Saturday, June 28, 2014

Oat porridge and its health benefits

Oats are an excellent choice for breakfast as they have numerous health benefits.

Health Benefits of Oats

  • Eating oats helps lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease1.
  • Oats help you feel fuller longer, which helps control your weight2.
  • Oatmeal and oats may help lower blood pressure3.
  • Oats may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, since their soluble fibre helps control blood sugar4.
  • Oats help prevent constipation, without the side effects associated with laxative medications5.
  • Oats are high in beta-glucans, a kind of starch that stimulates the immune system and inhibits tumours6,7. This may help reduce your risk of some cancers.
  • Early introduction of oats in children's diets may help reduce their risk of asthma8.
  • Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.
  • Oats contain more than 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching activity9-12.

Oat Products

You can buy different types of oat products in the shops and it’s sometimes confusing.

Very simply, the quicker the oats are to cook, the more they’ve been processed. And the more they’ve been processed, the greater the risk of oxidation of nutrients, such as essential oils and vitamins, which reduces their nutritional value.

The least processed are whole oat groats and the most processed are ‘instant oat’ products.

If you’re in a hurry, using instant oats is much better than not eating oats at all.

With a little practice, though, you’ll find that cooking whole oat grains, or oat groats, is easy and you can prepare enough for several breakfasts in one go.

Simple guide to oat products

Whole Oat Groats
A groat is another name for a grain kernel. Whole oat groats are the result of simply harvesting oats, cleaning them, and removing their inedible hulls. You can most often find these in health food stores. They take the longest to cook.

Steel Cut Oats
If you cut groats into two or three pieces with a sharp metal blade, you get steel cut oats. They cook quicker than oat groats, because water can more easily penetrate the smaller pieces. Steel cut oats are also sometimes called Irish oatmeal.

Scottish Oatmeal
Instead of cutting oats with a steel blade, the Scots traditionally stone-grind them, creating broken bits of varying sizes, which some say results in a creamier porridge than steel-cutting.

Rolled Oats – regular (old fashioned)
Rolled oats (sometimes called old fashioned oats) are created when oat groats are steamed and then rolled into flakes. This process stabilises the healthy oils in the oats, so they stay fresh longer, and helps the oats cook faster, by creating a greater surface area.

Rolled Oats – quick or instant
If you roll the oat flakes thinner, and/or steam them longer, you create quick oats and ultimately instant oats.

Oat Flour
Oat flour is a whole grain flour that can be used in baking, or for thickening soups and stews.

Recipe for whole oat porridge



1 cup oat groats

4-5 cups water if using slow cooker
6 cups water if using regular cooking pot

Put oat groats and water in a slow cooker and cook on medium heat for 2-3 hours or until the oats are soft, white and creamy.

You could also put them on a low heat setting in a slow cooker and leave overnight so the porridge is ready for breakfast in the morning.

Slow cookers are relatively cheap. I bought mine for £14 ($23) in a supermarket.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a regular cooking pot with a lid. You’ll probably find you need to add 6 cups water for every 1 cup of oat groats because you lose more water by evaporation with this method. Just bring the water to a boil and turn down the heat low and allow the oat groats to simmer with the lid on until soft, white and creamy.

This makes enough for 3 to 4 servings. 

Store what you don’t eat in a plastic container in the refrigerator for breakfasts later in the week.

OR to save time

50g/2oz rolled oats or quick cook oats

1½ cups water

Add water to rolled or instant oats and simmer gently for a few minutes while stirring until porridge becomes soft and creamy.

This is enough for one serving.

½ cup (100ml) nut milk, e.g., hazelnut milk

1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds

20g/¾oz raisins

For extra flavour, you can use nut milk in addition to water when cooking the porridge or when re-heating it after storage in the refrigerator.

Hazelnut milk is one of my favourite plant-based milks.

To save time, you can buy hazelnut and other plant-based milks ready-made in supermarkets or health food stores. These are convenient but they often contain a fair amount of added sugar and preservatives.

