Is porridge really good for you?
Health editor Tracey Raye discusses why a bowl of steamy, warming porridge is not just a healthy breakfast but a deeply nourishing meal, and how to make it just right for you
Want to know why porridge is good for you? Read on for our expert health editor's guide then check out our quick porridge toppers.
Porridge has become pretty synonymous with health over the years and for good reason. With wide-ranging benefits from lowering cholesterol to supporting weight-loss, one might start to believe that this humble breakfast bowl indeed possesses superpowers. Some of the more commonly known health benefits of porridge include:
- Loaded with vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.
- 6g of protein per 1/2 cup dry oats
- Rich in polyphenols
One of the many things that I have come to love about oats is the fact that they’re such a great source of prebiotic fibre, making them an incredibly gut healthy breakfast and food choice – especially for those who may not be a fan of yogurt or fermented foods.
"Prebiotics are essentially a food source for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. They can be consumed either through your diet or taken as a supplement."
– Tracey Raye, health editor
One of the fibres found in oats is called beta-glucan, a type of fibre that somewhat dissolves in water and forms a thick, gel-like solution in the gut – a property that is responsible for several well-known benefits:
- Supporting feelings of fullness
- Reducing blood sugar and insulin response
- Feeding healthy gut bacteria
- Reducing cholesterol levels (total & LDL)
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through years of working in the health industry, it’s that supporting your health and nourishing your body really is about consistency. While it’s great to include ‘healthy’ foods in your diet now and again, if you really want to feel the difference, then finding a way to authentically enjoy the foods which we know are good for us is the best way forward in the long run.
How to cook porridge to perfection
"I’m Scottish so I was always taught to cook the oats themselves – either porridge or pinhead – in just water with a tiny pinch of salt. Only then should you add your toppings and a splash of milk or cream if it’s really cold out. I personally like a splash of milk and a big spoon of deep roast peanut butter and raspberry jam."
– Adam Bush, deputy food editor
"I use fine milled porridge oats, I think you get a stodgier/smoother porridge which is the consistency I’m looking for, for comfort and warmth on chilly mornings. I keep rolled oats in the cupboard too, for granolas, crumbles or topping cakes."
– Anna Glover, food editor
Luckily, thanks to their versatility, oats are pretty approachable when it comes to finding a way to include them in your diet. If porridge seems a bit much, you can always start with crunchy homemade granola, snack bars or swapping out oat flour in your next baking adventure.
What is the best milk for porridge?
This will often come down to personal preference. From a health perspective, whole milk is a nutritious option or unsweetened almond milk for those looking for a non-dairy alternative. Oat milk or a touch of cream make for a creamy bowl, while soya or hemp milk are good choices for those looking for a plant-based protein boost.
Check out our detailed guide for even more of our favourite non-dairy milks.
Make your toppings count…
I’m a big believer in working to create the perfect marriage between taste, nourishment and satisfaction when it comes to what I’m eating. In fact, having food that both smells appealing and is visually satisfying signals to the body that a meal is coming and signals the digestive system to get prepared.
"I like making fruit compotes to add sweetness to the porridge without having to add extra sugar or honey, such as stewed apple with cinnamon and sultanas, rhubarb with orange juice, or berry and vanilla, then adding a few toasted chop nuts or seeds for crunch, and a spoon of yogurt or an extra splash of milk for extra creaminess. A couple of tsps of cocoa can turn plain porridge into a chocolatey treat, too. Top with sliced banana and a grating of dark choc so it melts on top."
– Anna Glover, Food Editor
Want even more inspiration? Try our easy porridge topping ideas…
The perfect porridge bowl
If you’re thinking that I’m including a section on porridge bowls simply because I adore beautiful crockery, you’d be right. However, studies suggest that looking at things which we find aesthetically pleasing can improve our feelings of happiness and even go so far as to suggest improvements in our overall quality of life.
"For comforting bowls of pasta, soups, stews and porridge, I love using Habitat’s Olmo bowls – there’s something seriously huggable about their shape and they’re really deep, meaning lots of room for hefty portions!"
–Anna Lawson, food & reviews editor
What to do when porridge is just a bit too carby?
As versatile and nourishing as porridge can be, it still might not be for everyone. At least in the traditional sense. If you find that you’re sensitive to those heaping bowls of compote topped oats or perhaps even grains in general, here are a few tips to make porridge right for you:
- Gluten-sensitive? Try certified gluten-free oats or consider a grain-free option like our Thai rice porridge with pork meatballs.
- Sugar conscious? For anyone who struggles with blood sugar balance or energy dips, a great solution is to add more fat and/or protein to your oats. One of my favourite ways to do this is by adding some nut butter or seeds such as chia or hemp seeds. You could also try adding a scoop of protein powder or even an egg into the mix.
Not a fan of warm oats? Try our favourite overnight oat recipes.
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