soak before. Thankyou so much for this.
    ----Krystal from Nova Scotia

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  10. I often have rolled oats (woolworths brand) for breakfast - but I didn't realise about the benefits of soaking overnight or of the cream!!

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  11. We are going through a cold spell here in the Netherlands. So I've been eating oatmeal porridge for the last week or so for breakfast. I use full fat organic milk to soak them in overnight and when I know I will be in a hurry the next morning I soak them in a bowl and pop it in the microwave on high for 2 or 3 minutes the next morning. Instant hot breakfast. Wonderful with raisins (soaked as well) cinnamon and a bit of maple syrup.

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  12. Thank you! I have been meaning to soak my oats for so long and just one of those things that I haven't got around to.
    Ethan has porridge every morning during the week. This would cut out a lot of time no doubt.
    I love adding cream to my porridge, especially if with a spoonful of raspberry jam Yum. Had no idea of the benefits of it though so will make Ethans the same (but with honey as that's what he prefers).
    I like to add a spoonful of chia seeds once the porridge is cooked too. Coconut oil is a lovely addition, tastes yummy especially with the raspberry jam.
    Ethan used to have LSA in his for some extra brain food but he's gone off that recently.

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  13. I've always soaked my oats in water overnight, some for hubby and wheat-free for me. (they are grown and milled separately from other contaminating grains). A wonderful start to the day with cinnamon and chopped banana!

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  14. I'm going to give this a try with a pat of butter!

    Blessings,
    Amy JO

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  15. I have always enjoyed oats and it was the staple breakfast when I grew up. Cheap, nutrition and filling. Dad cooked them.

    Mum had a huge tin to store the oats in and I often raided it to have some raw. I still enjoy them like this. In winter I soak and cook. I n summer I measure them into a bowl and add just enough milk to moisten them. My stomach is not happy with too much milk first thing in the morning so I eat them raw, barely moistened.

    I have tried the oats from both Woolworths and Coles and been disappointed in them often. I now stick to Uncle Toby's.

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    1. Jan, Nourishing Traditions advises against eating any raw grains, including rolled oats.

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  16. I sometimes cook steel cut oats in the slow cooker. Yummy. I keep on wanting to soak steel cut oats in milk over night too, but I keep on forgetting to do it. Must get on the ball!

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    1. Meredith, Nourishing Traditions says that rolled oats are better than steel cut oats because they absorb more moisture. I'm not saying you shouldn't eat them, I'm just passing on what the book says. :- )

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  17. Back when I was working early morning nursing shifts I would have my breakfast at 'morning tea time', and would always eat oats mixed with grated apple, a squeeze of lemon, cinanmon, a dollop of yoghurt and sometimes some nuts too. I would make this the night before, pop it in a sealed container and keep it in the fridge both at home and work. By 9am it would be absolutely delicious, very creamy. It kept me going all morning and it didn't matter if my lunch got delayed until 2 or 3 pm, I wouldn't get very hungry after that yummy goodnes.

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  18. I've always fermented my oats, and could never understand how anyone could ever eat 'quick oats' after a 90 second zap in the microwave without suffering from stomach upset. I think nourishing traditions is an excellent recipe / guide because it's helping so many people reconnect with real eating - real food, real fats and real nourishment.

    It's so interesting that its taken this long to come full circle again; embracing eggs, cream and butter after decades of being told not to eat them. Meanwhile, many people are eating lean meats, cutting out fats and taking their 'oils' in overpriced and over processed supplements and vitamin tablets to make up for the shortfall in their diet. I don't think it's a coincidence that so many of us now suffer from bone and joint aches when so few of us eat natural cartilage in our food anymore.

    Love your blog (and book too) Rhonda, it always makes me think and lets me nod along in agreement too.

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  19. Thank you so much for this, Rhonda!
    A few years back I realised that eating oats ALWAYS leads to bloating and flatulence for me.
    It was a sad day as I have grown up loving porridge but it just doesn't agree with me.

    It makes sense though, because unsoaked oats = indigestible = bacteria feeding on it = bad gas.

    Will make sure to soak them overnight with some kefir and see how that goes. I can't wait to have porridge again, with plenty of cream!

    As a side note, I used to work at Macro Wholefoods when it used to be a shop and not just a Woolies product. Met my DH there :)
    It's true about the moths in the oats, kinda gross but full of protein? Best to pretend it's not there at all...

