Here at Oldways (the WGC’s parent organization), we’re all about getting the nutrition benefits of the “old ways” of eating, in ways that fit with today’s busy life. In line with our philosophy, I’ve discovered a new method for cooking my morning oatmeal that’s a lot faster – and may provide some old-time benefits.

I love steel cut oats for breakfast, but they can take more than a half hour to cook, which doesn’t work for me on some mornings. This week I’m trying something new. The night before, when I’m cleaning up the kitchen, I mix a half-cup of steel-cut oats with a cup of water and a tablespoon of good plain yogurt, and leave the mix in a warm place overnight, in a small saucepan.

While I’m sleeping, the good bacteria in the yogurt ferment and soften the oats. In the morning, I stick the little saucepan in a bigger one filled partway with water, to create a double boiler. I bring the water to a boil, then cook for about ten minutes, adding extra water to the oatmeal if it seems dry. (Note: the double boiler is important. Fermented oats stick horribly to the pan as they cook, otherwise. And using a double boiler means I can be packing lunches while the oats cook, without paying any attention.)

The result? Creamy, nutty oatmeal in no time. I pour it into two bowls, top with fruit, and enjoy the same delicious taste as always – there’s no weird flavor from the fermentation.

But there may be extra health benefits. Traditional societies have always fermented their grains, making foods like sourdough breads, the fermented porridges popular in African countries, and idli, a fermented pancake that’s a staple in Southern India. According to the FAO, fermentation can improve flavor and texture; improve digestibility; and remove antinutrients, natural toxicants and mycotoxins.

A quick romp around Pub Med shows several intriguing studies that back up these benefits. In one, fermenting wheat cut down tremendously on the gliadin proteins that cause sensitivity in celiacs. Others cited the anti-microbial properties of the lactic acid bacteria formed by fermentation, and the increased risk of diarrhea in African children who give up their traditional fermented porridges for modern foods. And a final study showed that sourdough breads have a lower glycemic impact than either white or whole wheat yeast breads.

Many of the traditional ways of culturing our foods produce important good bacteria that are not present in the “same” foods produced quickly in factories. (Yogurt thickend by cornstarch, with no active cultures, comes to mind!) Your body may thank you if you eat more naturally-fermented products by starting the day with “sourdough” porridge, and ending it with a glass of wine, a good traditional cultured cheese, and a chunk of sourdough whole grain bread! (Cindy – Sept. 9, 2008)

Add a Comment