Can I Have Oatmeal on the Paleo Diet?
Generally speaking, oats are wholesome and nutritious. The fiber-rich food makes up a significant portion of most people’s breakfast.
Can you have Oatmeal on the paleo diet? Unfortunately, oats, like other grains, cannot be part of the paleo diet. They contain what we call antinutrients—avenin, phytates, and lectins—compounds that are not suitable for living a paleo lifestyle.
Why is Oatmeal Not Paleo-friendly?
Most people on the paleo diet may choose to avoid oats because they are ultimately grains that contain antinutrients.
Antinutrients are the compounds I mentioned above. It is not wise to consume them if you’re on a paleo diet as they can trigger inflammation, compromise your immune system, trigger an autoimmune disease, or even result in leaky gut syndrome.
Plus, oats are not gluten-free. Often, they come into contact with gluten-rich crops like wheat and rye; therefore, the risk of contamination is pretty high.
Here are the reasons why oatmeal should NOT be included in your paleo diet.
Avenin is a type of protein in oats. It is not suitable for people with gluten sensitivities. When consumed, it can trigger the same reaction that gluten does: an irritated intestinal lining.
Phytic Acid (Phytate)
Phytates are chemicals that bind minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron so that the body can’t absorb them. Too much of this acid in your diet can lead to mineral deficiencies, causing diseases like rickets and osteoporosis.
Lectins are a type of compound that is produced by plants to act as a defense mechanism. Their job is to irritate the digestive tract’s lining to cause discomfort and discourage the animal from eating seeds from the same plant again.
Even though not all types of lectins will cause intestinal irritation (e.g., gluten), the lectin in whole grains typically causes digestive upset. They can also slow down the immune response and damage the intestinal wall.
Technically, oats are gluten-free, but cross-contamination can occur when they come into contact with gluten-rich grains like wheat and rye. This can happen at the processing plant or if they grow next to gluten-rich plants.
Oats contain lots of carbohydrates. Even their high-fiber content, which lowers their glycemic index significantly, is not enough to stop them from causing your insulin from spiking.
Foods that increase your insulin levels can push your body into developing insulin resistance. You must keep your carbohydrate consumption in check to avoid this.
What Are Some Suitable Oatmeal Alternatives?
If you’re thinking of trading oats for something healthier, some of the suitable alternatives you can try are:
- White rice
Is There Any Way to Enjoy Oatmeal on the Paleo Diet?
It’s not easy to give up oatmeal altogether, even if it’s for the sake of living a paleo-friendly life.
It’s quite alright if you can’t bring yourself to quit eating oats entirely. There a few ways you can prepare them to reduce their negative impact. But before that, make sure that the oats you buy are marked “gluten-free” on the package.
The next thing that you should do is try to remove the phytates in oats. Soaking is never enough to cut down their phytic acid content significantly. Instead, try:
- Malt and soak – Soak the oats in malt (sprout) for a week at around 11 degrees Celsius (52F), then soak them at 49 degrees Celsius (120F) for about seventeen hours. This process is known to remove up to 98 % of the phytic acid that oats contain.
- Soak with ground wheat, spelled, or rye – Another way to get rid of phytates in oats is by soaking them together with a little bit of complimentary grain like wheat, rye, spelled, and buckwheat. These have been proven to remove phytates in oats.
- Soak then ferment – This method is similar to the above process, except you have to soak them (and the complimentary grain) in an acidic substance. Kefir, whey, and yogurt will do just fine.
It’s not advisable to include oats into your paleo diet as they contain antinutrients like gluten and phytic acid. However, there are ways that you can prepare oats to make them more suitable for the paleo diet.
In any case, always ensure that you buy gluten-free oats as they already contain less of the antinutrients that you’re supposed to avoid.
For more information about the paleo diet check out my other article Keto vs Paleo – What are the Differences?