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    1. Ha! yes, I agree, best we don't think of the moths.

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  20. Perfect timing for your post Rhonda! At home I never eat oats as I love my German-style sourdough bread and a fresh egg from our chooks. But at work - where I'm spending 6 months of the year - I always have oats with a banana or apple as I find them filling when I have to start work at 5 am and have lunch at noon - I do not eat snacks anymore. I buy the wholegrain oats and I had trouble cooking them to the right consistency here at work (obviously no stove just a microwave), so I will give this a go.
    But I do have a question: I normally use 1/2 cup of oats plus 1/2 cup of water plus 1/2 cup of milk. Do I really need to add ½ cup whey, buttermilk, kefir or yoghurt? I don't have access to whey, buttermilk, kefir at work. I could add some yoghurt but as I'm trying to loose weight, I'm trying to limit dairy. Do you add any more liquid in the morning? I will try this tomorrow - looking forward to it!
    Thank you
    Frances

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    1. Hi Frances. You can use water, milk or a combo of the two, with a splash of vinegar, I'm guessing that would be easy for you to store in your room. You add more liquid in the morning if you want to. If they look dry or you like them milky, add more. xx

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  21. I thought that you would have to leave it out at room temp, but I see it is just about softening the grains, not starting to create probiotics. I might try this as I always have a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. I stir in cinnamon, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, linseed meal and a packet of stevia. Then I top it with greek yoghurt. Yum!

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  22. Great post....a couple of years ago my kids have oats for breakfast every morning and my daughter loved them so much she would have two big bowls full...over a period of time she had a sore tummy and I couldn't work out why until my friend said that her husband had the same time when he started eating oats, windy and sore bloated tummy and then it clicked. I think soaking them would be so much better and with the warmer mornings coming our way this is a timely post. I also found a link for doing the oats in the slow cooker overnight so they are ready when you wake up. It might interest some readers. She is a Mum with 5 kids so I'm sure this is a time saver and winner for mornings. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    http://planningwithkids.com/2014/06/20/steel-cut-oats-porridge-slow-cooker-recipe/

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    Replies
    1. Just a note to add to Kathy's comment. Nourishing Traditions says that rolled oats are better than steel cut oats.

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  23. Thanks for the reminder about soaking the oats, Rhonda. I have been diagnosed with mild gestational diabetes with this bub so have been told to consume protein with carbs in every meal to slow the absorption of carbs. I suppose the knob of butter adds that to the oats? I will be soaking my oats tonight -- they do indeed become creamier when soaked before cooking. I have been buying the same brand of rolled oats since you showed us your pantry some time back.

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    Replies
    1. That's how I understand it, Mrs Meagre. That the butter or cream make it lower GI.

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  24. great post! i store my oats in the fridge, i haven't soaked them as never thought they needed that, always have a nob of butter at the end of the cooking time & always buy the 'no name' brand, they just seem to be better
    have a wonderful day

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  25. Thanks for such a great post. We eat lots of porridge oats all through the winter months. I have read snippets of information about the benefits of soaking oats, but this has helped me put all that information together. I will definitely be soaking my oats from now on.

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  26. How interesting this is! I had no idea that a bit of protein with the grains helps the digestion - I'm glad I read all the comments, which I don't usually. :) I'm not keen on oatmeal, but it wouldn't kill me now and then; I really enjoy kasha (buckwheat) on cold mornings - should I be soaking that?

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    1. Hi Lisa. I don't eat buckwheat so I looked it up in Nourishing Traditions. It's not a grain, it's a seed, and yes, the recipe for kasha casserole has buckwheat groats soaking in water with whey added for at least 7 hours.

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  27. I never knew about soaking the oats (I know about bircher muesli, which is german/swiss and is soaked oats, but didn't know it was better for your gut when soaked). I try to cook the rolled oats (don't like the quick) but I inevitably get sidetracked with packing lunches and coaxing slow child/husband along that I burn my porridge. If it just needs reheating, that would be awesome. Putting some to soak now!

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    1. An update - I tried this - soaked oats overnight and heated them up this morning. They were definitely softer, but interestingly, had a whole different flavour going on than normal! Will not go back to the other way again! Thanks so much.

