If there was an award for the healthiest breakfast, humble porridge would win. Oats provide slow-releasing carbohydrates that give us energy, B vitamins for a healthy nervous system, and beta-glucan, a type of fiber that keeps “bad” cholesterol levels in check.
"We need at least 3 grams of beta-glucan a day to get the cholesterol-lowering benefits," says Helen Bond, a nutritionist based in Derbyshire.
"A bowl of porridge made from 50 g of oats (4 tablespoons, one serving for adults) provides 1.9 g."
A serving made with 300 ml of skimmed milk also provides nearly a third of the daily adult protein for tissue repair, as well as half the daily calcium for strong bones.
New porridges appear on the shelves of supermarkets, claiming greater health benefits and containing different grains or oatmeal.
ANGELA DOWDEN asked Helen Bond to rate a selection; we then rated them.
Oats provide slow-releasing carbohydrates that give us energy, B vitamins, and beta-glucan. (Picture from a picture agency)
MINDFUEL POSH TEFF PORRIDGE CACAO AND CAYENNE PEPPER 6/10
285 g, £ 4.99, planetorganic.com.
Per 100 g: calories 325; Protein, 10.4 g; saturated fat, 1.2 g; Fiber, 34 g; Sugar, 18.9 g; Salt, 0.2 g
Mindfuel Posh Teff Porridge Caco and Cayenne Pepper, £ 4.99, planetorganic.com
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made with teff, an ancient, gluten-free grain from Ethiopia. The flaked grains are flavored with dried nectar made from coconut palm blossom, cocoa, cayenne pepper and salt.
Teff, which has a natural nutty taste, is rich in resistant starch that helps feed good gut bacteria that affect everything from bowel regularity to immunity and mood.
A 50g serving also provides more than half of your daily fiber and more than a fifth of your daily magnesium (for healthy nerves and muscles) and iron (for healthy blood and to help maintain energy levels).
The downside is the added sugar from coconut palm blossom, with a serving being a third of your daily limit.
YO & # 39; RIDGE BLUEBERRIES, RASPBERRIES AND BLACKCURRANTS 4/10
Yo & # 39; ridge blueberries, raspberries and black currants, £ 1.99, health food stores and thevegankindwholesale.com
125g, £ 1.99, health food stores and thevegankindwholesale.com
Per 100 g: calories 96; Protein, 2.2 g; saturated fat, 1.1 g; Fiber, 2.5 g; Sugar, 8.6 g; Salt, 0.02 g
EXPERT VERDICT: The main ingredients are water and berries – it's only 6 percent oats plus lentils, sesame seeds and maple syrup. These are fermented with "good" bacteria for a yogurt-like consistency.
However, fermented foods are believed to be good for the intestines, but not enough information is given about the cultures inside, so it's unclear whether this is superior to plain yogurt, for example.
The berries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids for heart health. It's low in calories, but the serving size is half the size of a bowl of porridge so you won't get full – and there are nearly two teaspoons of sugar made from maple syrup and fruit concentrates.
TROO HAPPY WITH FLAXSEED AND CINNAMON 8/10
400g, £ 2.25, sainsburys.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories 371; Protein, 10 g; saturated fat, 1.3 g; Fiber, 17 g; Sugar, 3.3 g; Salt, 0.03 g
Troo Happy with flaxseed and cinnamon, £ 2.25, sainsburys.co.uk
EXPERT VERDICT: Made from oats, flaxseeds, coconut sugar, and cinnamon, a 50g serving contains about a third of your daily fiber. It contains additional fiber from added inulin, which is obtained from chicory roots.
This fiber feeds friendly gut bacteria, but if you have irritable bowel syndrome, avoid it as inulin can cause gas and bloating.
The label seems to imply that the added cinnamon and flaxseed improve mood, but there's no evidence to support it.
However, flaxseed provides one-third of your daily omega-3 fat, a fat needed for heart and brain health.
The porridge also has added sugar, but only about a quarter of a teaspoon in one serving, which is not a problem.
RUDE HEALTH NAKED BARLEY PORRIDGE 10/10
350g, £ 3, ocado.com
Rudge Health Naked Barley Porridge, £ 3, ocado.com
Per 100 g: calories 312; Protein, 13.7 g; saturated fat, 1.4 g; Fiber 20.2 g; Sugar, 0.7 g; Salt, less than 0.05 g
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made entirely from barley flakes with nothing else added. Barley has a very low glycemic index – a measure of how much it raises blood sugar levels – at just 28, compared to 55 for oats and over 90 for corn flakes. So this is a great option if you have or are at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Barley contains beta-glucan levels similar to oats, helping to control cholesterol – but is rich in other fiber that is beneficial for intestinal health.
Prepare it by simmering with skimmed milk for ten minutes.
