Why you’re not getting your fill of this popular breakfast

  • Here’s how to upset a health professional – without even trying!
  • The oat knowledge that every reader needs
  • Discover the secret to a slow release, slow transit early repast

It was the equivalent of telling a proud new mum that her baby looks like Boris Johnson, suggesting that your mum’s expensive hairdo is similar to Leo Sayer’s or even that your teenage son looks smart.

For once I hadn’t committed a major social gaffe, but I did get a very aggressive response.

My topic didn’t even have anything to do with sport, religion or politics (all of which were incendiary topics of conversation in most homes in the land during the last week or so!).

No, I just happened to make an informed comment to a health professional – but I quickly realised my mistake.

What gave it away was the look of abject horror on the face of the dietician when I happened to mention that many people didn’t find porridge filling.

Apparently I had committed a most monstrous faux pas, and had simply shaken her beliefs to the core…

…how was I supposed to know!

This all happened pre-COVID when I met the lady in question at a social gathering and she asked what I did…

…then proceeded to tell me why everything I thought I knew was appallingly wrong and dangerous. As you can guess we didn’t exactly hit it off.

So I asked her what she considered to be a ‘super food’ and after indicating that she had no belief in such a preposterous concept then spent a full twenty minutes eulogising about the humble oat.

In her book the grain of the wispy grass could do no wrong and contained within it all that sustained even the heartiest of appetites.

We exchanged a few more points of disagreement before Lara had me in a headlock and pretty soon afterwards a taxi on our way home.

No amount of pleading innocence helped my cause and I was deemed the aggressor.

“You always show me up wherever we go because you simply can’t accept that someone else might be right,” Lara roared, “and you might be wrong.”

I retired hurt to the study when we got home and began to look over the evidence in my favour around the great porridge debate.

This had all been long forgotten as time passed and the horrors of the coronavirus unfolded, until last Monday.

Porridge really needs help

A dear reader emailed me saying that she had enjoyed Dr Michael Mosley’s TV programme and had laughed when he said that he didn’t find oatmeal filling as she had always had the same problem.

As I read her missive the light shone on the dark corner of my old brain and I remembered that dietician and the subsequent events, and I began unearthing my research.

I thought I might share it with you, just in case you too were among the porridge dissenters!

Before I start though I have to say that a bowl of the stuff in the morning will keep me sated until lunchtime, so I am speaking from the position of an observer rather than a sufferer – but having thought about this I think I have a reason why…

…read on and you’ll discover the probable cause of the failed oat.

Like many things in our modern world the humble cereal can exist in many and varied forms. Different treatments, processes and even additives define the real nutritional value of any food that we eat and your daily porridge is not immune to these effects.

The true worth of an oat is represented by how messed around with they have been before they get to your breakfast table.

Traditional oats are available as steel cut, rolled or instant – which describes the processing they have undergone. Steel cut are raw unprocessed grains (or groats) that have been sliced into two or three pieces and retain their shape when cooked, giving the porridge a grainy and nutty texture. These are sometimes described as pin head oats.

Rolled oats undergo a short steaming process and then get squashed flat which increases the surface area and loosens the protein in the grain, this shortens the cooking time and gives the cooked dish a smoother texture than the steel cut version.

Finally the instant oat is steamed for longer, rolled flatter and thinner and will cook the quickest of the natural oats and give a more mushy porridge when cooked.

None of these are bad for you, and each has the same nutritional content with fibre, carbohydrate and protein as well as the all important minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc; vitamins such as the B groups and the all important folic acid.

This makes a good oat something that is slow to be digested, able to be moved in the gut with ease and gentle in the release of their nutrients so that the body doesn’t suffer from a spike of carbohydrate, but a gradual release that can bridge the breakfast to lunch gap.

Hence their value as a low Glycaemic Index food. So far so good…

…Why you can still feel hungry after all that oaty goodness!

So to the question of the day – if oats are so good why do some folk not feel that they are getting their benefits?

Well the first issue is that whilst the level of production doesn’t change the nutritional content it does affect the speed the oat moves through the gut, with instant oats being the quickest and so you’ll feel less full.

This is less of a problem with raw and natural grain, however, the rise of the ‘quick oat’ or ‘So Simple’ oat types has further exacerbated the instant oat problem. These types of quick preparation breakfast cereal have very fine oat flour, higher fat content and lots more simple sugars (especially those with a golden syrup flavouring, no surprise) and these make the final porridge faster than Usain Bolt through your stomach.

Anyway, the good dietician who was so aghast at the very suggestion that any oatmeal breakfast was a bad thing clearly hadn’t stopped to think about it.

If you are about to sit down to a nice natural oatmeal with skimmed milk, a dash of brown sugar and maybe a few berries, toasted seeds or even a wee dram of whisky…

…enjoy and be filled. Just try to avoid the over processed, overly messed around with and distinctly corporate versions.

Nothing new in any of that is there!