a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Jan, 2011

Steel cut oatmeal

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Recipes and Food

In yesterday’s post I mentioned oatmeal. I would like to expand on the oatmeal theme for a little bit.

Oatmeal in itself is not that exciting, it’s what you add to it that makes it exciting. I know this is a hot topic among some of you because the last time I wrote about it (during the Blue Menu Healthy Eating Challenge, remember that?) I realized that Oatmeal Is Big News.

During the Sugar Fast I realized that sometimes I really needed something hot to fill me up and I quickly learned that oatmeal does the trick really nicely.

I have also learned something valuable about grains in general. Aside from couscous (which is a tiny and granular grain) if oatmeal or rice is labelled with words like “quick” or “instant”  … you don’t want it. The reason you are able to cook it so quickly is that all of the healthy stuff has been stripped away all in the name of convenience. ISN’T THAT HELPFUL.

In my view, the longer the oats takes to cook, the less processed they are, and the better they are for you.

“Research show that eating oats, oat bran and oatmeal helps lower elevated blood cholesterol level thanks to their special type of soluble fibre, called beta-glucan. This soluble fibre also helps stabilize blood sugar levels by reducing spikes and dips, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. Large flake and steel-cut oats … are low glycemic foods, meaning they’re slowly digested and gradually released as sugar into the bloodstream.” (from this site)

Enter STEEL CUT OATMEAL. Have you ever had steel cut oatmeal? If you’ve grown up (like me) eating cream of wheat (gag) and oatmeal from a little packet YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT HIT YOU.

Steel cut oats aren’t difficult to prepare. They take about 25 minutes to cook (and they practically cook themselves), and are slightly chewy when they’re done. The time spend is totally worth it.

This is what I was adding to my oats during the sugar fast:

The ingredients

And here’s what the end result looked like:

eating my oats

I like drowning the whole thing with a bit of 1% milk. The walnuts added a lovely bit of crunch, and the grated apple adds a surprising amount of sweetness. Totally yummy.

It’s worth repeating, there was no added sugar in these oats, although admittedly it’s very good with raisins and a bit of brown sugar.

It makes a delicious and filling breakfast. In fact, I think I’ll go make some right now.


45 Responses to "Steel cut oatmeal"

1 | Fiona

January 18th, 2011 at 11:45 am

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I too am a big fan of steel cut oats, because of their great taste and also because they are so convenient. I make a batch of oatmeal for Monday morning and then it stays in the fridge ready for a serving to be microwaved throughout the week. I love it steaming hot, with frozen blueberries on top. The blueberries thaw and provide delicious juice.

I also make the oatmeal into pancakes by spreading the hot oatmeal in a baking pan and letting it sit in the fridge. It solidifies and can be sliced into small squares and fried in a little butter. Also fast and delicious, especially when made with a little bit of evaporated milk.

2 | Liisa

January 18th, 2011 at 11:46 am

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Oh Andrea! Your post today about something I’m so passionate about. I love oatmeal. And anything with oatmeal in it.

Steel cut oats are the best. You can actually make them in your slow cooker the night before so they are ready for you first thing in the morning.

Or try overnight oats with yogurt, milk and oats and your favourite toppings mixed together and refrigerated the night before.

And on the weekend, for a treat – Baked Oatmeal! Still works on your “white” fast.

As for flavour combinations, try banana and nut butter, coconut banana, peanut butter and all fruit jam, raisins and sunflower seeds. For a decadent treat, you could do peanut butter and dark unsweetened chocolate bits (or even cocoa powder).

I could go on and on…

3 | Jennie Maynard

January 18th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

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Do you have a recipe to share please? I tried crockpot steel cut oats once and it was a horrible crusty mess. :( Would prefer this, esp with 4 kids & I eating oatmeal many mornings and right now, it’s $$ with the packets (and the kids eat the full sugar ones which I don’t like while I eat the low sugar version that are still loaded with sugar).