It’s easy to make your own plant-based milks - click on this link for a recipe.

Home-made plant-based milk

Home-made milks are tasty, fresh, free of additives and preservatives, and you can completely control the integrity of the product: the quality of the ingredients, the level of sweetness, and the texture.

I like to sprinkle ground seeds and raisins on my porridge.

To grind seeds, simply take a mixture of seeds of your choice, for example, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame, and grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder or food processor. Store what you don’t use in an air-tight container in a refrigerator and use it up within 3 to 4 days.

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1.          Davy BM, Davy KP, Ho RC, Beske SD, Davrath LR, Melby CL. High-fiber oat cereal compared with wheat cereal consumption favorably alters LDL-cholesterol subclass and particle numbers in middle-aged and older men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Aug 2002;76(2):351-358.
2.          Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E. A satiety index of common foods. European journal of clinical nutrition. Sep 1995;49(9):675-690.
3.          Keenan JM, Pins JJ, Frazel C, Moran A, Turnquist L. Oat ingestion reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild or borderline hypertension: a pilot trial. The Journal of family practice. Apr 2002;51(4):369.
4.          Lammert A, Kratzsch J, Selhorst J, et al. Clinical benefit of a short term dietary oatmeal intervention in patients with type 2 diabetes and severe insulin resistance: a pilot study. Experimental and clinical endocrinology & diabetes : official journal, German Society of Endocrinology [and] German Diabetes Association. Feb 2008;116(2):132-134.
5.          Sturtzel B, Mikulits C, Gisinger C, Elmadfa I. Use of fiber instead of laxative treatment in a geriatric hospital to improve the wellbeing of seniors. The journal of nutrition, health & aging. Feb 2009;13(2):136-139.
6.          Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Monteferrario F. [The biological activity of beta-glucans]. Minerva medica. Jun 2009;100(3):237-245.
7.          Albeituni SH, Yan J. The effects of beta-glucans on dendritic cells and implications for cancer therapy. Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry. Jun 2013;13(5):689-698.
8.          Virtanen SM, Kaila M, Pekkanen J, et al. Early introduction of oats associated with decreased risk of persistent asthma and early introduction of fish with decreased risk of allergic rhinitis. The British journal of nutrition. Jan 2010;103(2):266-273.
9.          Sur R, Nigam A, Grote D, Liebel F, Southall MD. Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity. Archives of dermatological research. Nov 2008;300(10):569-574.
10.        Meydani M. Potential health benefits of avenanthramides of oats. Nutrition reviews. Dec 2009;67(12):731-735.
11.        Koenig R, Dickman JR, Kang C, Zhang T, Chu YF, Ji LL. Avenanthramide supplementation attenuates exercise-induced inflammation in postmenopausal women. Nutrition journal. 2014;13:21.
12.        Yang J, Ou B, Wise ML, Chu Y. In vitro total antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory activity of three common oat-derived avenanthramides. Food chemistry. Oct 1 2014;160:338-345.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Apricot and almond treats

Many of us enjoy sweet treats at the end of a meal or as a snack during the day.

Too much concentrated sweetness in any form, even from natural ingredients, can disturb your hormones and general physiology, so it's best to minimise your intake of highly sweet foods.

Instead of reaching for sweets (candies) or sugary biscuits, why not try these delicious treats made from dried fruit and nuts.

This is a really quick and easy recipe, which you can whip up in a few minutes.

These are still sweet, even though made from natural ingredients, so don't eat too many all at once.


Makes 15
  • 15 organic dried unsulphured apricots
  • 4 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons strawberry jam - I use a brand which uses fruit cooked in its own juice and has no added sugar. You could also use something like rice malt syrup.
  • Chopped pecans or walnuts to decorate


Mix the strawberry jam a little at a time into the ground almonds until it has formed a dough-like consistency

Carefully slit each apricot open with a knife and fill with a small quantity of the almond and jam mixture

Decorate with chopped pecans

Nutrient information

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