Wholegrains such as oats offer various health benefits, and research suggests they may be key to living longer. Discover more about the nutritional profile of your porridge, plus creative ideas for techniques and toppings.
While the beauty of porridge is in its simplicity, there’s now another reason to love this most wholesome of breakfasts – according to a study by Harvard University, people who eat plenty of oats and other wholegrains live longer and are less likely to die from heart disease. Our health editor Roxanne Fisher talks us through the benefits of the unassuming oat…
"All too often we’re led to believe the likes of chia, quinoa and other exotic sounding ingredients have the monopoly on the coveted ‘superfood’ title. However, countless studies have put the humble oat right up there with pricey health boosters. The cereal grain’s proven talents include helping to lower high blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol – not to mention a packed portfolio of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Oats are also the go-to fitness food for beginners and athletes alike. A bowl of their slow-releasing, wholegrain goodness an hour before exercise ensures blood sugar levels remain steady through a workout, while providing enough energy to keep you going.
Their stellar credentials were boosted even further by a recent study in the US claiming people who ate a diet rich in wholegrains were about 15% less likely to die from heart disease, compared with people who opted instead for white and refined options.
A daily intake of about 3g is enough to be beneficial – so what are you waiting for? Our favourite way to enjoy oats is in a creamy bowl of porridge. Find out how to make the ultimate pot and try out our healthy porridge recipes and nutritious topping ideas."
How to make the ultimate porridge
Start with the basics... the oats
Our food editor Cassie says the type of oats you choose for your porridge is really down to personal preference. Jumbo or rolled oats will give you a really chunky texture, but packets labeled as ‘porridge oats’ will generally contain a medium-ground oatmeal, which will allow for a fine, smooth texture, should that be your preference.
Porridge can be made with just water, but if that sounds too much like austere gruel, stir in a touch of yogurt too. A more orthodox route is using regular, soya or nut milk with the fat content of your choice – or opt for a half water/half milk blend. Alternatively, use plain yogurt on its own, or go really luxe with coconut milk.
For a truly creamy porridge, employ a slow and steady approach. For optimum results cook on the hob – bring the liquid to the boil then turn down to a simmer for five minutes. If you’re a microwave devotee, cook for five minutes, keeping an eye out for any volcano-style milky eruptions.
Change it up
If you own a slow cooker, it’s an ideal vessel for creating a no-fuss breakfast. Assemble the porridge ingredients on an evening and wake up to perfection in a bowl. Robust, jumbo oats work best for this method.
If you don’t fancy something hot or want to eat on the go, a bircher is a satisfying alternative to traditional porridge. It will still take around five minutes to make as the jumbo oats are soaked in juice, but if you make a batch, it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. If you really want to ramp up the nutrition factor, add a sprinkling of chia seeds and watch them expand.
Toppings and additions...
Give your porridge instant pizzazz by adding simple flavours. Nut butters such as almond, hazelnut or cashew give porridge a real hearty depth – just make sure you stir vigorously to dissolve any clumps. Try simple spice like cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice, added at the end of cooking, vanilla extract, creamed or dessicated coconut or a touch of jam.
Sweets for my sweet
Opt for honey, maple syrup or agave if you fancy a drizzle of liquid sugar, or add your favourite kind of granulated sugar either at the start of cooking, as a semi-melted topping or both.
Our favourite porridge toppings…
Cassie is a firm advocate of using up whatever is in her fruit bowl when it comes to toppings. Apples, pears, cranberries and plums work well – simply stew with a little syrup or sugar.
Porridge with beetroot, apple & cranberry compote & toasted hazelnuts
Porridge with blueberry compote
Creamy porridge with spiced apple & cranberry
Spiced coconut porridge with cranberry & orange compote
Creamy yogurt porridge with apple & raisin compote
Banana, grated apple, thin slices of pear and blueberries are some of our favourite fruits to scatter over a warming bowl of porridge. Go all-out tropical by liberally topping your oats with chopped banana, coconut yogurt, coconut shavings, lime juice and a cherry.
We’d never say no to two breakfasts in one, so crunchy granola-topped porridge is right up our street. Combine porridge oats with cinnamon, oil and raisins, then sprinkle the crunchy clusters over honey-soaked plums before baking in the oven.
While the silkiness of porridge is one of its charms, adding a bit of texture will create a new dimension. Crush your favourite nut to scatter on top – almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts all fit the bill nicely.
Give your porridge a taste of luxury with aromatic vanilla-poached plums and crunchy toasted almond flakes. Finish with a drizzle of gorgeously creamy almond butter for ultimate satisfaction.
Vegetables in porridge – who'd have thought? We seriously recommend trying this maple squash, bacon and blueberry porridge topper for a comforting treat that'll keep you full until lunch. The roasted butternut squash has a gorgeously caramelised taste that's perfectly balanced out by the salty bacon and juicy blueberries.
Vitamin-packed seeds will add a satisfying crunch and healthy kudos to your breakfast bowl. Try linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds, or add dried fruit or goji berries when you’re out of fresh fruit.
Get more perfect porridge inspiration...
Are you a porridge lover? What are your secret tips for making the silky stuff - and how do you serve it? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below...