4 | Marianne

January 18th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

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I too make my steel cut oats in the slow cooker overnight. If you’re worried about it making too much, I’ve found (thanks to a tip on the internet someplace) that I can refrigerate the leftover oatmeal and reheat for breakfast (or snacks) several days in a row. This is useful if you’re in a household like mine, where I’m the only one who eats it.

I also like to add a heaping tablespoon or two of flax seed to my oatmeal (either whole or ground). They add a slightly nutty taste, especially the ground ones.

And this reminds me that I wanted to google the instructions for Red River cereal in the slow cooker …

5 | andrea

January 18th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

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I am pretty sure you can buy steel cut oats at bulk stores. The ones I’m eating right now happen to be from PC’s Blue Menu line. I think the ratio is 1 cup oats to 4.5 cups water. It makes four servings. Bring water to boil, and then simmer over medium heat with the lid off, add oats, stirring every once in awhile for about 25 minutes. Then add whatever you want.

Leftovers are easily reheated too, which is a total bonus.

6 | andrea

January 18th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

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Liisa, my mouth is watering!

7 | Binki

January 18th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

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I love oatmeal. The best breakfast ever. But I eat the large flake or quick oats. The steel cut are excellent but not “quick” enough for me. I’m going to try a weekly batch of steel cut. Excellent suggetion.

Pretty much anything you put in oatmeal makes it even better. My fave is banana and brown sugar. Oh and a bit of yogurt. And some almonds. And some shrededed apple. And a pinch of healthy cinamon.

Slicing and cooking oatmeal in butter? Oooh la la….I am so going to try that.

8 | Vicki Thomas

January 18th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

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I’m a big fan of oatmeal… I make mine the night before – adding one sliced banana and a dollop of natural peanut butter. I use water to make it. The in the morning I add some unsweetened almond milk and zap it in the microwave for five minutes to warm it up. Other times I’ll add chopped apple and cinnamon.
I find the unsweetened almond milk makes it so creamy. I’m also not into adding sugar to my oatmeal.
Definitely try the banana and peanut butter – a true breakfast treat.

9 | Binki

January 18th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

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Speaking of oatmeal mixed with healthy toppings. I just decided that we are going to occasionally eat steel cut oats for supper – with fruit, nuts, yoghurt, etc. Kinda like pasta and tomato sauce – except that oatmeal and fruit/nuts is actually healthier. And it’s soooo good. Especially in winter.

10 | Marianne

January 18th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

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I buy my steel cut oats at Bulk Barn, but I have previously bought the PC Blue Menu ones as well, and I use that container to store my bulk purchased oats ;)

There are lots of recipes online for steel cut oats, some with milk, butter, etc. added but you can make it with just water and oats. Adding milk definitely made it mor eburnt/crispy at the edges.

The ratio to start with is 4 cups of water and 1 cup of steel cut oats. (I usually make 6 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of oats because I like generous bowlfuls and lots of leftovers).

I also found that if I cooked it on low, it took only about 6 hours. After that the sides tarted burning adn getting crusty. So to cook it overnight I actually use the “keep warm” setting on my slow cooker and cook it for about 10 hours.

Also, if refrigerate the leftovers they will thicken up considerably. I like them that way, and I just stir in more milk after heating them up in the microwave, but if you prefer if softer, you may want to make your original batch with more water.

11 | Michelle

January 18th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

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Sounds yummy will try next time at the grocery store to pick some up. Thanks for the delicious idea!

12 | Maranda

January 18th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

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If you slow cook your fruit with vanilla and cinnamon, you would swear there was sugar added, it’s so sweet and delicious. I usually keep home cooked fruit in the freezer (just toss it in and the oatmeal will warm it up) or you can cook it in a separate pan while your oatmeal is cooking.

I made oatmeal last week with slow cooked peaches and pears, with vanilla and lots of cinnamon and it was AMAZING.

Another great thing about oatmeal is it keeps really well. I always make a big batch and throw the leftovers (if any!) in the fridge

13 | Susan

January 18th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

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I also think I’ll try these out. I was musing just the other day how I need to ditch the packaged oatmeal (which I only eat about once a month) in favour of something less processed. I am also thinking of upgrading to a fuzzy logic rice cooker but in the meantime, will see if it’s possible to cook these in a regular one.

