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Despite what you may hear from some paleo or primal influences, it is true, our ancestors did eat whole grains. However, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas and other quickly prepared casseroles and concoctions. They always soaked or fermented their grains before eating them. As Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions explains below, grains can be harmful to your body if not prepared correctly.

All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer of the bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

Many people believe that consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran (anyone eat FiberOne lately?) will improve colon health, and while it does improve transit time at first, it may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and more adverse effects longterm. Soaking grains, allows important enzymes like lactobacilli to break down and neutralize the phytic acid. Soaking in warm water with an acid base for as little as 7 hours can vastly improve the nutritional benefits of these grains.

Soaked oatmeal is not a primal food. However, in our family as I’ve mentioned before, we use the primal diet as a framework and leave a little room for grains that have been improved through soaking, fermenting or cooking in bone broth.  Soaking partially breaks down gluten and other difficult to digest proteins into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. If you have allergies to gluten, I would stay away from grains even if soaked because there are still traces of gluten present even after the soaking process. However, if you need a little change in your breakfast routine, soaked oatmeal can add a different and nutritious boost to your day. We usually have this breakfast once a week.

oatmeal soaking

Soaked Oatmeal (serves 4, scale up or down as needed)

  • quart sized mason jar, or other tightly sealable glass jar
  • 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup warm water, enough to just cover the oats
  • 1 tablespoon acid medium (whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk OR if you are dairy intolerant lemon juice or vinegar)
  • walnuts, almonds (optional) I like to add a handful of walnuts as they also contain phytic acid and benefit from the soaking process. When cooked the next day, they still retain their crunchy texture.

For the highest benefits oats should be soaked overnight, a minimun of 7 hours and maximum of 24.

Once soaked spoon out into a microwavable bowl and add milk or water until you have the consistency you desire. I like a more porridge texture, so I add a good bit of milk to mine. I also mash half a banana before I place in microwave which adds just the right amount of sweetness. Cook on the stove for 5 minutes or in the microwave for 1 and half to 2 minutes and top with desired toppings. Quick and easy breakfast!

Optional toppings:

  • ground flax seed
  • chopped apples, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, etc.
  • dried dates, raisins, cherries
  • dried coconut
  • butter
  • honey