If there were a prize for the healthiest breakfast, humble porridge would win. Oats provide slow-release carbs that give us energy, B vitamins for a healthy nervous system, and beta glucan, a type of fibre that keeps ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in check.
‘We need at least 3g of beta glucan a day to get the cholesterol-lowering benefits,’ says Derbyshire-based dietian Helen Bond.
‘A bowl of porridge made with 50g of oats [4 tbsp, an adult portion] provides 1.9g.’
A serving prepared with 300ml semi-skimmed milk also provides almost a third of an adult’s daily protein for tissue repair, plus half the daily calcium for strong bones.
New porridges claiming greater health benefits and containing different grains or ‘souped-up’ oats are appearing on supermarket shelves.
ANGELA DOWDEN asked Helen Bond to assess a selection; we then rated them.
Oats provide slow-release carbohydrates that give us energy, B vitamins and beta glucan. (Stock image)
MINDFUEL POSH TEFF PORRIDGE CACAO AND CAYENNE PEPPER 6/10
285g, £4.99, planetorganic.com.
Per 100g: Calories, 325; protein, 10.4g; saturated fat, 1.2g; fibre, 34g; sugar, 18.9g; salt, 0.2g
Mindfuel Posh Teff Porridge caco and cayenne pepper, £4.99, planetorganic.com
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made with Teff, an ancient, gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia. The flaked grains are flavoured with dried nectar of coconut palm tree blossom, cacao, cayenne pepper and salt.
Teff, which has a natural nutty flavour, is high in resistant starch, which helps to feed good gut bacteria that influence everything from bowel regularity to immunity and mood.
A 50g serving also provides more than half your daily fibre and more than a fifth of your daily magnesium (for healthy nerves and muscles) and iron (for healthy blood and maintaining energy levels).
The downside is the added sugar from coconut palm tree blossom, with a serving having a third of your daily limit.
YO’RIDGE BLUEBERRIES, RASPBERRIES, AND BLACKCURRANTS 4/10
Yo’ridge blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, £1.99, health food shops and thevegankindwholesale.com
125g, £1.99, health food shops and thevegankindwholesale.com
Per 100g: Calories, 96; protein, 2.2g; saturated fat, 1.1g; fibre, 2.5g; sugar, 8.6g; salt, 0.02g
EXPERT VERDICT: The main ingredients are water and berries — it is just 6 per cent oats, plus lentils, sesame seeds and maple syrup. These are fermented with ‘good’ bacteria for a yoghurt-like consistency.
However, fermented food is thought to be good for the gut, but not enough information is given on the cultures inside, so it is unclear if this is superior to, say, natural yoghurt.
The berries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids for heart health. It is low in calories, but the portion size is half that of a bowl of porridge so won’t fill you up — and there are nearly two teaspoons of added sugar from the maple syrup and fruit concentrates.
TROO HAPPY WITH FLAXSEED AND CINNAMON 8/10
400g, £2.25, sainsburys.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 371; protein, 10g; saturated fat, 1.3g; fibre, 17g; sugar, 3.3g; salt, 0.03g
Troo Happy with flaxseed and cinnamon, £2.25, sainsburys.co.uk
EXPERT VERDICT: Made with oats, flaxseed, coconut sugar and cinnamon, a 50g portion provides about a third of your daily fibre.with extra fibre from added inulin, extracted from chicory root.
This fibre nourishes friendly gut bacteria, but steer clear if you have irritable bowel syndrome, as inulin can cause bloating.
The label seems to imply that the added cinnamon and flaxseed will boost mood, but there’s no evidence for this.
However, the flaxseed does supply a third of your daily omega-3, a fat needed for heart and brain health.
The porridge also has added sugar, but only around a quarter of a teaspoon in a serving, which isn’t a concern.
RUDE HEALTH NAKED BARLEY PORRIDGE 10/10
350g, £3, ocado.com
Rudge Health Naked Barley Porridge, £3, ocado.com
Per 100g: Calories, 312; protein, 13.7g; saturated fat, 1.4g; fibre, 20.2g; sugar, 0.7g; salt, less than 0.05g
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made wholly of barley flakes, with nothing else added. Barley has a very low glycaemic index — a measure of how much it raises blood sugar levels — at just 28, compared with 55 for oats and over 90 for cornflakes, so this is a great option if you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk of it.
Barley contains similar levels of beta glucan to oats, helping to control cholesterol levels — but is richer in other types of fibre that boost gut health.
Prepare by simmering with semi-skimmed milk for ten minutes.
Made this way, a 50g bowl has 14g protein — about the same amount of this nutrient, which builds muscles and helps curb appetite, as in two boiled eggs. Made with water, it would contain less calcium and protein.