14 | melissa

January 18th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

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We eat oatmeal everymorning! We usually use the quickroll oats – 1/3 c oats, 3/4 c milk/water, micro for 2 min. The kids scarf it down and I usually make more. Slowcooker is even better and steel cut are my favourite. I grew up on slowcooker porridge.

15 | Beth

January 18th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

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I also find 30 minutes too long in the morning, so I make my breakfast of steel cut oats every night before bed. Boil one cup of water, then add 1/4 cup of oats, turn off the heat and stir. Put the lid on as soon as possible after the chance of it boiling over subsides.

In the morning, I add my big helping of frozen mixed berries, turn it up to high and stir until it boils, then cook it on low-med with the lid off for about 10 minutes.

I find the size of pan I use makes a big difference. The smaller the pan, the less chance of it sticking to the pot, the oatmeal will be less dry.

When I run out of berries, I put a spoonful of almond butter in it and stir it while it’s still hot to melt the butter.

I also make extra on the weekends for those mornings when I forgot to cook up my oatmeal.

16 | Sara

January 18th, 2011 at 4:23 pm

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Perfect…I was on the hunt today for suggestions on how to prepare steel cut oats :) Thank you!

17 | Alina

January 18th, 2011 at 4:31 pm

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If you put the steel cut oats in the food processor they will turn into an oat flour which cooks faster.

We have oats in the morning almost every other day. We make it with milk, cinnamon, sliced banana, walnuts, frozen blueberries, and dried cranberries. It is delicious! For our 19-month old boy we don’t add the dried cranberries, but we put apple butter or apple sauce. Sometimes fresh raspberries. He loves his oatmeal.

18 | bushidoka

January 18th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

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I’d be interested in hearing your source for saying quick oats have all the nutrition stripped away.; I used to think that too but then someone gave me some convincing information to the contrary. Of course, now I have to challenge myself to dig out that information but I think I may know what mailing list it was on so I’ll go searching. I think they said it it is just regular rolled oats that has been chunked up small – and sure enough that is what it looks like. And regular rolled oats are just oats that are steams and run through rollers so they should not lose any nutrition. The process pre-gelatinizes the starches which makes both regular rolled and quick oats cook faster.

I used to think they were somehow pre-boiled but this is not the case.

19 | bushidoka

January 18th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

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Oh there you go – the site you linked to yourself supports what I just said. It is “instant” oats that are pre-cooked and then dried and re-rolled into flakes that look like rolled oats. But quick oats are exactly what I said . And that site does not say anything about nutritional differences.

20 | Amy @ Muddy Boots

January 18th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

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The “problem” with all grains is that they contain phytic acid. Oats are especially high in phytic acid.

Why does this matter?

Phytic acid binds to other mineral (iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium to name a few) in our intestinal tract and carries them out of the body. So oatmeal that hasn’t been properly prepare actually inhibits mineral absorption.

Most sites/books that talk about oatmeal and phytic acid with recommend soaking the oats for 24hr (up to a week!) to help break down the phytic acid and pre-digest the grain. What I’ve read recently however, is that oats are also really low in the phytase enzyme that breaks down the phytic acid. I guess adding 10% of grains that ARE high in phytase is what’s needed (ie, wheat, rye, barley). Soaking does still make oats cook MUCH faster.

Does all this really matter? I find it interesting and I try to soak my grains before cooking when I can. Bottom line though is that even un-soaked oatmeal is MILES BETTER than feeding my boys a bowl full of Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs!

21 | bushidoka

January 18th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

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Do those sites/books talk about whole oats, or rolled, or what? Because the (steaming and) rolling process as far as I know (as a brewer who uses rolled grains of various sorts including oats) basically cooks the grains really quickly and brings about the same changes in the grain that cooking does. At least those changes that are of interest to a brewer – gelitinizing the starches. This is also what makes rolled oats cook much faster than groats or steel cut. As a brewer if you use the unrolled grain you have to cook it first in a sort of porridge before adding to your mash. But the rolled ones you just toss right in dry.

