Cold mornings are upon us and what better a way to start the day than with a warming bowl of a traditional favourite & nutritional powerhouse: porridge. Speaking of nutrition…
Health Benefits of the Humble Oat…
Rich in Beta Glucans
These immune stimulating substances help to keep those winter bugs at bay. Beta glucans stimulate the production of white blood cells- our ‘soldiers’ protecting us against invasion of bacteria/viruses.
Full of Minerals
Such as silica, which is important for skin, hair, nails and bones. So oats give you you strength and beauty – I’m sure the Scots would agree
What? you say…. it just means that they release carbohydrates (energy) slowly – keeping you fuller for longer, without sending your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable over the longterm means you slash your risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with poor blood sugar control (remember diabetes is the fastest growing disease today).
Source of Soluble Fibre
a gel-like fibre which ‘sweeps’ your colon clean and carries away toxic waste with it. For the same reasons it also helps to keep cholesterol and hormones in balance as it binds to particles in the digestive tract, preventing them from being re-absorbed later. Plus… you good bacteria residing in your gut LOVE soluble fibre so it keeps them happy- and when they are happy so is your body.
Basic Porridge Tips
Yes Goldilocks was onto a good thing… there is such thing as the perfect porridge 😉
Starting with the Obvious: Porridge Oats
Ideally organic and go for the thick ‘steelcut’ oats rather than fine milled or quick cook (you can also buy gluten free oats or use other flakes such as buckwheat/quinoa/brown rice/millet if you are gluten intolerant). For best results soak your oats overnight in a little water. This helps to break them down slightly, making them easier to digest (and quicker to cook).
Milk (Nut/Seed Milks or Whole Organic Milk). Almond Milk is a nice alternative to dairy, being rich in vitamin E, Magnesium and heart- healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Hemp Milk: rich in the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, which many of us are deficient in. Pour a little over after cooking to protect the delicate fats (as these are easily damaged by heat).
Fat. Yes that’s right – fat is good for you and adds a nice creaminess to porridge. Coconut oil or Butter are good options. Organic where possible or at least grass-fed, such as Kerrygold. This is a good tip from the Weston A Price Foundation website. Don’t be scared of saturated fat, a small amount is just fine. Butter is really good for you- it has vitamin A, D and K (of which many of us are deficient). Fat also helps your body to absorb important vitamins and minerals.
Then add any extras as below. I tend not to cook these, just mix in/sprinkle over after cooking (unless the fruit is frozen). Don’t be boring. Porridge needn’t ever be the same grey sludge again! Spruce up this old favourite up for new flavour sensations.
Additions for Flavour AND Health
Apple and Cinnamon
Pumpkin, Walnut and Goji Berry
Add frozen berries during the last minute of cooking until warmed through. Your porridge will turn an amazing colour as above! Blueberries contain polyphenols, substances which have antioxidant, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamins, minerals, malic acid for energy and the super flavonoid ‘Quercetin’ which has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity (based on scientific research). It is also rich in soluble fiber for a healthy gut. Add half in to cook with the oats and reserve the other half as a garnish.
A lovely warming spice and a great antioxidant, it also has anti-fungal properties and it also helps to lower blood sugar levels, keeping sugar cravings at bay. Perfect match with Apple, Pumpkin or Pear.
You can add leftover pumpkin puree to porridge or buy tinned pumpkin (such as Libby’s) don’t knock it till you try it! Think of Starbucks pumpkin spiced lates… but obviously much much healthier! Pumpkin is the ideal winter veg to stock up on thanks to the betacarotene it contains. This orange pigment supports the immune system, nasal passages and lungs in particular.
Flaxseeds are rich in lignans, which have antioxidant and hormone-balancing properties (phytoestrogens are especially good for post-menopausal women). Plus, they contain Omega 3 fats which so many of us are deficient in. These fats are called ‘Essential Fatty Acids’ for good reason- they are essential: our body can’t make them so we have to get them from our food. Omega 3 fats are needed for brain and cardiovascular health, supple skin and hair and generally they reduce inflammation in the body.
Also rich in omega 3 fats (anti-inflammatory) and the antioxidant ellagic acid (known to protect the brain and cardiovascular system). Ever noticed that they look like little brains?!
Add 1tsp of these in with the oats to soak the night before and cook with the oats- garnish with a few more after cooking. You can use any dried fruit but these tiny pink-orange fruit are particularly good for the winter as they contain immune stimulating polysaccharides. Also rich in carotenes which I’ve already mentioned. In China Goji berries are eaten regularly as an immune tonic.
These are just ideas – you can play around with different variations.
So long as you Remember… Not too hot, not too cold… just right!