Oh, how I love my oats. I love oats each and every way. Whether made into a delightfully mushy steaming hot bowl of porridge, a chewy biscuit or some crunchy granola, I always feel happy and nourished after tucking into some oats. It is like an internal switch flicks and suddenly I am filled with glowing sunshine and warmth! Too much? No, I don't think so. Oats deserve all this praise and more.
Nutritionally, oats are superb. They are a wholegrain, which means that the grain is kept intact during processing. This ensures that the nutrients are retained, unlike white refined grains whereby most of the nutrients are lost during processing (boo!). High in soluble fibre (namely beta-glucan), oats work to lower your cholesterol levels. They are also high in insoluble fibre, which helps keep you regular. Oats have a low glycaemic index (GI), meaning they allow a slow release of energy into the blood stream, helping to keep you fuller for longer. Thus, with their cholesterol lowering effects and low GI status, oats can be particularly beneficial in the management of heart disease and diabetes, as well as weight control. Oats also contain B vitamins and vitamin E, a variety of minerals (including iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium), and protective antioxidants.
Ok, enough nutrition information. I'm sure you appreciate by now that oats are very good for you. And no, I am not sponsored by an oats manufacturer. Although I am open to discussions…..
Seriously though, oats are fantastic. Healthy, tasty, cheap and natural - what more could you want?
I have many oat recipes and ideas I wish to share with you, and I feel that the next few days may be a sort of homage to the humble oat grain.
My first oat-related post has to be about porridge. I adore porridge. It is the perfect breakfast on cold mornings to warm you up and fill your tummy.
Up until a few years ago, I tended to make my porridge using water and no milk. I have never been a fan of straight milk, no one in my family is. Therefore I never thought to make my porridge with it. However I recently gave it a go, as I do often struggle to reach my daily calcium requirements and I thought that using milk in porridge would be an easy way to incorporate more dairy into my diet. Unsurprisingly, I found that porridge made with milk as opposed to water kept me fuller for a lot longer. Snap. Now I always make my porridge using milk (low-fat milk, of course. Low-fat dairy is always preferred, to reduce saturated fat intake).
I'm not sure if it is the dietitian in me, or the foodie in me, but fruit is always a must with me and oats. Preferably cooked fruit. I'm thinking banana (cooked with the oats or grilled with some brown sugar), sultanas added during cooking so they absorb liquid and go all heavenly and plump, or stewed apples with cinnamon. Fresh fruit is also delicious, and can add a burst of freshness to the sometimes heavy oat base. Fresh blueberries are a favourite.
Then there are the other toppings like toasted nuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and pepitas – for even more nutrients and a nice textural crunch. I often add a sweetener in the form of brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.
This morning, I started my day with a beautiful bowl of porridge.
I cooked 1/3 cup oats and a banana in milk with a pinch of salt and brown sugar. I topped it with chia seeds, toasted almond flakes and a dollop of natural almond butter. I won't even attempt to delve into my love of nut butters now. Another time, another post.
This porridge was delicious, and filled me up for a good 3 hours. Not too heavy or too sweet, it was the perfect balance of flavours and textures. Mmmmmmmmm. Is it breakfast time again? Not that the time really matters. I am known to jump at the chance of having porridge for dinner. Ben and I did this last year whilst staying in an Edinburgh hostel - to save money and also for a bit of home-style comfort food.
That is the magic of food like oats. It can keep us strong and healthy and give us energy to take on the world, fill us with joy and warmth and happiness, bring back memories of home and make us feel loved. Porridge for breakfast again tomorrow? I think so...