22 | coffee with julie

January 18th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

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I’ve recently been eating Red River for breakfast and putting in dried cranberries and nuts but these oatmeal ideas have my mouth watering!

23 | Scatteredmom

January 18th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

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YUM. I love oatmeal, and I always wondered about steel cut oats. I will try them! Thanks!

24 | Binki

January 19th, 2011 at 11:48 am

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Looks like I’ll keep eating my quick oats. So good, so fast and so healthy.

Thanks for the clarification Bushidoka!

25 | andrea

January 19th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

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Amy: I’ve never heard of that. Interesting… and definitely worth considering.

Here’s a bit more info about the differences between types of oats:

“Even if it doesn’t show up on the product label, there is a difference between whole oats that take one minute to cook and ones that take 15 minutes. Quick-cooking oats — even the large flake varieties — aren’t as good for you.

“With quick-cooking oats, they’ve broken the grain apart for you already so your digestive tract doesn’t have to break it down as much,” says Remmer.

“When they refine it, they remove part of the fibre. When they do that, the fibre is not intact.”

The longer it takes for your body to break down the oats, the longer you’ll feel full, says Remmer.

That’s why most dietitians recommend using steel-cut oats, which are the least refined, and then pumping up the nutritional value with toppers like blueberries, nuts like almonds or walnuts and ground flax seed.”

..

(from here)

26 | DaniGirl

January 19th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

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O!M!G! It never occurred to me to batch cook steel cut oats and refrigerate the rest. And overnight slowcooking? Wowzers! This is lifechanging information for a family of oatmeal lovers, especially for someone who scoots out the door at 6:35 every the morning!

27 | Mary @ Parenthood

January 19th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

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I can only eat oats in small batches and from ridiculously expensive sources (the celiac friendly requirement). Most of these are steelcut and not having quick oats was one of the few lingering resentments I had about dealing with a gluten free diet. Past tense because I recently discovered a pure source of more finely cut oats and it’s like night and day.

Steelcut may be “healthier” but I really dislike their texture. I’m happy to wait as long as it takes but I’ve never had a bowl that seemed all the way cooked (too chewy) I’ll try the slowcooker tip, but I’m skeptical. I also don’t really like reheated oatmeal- it tastes slimy to me. Guess I’m just weird…

I don’t feel too concerned that my gut doesn’t work hard enough even if I avoid subjecting myself to steelcut though! :)

28 | Mary @ Parenthood

January 19th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

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Forgot to add my whole reason for commenting – many people I know swear by soaking the oats overnight to increase their nutritional value. Eg as described here: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/03/soaked-oatmeal-a-filling-and-frugal-start-to-the-day.html

I find it improves steelcut but not enough!

29 | bushidoka

January 19th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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Um, that’s a newspaper. I just can’t take it seriously as a reliable resource. Reporters are terrible at getting a story right.

“With quick-cooking oats, they’ve broken the grain apart for you already so your digestive tract doesn’t have to break it down as much,”

Does not cooking for 25 minutes do the same thing?

I’ll need a more reliable reference than that.

30 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

January 19th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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Andrea asked me to join in on this debate. From what I’ve read and from experience, soaking oats is great because it releases enzymes, increases the vitality contained in the food and breaks down the acid. Now what about quick cooking vs steel-cut oats? I always recommend steel-cut because I find it keeps you full longer. Apparently, slow-cooking oats are also lower on the glycemic index.

I checked the Robin Hood website. These are oats that I occasionally consume. It indicates that, “Robin Hood Quick Oats are 100% natural, contain no added preservatives, and are a great source of dietary fibre. These oats have been slow roasted for a mild nutty flavour, then carefully rolled to ensure quick, even cooking.” So there is some processing and the slow roasting process concerns me since it affects the vitality of the oat. This kind of processing is not necessarily bad for you but it all depends on what food philosophy you subscribe to. Some people want to eat foods in their most natural state. Quick oats are not in their most natural state. I often use oat groats, which I soak overnight and then process in the food processor with water, nut butter and some spices. No processing involved.