Made this way, a 50g bowl contains 14g of protein – roughly the same amount of this muscle-building and appetite-building nutrient as two boiled eggs. Made with water, it would contain less calcium and protein.
PLANT ORGANIC SPROUTED ROLLED NAKED OATS 7/10
300 g, £ 4.99, planetorganic.com
Plant Organic Germinated Rolled Bare Oats, £ 4.99, planetorganic.com
Per 100 g: calories 389; Protein, 9.6 g; saturated fat, 1.3 g; Fiber 3.1 g; Sugar, 1.2 g; Salt, 0.03 g
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made with naturally hulled (bare) oats that are partially sprouted (sprouted) and then dried over low heat, which is supposed to retain nutrients.
Folate levels (for normal blood formation and a healthy immune system), zinc (required for fertility and cognitive function) and iron (which protects against fatigue) should theoretically be higher than with normal oatmeal.
This is because sprouting begins to destroy the structure of the grain, which makes it easier for the body to use the nutrients. However, there are no standards for making sprouted oats that could guarantee it is more nutritious.
A 50 g serving of standard oatmeal with milk provides more than an eighth of your daily iron and around 12 percent of your daily zinc. So you no longer have to look for these nutrients in a daily porridge.
PERKIER + IMMUNE OATY QUINOA PORRIDGE GOLDEN SYRUP 4/10
55g, £ 1.25, Morrisons and perkier.co.uk
Perkier + Immun oat quinoa porridge golden syrup, £ 1.25, Morrisons and perkier.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories 375; Protein, 16 g; saturated fat, 3.6 g; Fiber, 6.5 g; Sugar, 18 g; Salt, 0.01 g
EXPERT VERDICT: This instant pot with added water contains 65 percent gluten-free oats, 3 percent quinoa flakes, soy protein and dried coconut milk.
It has added vitamins B12, C, and D which support the immune system – you get all of your daily needs in one serving.
You won't get as much protein out of this pot as you would in a bowl of porridge with milk, as it's made with water and the lack of dairy products means you aren't getting the calcium for healthy bones either.
There is also a lot of sugar in it: it contains two and a half teaspoons per serving, which is almost a third of your recommended daily limit and the equivalent of consuming two chocolate digestive biscuits.
DAILY CULTURES PORRIDGE OATS 8/10
280g, £ 3.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Daily cultures porridge oats, £ 3.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Per 100 g: calories 370; Protein, 11 g; saturated fat, 1.3 g; Fiber 10.5 g; Sugar, 1 g; Salt, trace
EXPERT VERDICT: This contains wholegrain oat flakes and, like normal porridge, contains a lot of fiber, protein and little sugar, but also probiotic (friendly bacteria) Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086.
Studies sponsored by the manufacturer suggest that the probiotic helps people recover from sore muscles after exercise and improves breathing and gastrointestinal problems.
However, you would have to eat this every day to get the suggested benefits. A varied diet of legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables should nourish intestinal bacteria without the need for a probiotic.
FOOD PROTEIN PORRIDGE VANILLA 7/10
Foodspring Protein Porridge Vanilla, £ 12.99, foodspring.co.uk
420g, £ 12.99, foodspring.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories 374; Protein, 32 g; saturated fat, 1.6 g; Fiber, 18.3 g; Sugar, 14.3 g; Salt, 0.07 g
EXPERT VERDICT: The main ingredient here is soy garnet, which is made by grinding roasted soybeans. It also contains oats, milk protein powder, ground dates, and inulin.
The manufacturer says this contains twice as much protein as regular porridge. However, the protein content of 16 g in a 50 g serving with water (as recommended) is equivalent to a 50 g bowl of oats with 300 ml of milk.
The ground dates provide almost two teaspoons of sugar, which isn't particularly good, but you also get fiber, iron, and magnesium. You are getting 31 percent of your daily fiber per serving, but inulin can upset delicate bowels.
THE BRAVE APE CO ORIGINAL KETO NOATMEAL 2/10
240g, £ 5.99, braveape.co
The Brave Monkey Keto Noatmeal, £ 5.99, braveape.co
Per 100 g: calories 446; Protein, 18 g; saturated fat, 13 g; Fiber, 21 g; Sugar, 14 g; Salt, 0.09 g
EXPERT VERDICT: This grain-free “porridge” made from coconut, chia, hemp and flaxseed was developed for the keto diet – a low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimen designed to induce the body to burn fat instead of glucose for energy and claimed to be better for weight loss to be. Instead of added sugar, it contains sweeteners.
You get magnesium and iron from seeds and a third of your daily fiber from a 50g serving.
The seeds also contain "good" alpha-linolenic acid, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
But in a 50g serving, you get almost a third of your daily limit for saturated fat – that's the equivalent of two sausages and maybe why the manufacturer recommends a 30g bowl (but that's still a fifth of your daily limit).
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