Great porridge starts with plain, medium-ground oats cooked in a little water or milk, and topped with wholesome ingredients, like a bit of grass-fed cream or butter, agave, honey, seeds or fruit. You might even find yourself looking forward to it before bed or as soon as you wake up, and if you make it a habit, it may actually significantly improve your general health!
Oats are an ancient food. Traditional in the UK and Ireland, it is very likely that your ancestors had porridge for breakfast. Oat porridge is commonly consumed in Scotland, Ireland, English-speaking countries, Nordic countries and Germany. However, even if your ancestors are from elsewhere, the use of porridge variations is so widespread that it is unlikely that members of your family from the past did not consume this amazing food.
Oats contain manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. They are also rich in caretenoids, tocols (vitamin E), flavanoids and avenanthramides – a type of polyphenols, which all help us stay healthy.
The best benefits of porridge
Porridge has the following benefits:
- It’s proven to curb bad (LDL) cholesterol. This is because it has a type of soluble fibre called beta glucan. Eating oats has been linked to a 7% drop in LDL cholesterol.
- Porridge helps you feel full and eat less during the day. One cup of dry oats contains almost a third of the recommended daily intake of fibre for women, which is 25 grams. The recommended intake for men is 38 grams, meaning that’s around one fifth for men.
- Porridge can help ease constipation and control blood sugar, lessening the risk of related illnesses.
- Oats may reduce the risk of diseases of the heart. Studies show that eating foods rich in whole-oat sources of soluble fibre, including oat bran and oat flour, may help lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
- It may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Two million people were involved in a study in Britain and the Netherlands that showed that a high fibre diet including whole grains and cereals like oats was linked to fewer cases of colorectal cancer.
- Porridge may aid in reducing blood pressure. An article published in a journal about nutrition recently stated that including plenty of whole grains in the diet was just as effective as taking some medications prescribed by doctors for high blood pressure.
However, not all types of oat products were created equally. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to be careful that the oat brand you buy aren’t tainted with gluten when they’re being processed or growing in the fields.
How to eat porridge
When out shopping for oats, you’ll see several types on the shelves. They are all made from the “oat groat”, which is the whole oat kernel. Here are the types you’ll see:
- Instant oats: Oat groats that have been steamed and flaked so they are easier to cook.
- Rolled oats (which may also be called regular or old-fashioned oats!): These are steamed and rolled into flakes, but are thicker than instant oats. This means they take longer to cook, but contain more nutrients.
- Steel-cut oats: These may also be called Irish oats. This is the whole oat kernel, cut up. They take around 20 minutes before they’re ready.
- Scottish oats: These oats are just like steel-cut oats, but they are ground instead of cut. According to many, medium-ground oats are the best to make porridge with.
- Oat groats: This is the whole oat kernel, but they need around an hour to cook through properly once you have brought the water to the boil. However, this is the healthiest type of oats!
Traditional Irish porridge
You see so many Scottish recipes, but how about making a delicious Irish-style porridge?
- 1 cup/7oz steel cut oats
- 2 pints of water or milk, or half of each, to your taste
- The night before you want to eat your porridge, bring the water to a rapid boil.
- Slowly add the oats, mixing well, until the water begins to boil again.
- Turn off the heat, cover the porridge and leave it overnight.
- The next morning, add more water (or milk), stir and reheat.
- Top with nuts, cinnamon, agave, honey, fruit, cream, butter or another healthy wholefood.
Images courtesy of megan chromik, Wiennat Mongkulmann, Rachel Tayse, Alpha, Jim Champion and theimpulsivebuy.