Today may be National Cereal Day in the USA, but we never miss an opportunity to celebrate the goodness that is porridge here in Scotland.
For nutritional impact in the morning, oats are hard to beat. Here are 10 reasons to eat them.
1. LOW-FAT VITAMIN-RICH
Oats are high in energy, but low in fat and rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals – that’s why porridge is one of the best foods for breakfast. An average bowl of porridge made with 1/2 a cup/50g of porridge oats and water is only 145 calories.
2. PROLONGED ENERGY RELEASE
Oats release their energy slowly, due to having a high content of complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre, so if you eat porridge for breakfast, you’ll stay fuller for longer, avoiding the urge to snack before lunch. A recent study in the Nutrition Journal, which compared eating porridge to other oat-based cereals, found that porridge helps people to manage hunger better than the cereals, because the viscosity of the porridge had a significant impact on fullness and desire to eat.
Oatmeal and porridge oats are two of the few wholegrain foods that come out of the package as 100 percent whole grain, meaning that the bran, germ and endosperm are all present after milling. That’s why oats are so high in fibre and rich in nutrients. Other examples of healthy whole grains include bulgar wheat, brown rice and popcorn.
Oats are high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals including calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, thiamine and vitamins B1 and E.
5. LOW-GI FOOD
Oats are a low-GI food – the lower the GI rating, the better the food is for blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI index help the body to keep energy levels steady, and keep the hunger pangs at bay for much longer. If you want a really low GI food, use coarser minimally processed oats and oatmeal, which have a higher fibre content.
6. OATS AND CHOLESTEROL
As part of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, oat beta glucans have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. If the body has more cholesterol than it needs, cholesterol levels in the blood can rise, and over time, may damage or clog the arteries. Oats act like tiny sponges, soaking up cholesterol and carrying it out of the bloodstream.
7. GREAT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
Oats are packed with fibre, iron, B vitamins and other nutrients that are vital for pregnancy including folic acid, which is essential for healthy foetal development.
8. SOLUBLE FIBRE
Soluble fibre is essential for healthy digestion, because it forms a gel in the gut which can stop cholesterol-rich bile acids being absorbed into the body. Oats contain more soluble fibre than any other grain. Scientists have shown that soluble fibre can also help to maintain a healthy heart when eaten as part of a low fat diet.
9. OATS AND DIABETES
Because of the high fibre and low GI index, oats are recommended for diabetics, because they have less impact on blood sugar levels than some other grains, and can help maintain glucose levels. However people with diabetes are advised to check the added ingredients of instant porridge products for sugars and flavourings. Try making plain porridge and adding berries, nuts and cinnamon instead.
10. COELIAC DISEASE
Guidelines from the Coeliac Society suggest that many people with coeliac disease can tolerate pure uncontaminated oats and oat products, however oats are often grown alongside other crops like wheat, barley and rye, which can make them unsafe. We advise you to refer to the Coeliac Society website for the latest research, and speak to your local healthcare team, GP or dietician, who can monitor you if you choose to try oats.
There are lots of reasons for eating oats – whether for breakfast hot as porridge, or cold in granola or overnight oats. You can also incorporate oats into many sweet and savoury recipes to give them texture and boost their nutritional value. Visit our recipe library for lots of inspirational ideas.