For a high-energy breakfast that sticks to your ribs, warms you up on a crisp day and keeps you firing till lunchtime, it’s hard to go past porridge made with traditional oats – a good source of soluble fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron and zinc. Oats make really great porridge because they become comfortingly thick and soothingly creamy when you cook them, thanks partly to their soluble fibre. Exuding a warmth and goodness health halo they are so successful at kick-starting the day for porridge people and muesli fans alike that they have become stuck in the stacks in the breakfast cereal aisle. But oat groats (de-hulled oat grain) have a place at the table for other meals, too. You can use them in salads, pilafs and soups instead of pearl barley or spelt.
WHAT’S IN PORRIDGE? Half a cup (about 130g or 4½oz) of cooked traditional rolled oats have about 270 kilojoules (65 calories), 2g protein, 1.5g fat, 10g carbs (0g sugars/ 10g starches), 1g fibre, 0mg sodium, 48mg potassium.
WHAT ABOUT GI? SUGiRS have tested various types of porridge oats over the years and have found they can range from low GI to rather high. Why the difference? It’s all in the processing. After harvesting, raw oats are cleaned and hulled. Oat groats or whole oats are the de-hulled oat grain (they have not been GI tested but we would guesstimate they would have a low GI value similar to steel cut oats). You can use them in salads, pilafs and soups instead of pearl barley or spelt. Oat groats are then processed to produce a range of products to make your breakfast porridge including:
- Steel-cut oats (also called pin-head or Irish oats) are groats that have been chopped up with a steel blade (GI 42–52 depending on the brand).
- Scottish oats are stone-ground oat groats.
- Traditional rolled oats (old-fashioned oatmeal) are groats that are steamed (to soften) then rolled to produce flakes (GI 57)
- Instant oats (quick oats) are very fine oat flakes milled from steamed steel-cut oats or groats (GI 82). Some brands are pre-cooked so you just add hot water to make porridge. Some have flavourings and sweeteners added.
If you want to serve your porridge with oat milk (GI 69), this is made from steamed or heat-treated oat flakes or oat flour.
Overnight oats (oats soaked in milk overnight and eaten cold the next morning) are increasingly popular for brekkie. GI Labs in Toronto recently carried out a randomised controlled trial to see if the oats served this way retained their lower glycemic response. Dr Thomas Wolever, Principal Investigator at GI Labs, and the study’s lead researcher says: “Both the method of preparation and whether a food is consumed hot or cold have significant effects on postprandial glucose and insulin responses. In this study, we demonstrated that when oats are soaked in milk (cow’s) overnight, they retain their low glycemic and insulinemic impact.” Check out their findings in “Read more”.