Is porridge healthy?
Registered Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook outlines the benefits of porridge and why it makes such a healthy inclusion in the diet.
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What is porridge?
Porridge is traditionally a breakfast dish that is simply made by cooking oats with water or milk. Different spices, fruits and sweeteners, such as honey, can then be added according to taste.
Porridge can be made using different grains including buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, spelt or amaranth. Porridge made with oats is sometimes called oatmeal.
An average sized bowl (150g), made with whole cow’s milk, provides:
168 Kcal / 708 KJ
Don’t forget the nutritional profile of your porridge will vary depending on what you add as toppings or flavourings.
Top 5 health benefits
1. Helps to manage cholesterol levels
Oats contain a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which studies suggest can help lower your cholesterol level if you have 3g or more of it each day. A 40g serving of oats supplies 2g beta-glucan.
2. May help balance blood sugar levels
The fibre, beta glucan, is also beneficial in helping us manage our blood sugar levels with studies suggesting it helps to lower levels of blood glucose after a meal and improves our sensitivity to the blood sugar managing hormone, insulin.
3. May support gut health
Oats are rich in prebiotic fibres, one example being beta glucan; these are the fibres which stimulate the growth and activity of our beneficial gut bacteria helping them to function, while inhibiting the growth of less desirable or pathogenic varieties. Prebiotic fibres are important for promoting a beneficial gut environment, maintaining proper gut function and for minimising inflammation.
4. Provides protective antioxidants
Whole oats are a good source of protective compounds called polyphenols, these have protective antioxidant properties. One variety of which, avenanthramides, may help lower blood pressure by promoting the production of nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow.
5. May help with weight management
Porridge makes an excellent start to the day because oats are a source of complex carbohydrate, this means they provide slow-releasing energy to get you through the morning. In addition to this the soluble fibre in oats helps improve our sense of fullness, reducing our appetite and potentially helping us resist environmental cues to eat. The fibre beta glucan appears to also trigger the release of fullness hormones which supress our appetite.
Are oats safe for everyone?
Oats are safe for most people, although if you are not used to fibre in your diet you should introduce them gradually to avoid bloating and discomfort.
Oats don’t themselves contain gluten but may be contaminated during processing so, if you are coeliac or gluten intolerant, always check labels to ensure they are ‘gluten free’. Oats contain a protein called avenin, which although similar in structure to gluten appears to be well tolerated by most, although not all people.
If you have a condition which extends the length of time it takes to digest your food and you are not accustom to eating oats you should exercise caution because oats may not be an appropriate dietary inclusion for you.
If you have concerns speak to your GP or a registered dietician for guidance.
Best porridge recipes
This article was last reviewed on 15 July 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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