PLANT ORGANIC SPROUTED ROLLED NAKED OATS 7/10
300g, £4.99, planetorganic.com
Plant organic sprouted rolled naked oats, £4.99, planetorganic.com
Per 100g: Calories, 389; protein, 9.6g; saturated fat, 1.3g; fibre, 3.1g; sugar, 1.2g; salt, 0.03g
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made with naturally hulled (naked) oats, which are partially germinated (sprouted) then dried at a low heat, which is said to preserve nutrients.
Levels of folate (for normal blood formation and a healthy immune system), zinc (needed for fertility and cognitive function) and iron (which protects against tiredness) should theoretically be higher in this than in standard porridge oats.
This is because sprouting begins to break down the grain’s structure, which makes the nutrients easier for the body to use. But there are no standards for producing sprouted oats that can guarantee it would be more nutritious.
A 50g serving of standard porridge oats with milk already supplies over an eighth of your daily iron and about 12 per cent of your daily zinc, so there’s no real need to be chasing any more of these nutrients in a daily porridge.
PERKIER + IMMUNE OATY QUINOA PORRIDGE GOLDEN SYRUP 4/10
55g, £1.25, Morrisons and perkier.co.uk
Perkier+Immune oaty quinoa porridge golden syrup, £1.25, Morrisons and perkier.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 375; protein, 16g; saturated fat, 3.6g; fibre, 6.5g; sugar, 18g; salt, 0.01g
EXPERT VERDICT: This just-add-water instant pot contains 65 per cent gluten-free oats, 3 per cent quinoa flakes, soy protein and dried coconut milk.
It has added vitamins B12, C and D, which support the immune system — you get your entire daily needs of these in one serving.
You won’t get as much protein from this pot as in a bowl of oat porridge with milk because it is made with water, and the absence of dairy means you don’t get the calcium for healthy bones either.
There is a lot of sugar in this, too: per serving, it contains two-and-a-half teaspoons, which is nearly a third of your recommended daily limit and is the equivalent to eating two chocolate digestive biscuits.
DAILY CULTURES PORRIDGE OATS 8/10
280g, £3.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Daily cultures porridge oats, £3.99, hollandandbarrett.com
Per 100g: Calories, 370; protein, 11g; saturated fat, 1.3g; fibre, 10.5g; sugar, 1g; salt, trace
EXPERT VERDICT: Containing wholegrain rolled oats, this has high levels of fibre, protein and low sugar like normal porridge, but with the added probiotic (friendly bacteria) Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086.
Studies sponsored by the maker suggest the probiotic helps people recover from post-exercise muscle soreness, and improves respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
You’d need to eat this every day to get the suggested benefits, though. A varied diet with pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg should nourish gut bacteria, without the need for a probiotic.
FOODSPRING PROTEIN PORRIDGE VANILLA 7/10
Foodspring Protein Porridge vanilla, £12.99, foodspring.co.uk
420g, £12.99, foodspring.co.uk
Per 100g: Calories, 374; protein, 32g; saturated fat, 1.6g; fibre, 18.3g; sugar, 14.3g; salt, 0.07g
EXPERT VERDICT: The main ingredient here is soy semolina, made by grinding roasted soybeans. It also contains oats, milk protein powder, ground dates and inulin.
The maker says this is twice as high in protein ‘compared to conventional porridge’. But the protein content, 16g, in a 50g serving made with water (as it recommends), is the same as a 50g bowl of oats made with 300ml milk.
The ground dates provide nearly two teaspoons of sugar, which is not great, but you also get fibre, iron and magnesium. You’ll get 31 per cent of your daily fibre per serving, but inulin can upset sensitive guts.
THE BRAVE APE CO ORIGINAL KETO NOATMEAL 2/10
240g, £5.99, braveape.co
The Brave Ape Keto Noatmeal, £5.99, braveape.co
Per 100g: Calories, 446; protein, 18g; saturated fat, 13g; fibre, 21g; sugar, 14g; salt, 0.09g
EXPERT VERDICT: This no-grain ‘porridge’, made with coconut, chia, hemp and flax seeds, is formulated for the keto diet — a low-carb, high-fat regimen, said to make the body burn fat in place of glucose for energy, and claimed to be better for weight loss. Instead of added sugar, it contains sweeteners.
You’ll get magnesium and iron from the seeds and a third of your daily fibre from a 50g portion.
The seeds also contain ‘good’ fat alpha linolenic acid, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
But in a 50g portion you get nearly a third of your daily saturated fat limit — equivalent to two sausages and perhaps why the maker recommends a 30g bowl (but this is still a fifth of your daily limit).