Steel-cut oats are just that – groats that have been cut and minimally processed, hence, the nutty, “harder” texture and flavour. Rolled oats are traditionally oat groats that have been rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers and then steamed and lightly toasted. So there’s processing involved. They’re less dense, making the cooking time faster than say, the steel-cut oats. The nutritional profile (calories, fat, vitamins and minerals, etc.) is probably not much different between the various oats but it’s important to look at different factors such as processing.

Yes, oats do contain phytic acid. The acid is something that somebody who may be anemic or has low iron (that’s me! I’m a thalassemia carrier) might be concerned with. It’s the type of acid that’s often found in grains. We don’t want toxic build-up in our body (that’s why elimination is important) but we do want food to hang out long enough so that the nutrients can be properly absorbed. This is not a problem that I lose sleep over since I eat plenty of good stuff and I would never tell someone to stop eating oatmeal. Just be conscious of it; if you have oatmeal one morning then go easy on the grains for the rest of the day.

31 | bushidoka

January 19th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

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Oh, and the part about losing some fibre during refining – by the definition of “refine’ that that I just found on google which refers to grains, rolled oats are not refined. It is the whole oat, steamed, then rolled. I guess in theory some miniscule portion of the husk is lost in doing so, but likely insignificant.

32 | bushidoka

January 19th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

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I have issue with this statement in the OP : “The reason you are able to cook it so quickly is that all of the healthy stuff has been stripped away all in the name of convenience”

This is just plain false, there is no other way about it.

Yes, soaking grains releases enzymes – brewers live and die by this process, I know it like the back of my hand. But this only benefits you if you eat them without cooking because cooking – especially as long as you cook oats – will denature all the enzymes.

Breaking down the acid by soaking – quite possible. Also quite possible by just cooking. I don’t know for sure. I do know the pH of beer wort changes as you boil it.

And I giggled at this : “I often use oat groats, which I soak overnight and then process in the food processor with water, nut butter and some spices. No processing involved.”

They are indeed processed – you just said you processed them :-)

Now believe me, I don’t eat many processed (in the factory) foods at all, and eat mainly whole foods, usually organic. And maybe a year ago I used to think the same thing about oats. But I’ve learned differently since then, and am convinced that my previous belief is not the case.

33 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

January 19th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

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To clarify, giving oats a whirl in a food processor is quite different than rolling flat flakes under heavy rollers and then steaming and lightly toasting. :-)

34 | bushidoka

January 19th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

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Are you cooking your oats after whirling them? If so, then I would guess there is very little difference. If not, then yes, there is quite a huge difference (active enzymes == very good for your body)

35 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

January 19th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

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No, I don’t cook them after whirling them. They’re eaten raw.

36 | Maranda

January 20th, 2011 at 10:20 am

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Wow, quite the debate! We prefer the taste of quick oats, but I mix them in about 1:3 ratio with steel cut for added nutrition. There, middle ground! :)

38 | Kristin

January 20th, 2011 at 10:22 am

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I do steel cut oats but I cook them in the slow cooker. One cup of oats, four cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Put it on low over night and you’ve got four or five servings. It’s a little less chewy but still so good. I use maple syrup to sweeten it and I also like walnuts. As for fruit I like fresh strawberries or dried cranberries and a really special treat is stewed strawberry rhubarb. Milk of course but sometimes I even use cream.

39 | Amy @ Muddy Boots

January 20th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

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@bushidoka The issue with soaking and enzymes is not necessarily to consume the enzymes themselves, but to allow those enzymes time to break down the phytic acid in the oats.

When you add oats to beer, which is then fermented, the length of time they’re in your mash (is this the right term?? *not a brewer*) plus the fermentation would -I assume- completely break down the phytic acid.

It’s important to note that all grains/nuts/seeds contain phytic acid. It’s an enzyme inhibitor that keeps these grains/nuts/seeds from sprouting and growing as soon as they hit the ground. They all require a certain combination of factors in order to grow… moisture, warmth, etc. Properly soaking/sprouting/fermenting grains/nuts/seeds is our way of replicating those factors and so give the phytase in grains/nuts/seeds times to break down the phytic acid so that our bodies can fully (or mostly) absorb all the nutrients available.

