According to a study by Harvard University, wholegrains such as oats may be the key to living longer – so there’s no better time to perfect your morning bowl of warm, toasty porridge. We talk through the health benefits of this breakfast classic, plus share our ideas for technique 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 US study, 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.
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 five 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.
Banana, grated apple, thin slices of pear and blueberries are some of our favourite fruits to scatter unadorned on porridge, while our home economist Miriam likes roasted figs with thyme leaves and honey.
We’d never say no to two breakfasts in one, so granola-topped porridge is right up our street. Blitz a selection of nuts and seeds, plus tasty, sweet Medjool dates, then bake with a blend of maple syrup and olive oil. It’ll keep for a week and can be served with regular milk too.
While the uniform 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 or Brazil nuts fit the bill nicely.
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.
Still keen for more inspiration? Discover more healthy porridge recipes and topping ideas.
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...