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  28. Similar to that but we roll our own. We buy oats groats and roll them using an oat roller.

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  29. Yes, the girls and I do this except we all have our own containers with 1/4 cup of oats and 3/4 cup of ,ilk in the fridge over night - zapped for 1 min in microwave in the morning with banana or any other fruit - so much tastier than saucepan boiled. Creamier too.

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  30. My oldest girl loves oatmeal. I've always used the old fashioned rolled oats boiled in water, then added milk and honey in before serving. I had no idea about soaking the oats! So happy you shared this. I have whey left from cheesemaking and will be trying this tonight. Thanks!
    -Jaime

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  31. I soak mine overnight to reduce the oxalate content....also sometimes people put vit c capsule sprinkled in there to get rid any mold .If you have any porridge left over you mix egg and make pancakes...:)

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  32. It just goes to show that, you can learn something new to yourself every day!

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  33. I have sometimes soaked oats overnight in water with a bit of grated apple or sultanas but do I need to heat them as well to break down the phytic acid? I have been making granola lately and that makes a really yummy lunch food with yoghurt and fresh fruit, I just googled granola and made my own version without sugar. yes rolled oats are fantastic value!

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    1. Nourishing Traditions advises against eating raw oats and granola.

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  34. We have 'proper' porridge every day for breakfast. The oats are soaked overnight in water so very easy to cook.

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  35. Nourishing Traditions became my food bible a couple of years ago. It makes so much sense & to realise that the old ways were the best ways even though they didn't have all of the gadgets & food choices that we have now. Amazing that the ancient folks just knew to do these things. Since I started making my own "over night" bread, sour dough bread & soaking my grains I no longer suffer gut problems & the bloated feeling. And yes, we can now enjoy a hefty pat of butter (home made in our case) & know that it's doing us good. Lovely post Rhonda. :)

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  36. I like my oats with cream!!! I first did it as after I cooked them I was out of milk but they needed a little liquid so cream it was. I must admit, I am not a fan of the texture of rolled oats, but blitz them a little in my thermomix before cooking and they are perfect for my kids and myself.

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  37. We buy a 50lb bag of rolled oats through a farmer friend. I prepare a "Dry" bowl of it everyday with flax seed, chia seeds, cinnamon and, ahem, chocolate chips for my hubby to take to work where he adds hot water and eats it.
    I have never soaked them before, but I notice when I pour boiling water on them and let them sit for a few, they do get much creamier. Will definitely have to try the soaking method tonight. Thanks!

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  38. Rhonda, your post highlights the EXACT changes we have begun making in our diets recently. We have all noticed a very big difference in how we feel with this ONE added task (soaking). As well, satiety is impacted... we feel fuller for much longer.

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  39. Rhonda, did you know that letting your bread rise slowly and for more than 6 hours in total gets rid of phytic acid as well? My grandmother (stemming from Middle Europe, then Prussia, now Poland) used to make her breaddough (in the same earthenware pot that still had some dough clinging to it from the dough she just made into bread) with a method very similar to no knead bread by Jim Lahey. She would put the pot, closed with a wooden lid, in her cool cellar until the next day, when the process would repeat itself. A slow, cool rise of about 24 hours. Her bread was half rye. Very good bread and very easily digestible, much more so than the quicker, kneaded versions. from the baker's. Mild sourdough taste.

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    1. I have some dough fermenting in the kitchen now. I usually leave mine for about 18 hours. I have a recipe on the blog for it. I love the sound of your grandma's earthenware pot.

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  40. I soaked our oats last night and my husband heated them this morning. We noticed a much different texture and flavor, but we liked it. Tasty, convenient, healthy - thank you!

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  41. I have only started soaking my oats recently and they do taste better prepared that way. I am going to try adding the vinegar to the soak and butter with the cooking as that sounds good too!

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  42. My porridge sucess took off when I stopped use milk to make it. My recipe is one heaping cup of rolled oats to three cups of water bring to the boil and simmer very low for half an hour, I stir occasionally I do soak them first. I eat them with 2 tbls of heavy cream a pinch of Maldon salt. To.die.for !
    I sometimes top with blueberries or banana. Same breakfast everyday, summer and winter and it makes 2 - 3 servings.

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  43. Soaking nuts and seeds is also very beneficial. I have been doing this for years now.

    Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?
    1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
    2. To remove or reduce tannins.
    3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
    4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
    5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
    6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
    7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
    8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
    9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
    10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.

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  44. Rhonda, it's like you read my mind! I have some oats in the cupboard and was only thinking yesterday that I really should soak some for breakfast. Thanks for the ratios! I never thought of adding buttermilk/whey. I will now :-)
    Bec

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  45. Ah....maybe I should have soaked the oats as well as the quinoa that I put in my sourdough bread a few days ago? There's always next time though :).

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    1. You could do it next time, Rob. Quinoa is a seed and all seeds, as well as grains, should be soaked.

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  46. If you're short on time, or just forgetful like me I've found a couple of quick ways to get soft and creamy porridge in the morning without the overnight soak. Obviously a longer soak is better and that's what mine get when the brain is in gear (not often) but I find these 2 tips work well.

    DIY 'Quick Oat's - put rolled oats in a blender/food processor/whatever you have and give them a quick pulse or 2 to break them up a bit, this is a bit like breaking up the weetbix before pouring milk on it, the liquid soaks in quicker and you still get all the good bits of the rolled oats that quick oats don't have. For an added kick mix some pumpkin seeds, raisins or whatever takes your fancy through. When I get up I pour milk and water over the oats and go walk the dog, get the kid off to school etc. I then cook on low in the microwave (or you can do yours in a saucepan but I prefer to minimise the washing up), while I'm making coffee and getting shoes on and I've got warm, yummy porridge before I head off to work.

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  47. I remember Mum adding a knob of butter.

    In summer I soak my muesli (oats, dried fruit and nuts that I throw together) overnight in water. In the morning I add a splash of almond milk or yoghurt and maybe a few fresh berries or banana slices, easy economical and nutritious.

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  48. Thanks for this, Rhonda. When I read it, I had to try it! The porridge was very much smoother, and I think more palatable for my childerbeasts. I'll definitely be doing that again! I hadn't known that about raw oats (must dig Nourishing Traditions out again). There I was, digging into my homemade muesli in my smugness! Hmm, maybe I'll try honey-roasting the oats in the oven for a bit first.

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  49. Oh thats good news, I thought my bloated tummy was from the lunch time sandwich, but it was just the morning oats not being soaked....back to morning yummm, I add some coconut oil or a big spoon of homemade nut butter, and will now "activate" the nuts too. Thank you for all the information.

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  50. Thanks for this post. I use only rolled oats and make granola that is baked in the oven. It is high in phytic acid because of the addition of seeds. We eat it with yogurt. For hot oats, a winter food, I cook chopped fruit in the liquid before adding the oats, then the ground flax seed and cinnamon.

    I will definitely try this! It means that hot oats will not be a spur of the moment dish for cool weather again! This is a fine opportunity to incorporate coconut oil into our diet, for health benefits. ;-D .

    Your post really piqued my curiousity. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/faq-grains-seeds-nuts-beans/ recommends soaking the oats overnight in milk or water that has been acidified with whey, yogurt, cultured milk, buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar. These are added to the milk or water so the oats are not too sour when cooked. I will now also be soaking and rinsing the seeds before baking them for granola, too.

    Thanks again for the informative posts on healthy living!! They really make my day!

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  51. Very informative Rhonda, thanks, I remember my mum always putting butter on our porridge, thjough not soaking the oats. It's nice to know where these little traditions/habits came from.

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  52. I really like oats and was a bit surprised by your statement thatIf you're looking for a nutritious and thrifty breakfast that will take only a few minute to prepare, go no further than rolled oats. I'm not talking about quick oats which are processed much more than rolled oats, I'm talking about the plain old traditional rolled oats your grandma used to cook.So,I went to investigate a little and this is what I've found amongst lots of links:

    "Nothing warms a cold winter morning better than a hot bowl of oatmeal. Unless, of course, you have to wait for it to cook. Rolled oats, which are whole-grain oats that have been steamed and pressed with a roller to flatten them, take about five minutes to cook, while instant oats, which are basically very thinly pressed rolled oats, are ready as soon as you mix in hot water. While the extra pressing does affect the texture of the oatmeal, instant oats are nutritionally not that much different from rolled oats."
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/537479-the-nutritional-value-of-instant-oats-vs-rolled-oats/

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