Does this mean that UN-soaked/sprouted/fermented grains/nuts/seeds (ie. OATMEAL) are bad for us?? No, but it explains why these things are difficult for many people to digest. In our everything-quick society, we’ve abandoned the traditional methods of preparing foods.

This is all coming from someone who just ate a big bowl of UNsoaked steel cut oatmeal. It was delicious. And MILES BETTER for me than HIGHLY processed, high-pressure extruded boxed cereal.

40 | bushidoka

January 20th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

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Hmmm, I do understand the reactions of enzymes when soaking grains, and how they break down things like starches (into simpler sugars), acids, beta-glucans and the likes (tonnes of beta glucan in oats BTW). What I don’t understand is why breaking down phytic acid makes nutrients more available. Please provide a reference which explains how this works.

Now I want to do a test. If phytic acid is being broken down, then the pH should change, should it not? My pH meter is busted, but my buddy who is a brewer and works in a lab near my house offered to do an experiment for me. I propose to take some steel cut oats, buzz them up fine and create a mash. Then measure the pH of the mash immediately, and then again after 12 hours.

I do know that different enzymes break down parts of a grain to make those nutrients available to the new growing plant, so I guess in a certain way it makes sense. For beer we break down starches into sugars because yeast cannot metabolise starch but can do so with sugars. But still, I’d like a reference which shows me what is going on with phytase in particular, and how the absence of phytic acid makes which nutrients more available to us. I would think there must be more enzymes working on other stuff too. in fact I know that you can malt oats (I have some malted oats) which means there has to be amylase enzyme that will develop as you soak the oats. This will break down starches into sugars – small chain sugars which are 2 and 3 sugars long. These are the simple sugars that are so evil and on the wrong end of the glycemic index ( I can never recall whether high or low is good). So by my experience with enzymes, would you not be creating a whole bunch of low-order sugars by soaking those overnight.

Here is an easy test for that one – buzz up a bunch of your oats and make mash. Take a bit out onto a plate and add a dropper of iodine. It will turn jet black because there are lots of long starches in there. Then let it soak overnight and do the test again. If it does not turn jet black then you’ve reduced all the long sugars (starches) into really short ones.

41 | How to make yogurt - a plain, natural recipe you will love >> a peek inside the fishbowl

January 21st, 2011 at 10:18 am

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[…] the sweetness. Personally I find commercially fruit yogurts much too sweet for my liking. Like with my oatmeal, I prefer it plain and to add my […]

42 | andrea

January 21st, 2011 at 10:26 am

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You guys lost me in all this chemisty. Sorry, it’s not quite my thing.

I will remain happy knowing that my oats are good for me because they’re fairly close to the source. :)

43 | bushidoka

January 21st, 2011 at 9:51 pm

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OK, I know why the starches aren’t breaking down into sugars – should have been obvious to me. Amylase enzyme takes a few days to develop by soaking (“malting”). So it should not happen overnight.

44 | Amy @ Muddy Boots

January 21st, 2011 at 11:13 pm

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From what I understand, one of the issues with oats and soaking them -even from long periods of time- is that oats don’t have a lot of phytase (which would normally break down the phytic acid) and so it’s best to add 10% of a grain that IS high in phytase (ie, wheat, rye, barley).

The reason that phytic acid is an issue is that it bind with nutrients AFTER ingestion and carries them out of the body. So soaking/neutralizing the phytic acid isn’t so much about making nutrients in oats more available, as much as it’s about keeping the nutrients IN our bodies and thus available for use.

Although I just read about this recently so I’m no expert! If you are going to do an experiment, I’d add another “test subject” and do one mash of oats + 10% of a grain that’s high in phytase. I’d be interested in what you find.

45 | What’s in the Crock? Another Crock! Oh, and oatmeal. | The Rambling Stroller

March 13th, 2011 at 8:03 am

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[…] wrote a post about steel-cut oatmeal. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who thinks – and blogs – about these […]

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