Oats are amazing. That’s all I need to say really. But then it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I just wrote 3 words!
Much has been researched and written about the benefits of eating oats in the last few years, and rightly so. It seems that the traditional porridge breakfast is not just cheap, filling and convenient, but goes a long way to keep people healthy; a fabulous whole food. Oats have been linked to:
- reducing heart disease
- lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) levels
- maintaining blood sugar levels
- helping with asthma and eczema
- relieving constipation
- increasing resistance to infections
- reducing the risk of breast cancer
Not bad for a small, seemingly insignificant grain. So what’s the secret to oat’s success? For a start, oats are packed full of minerals like manganese and molybdenum, micronutrients that play an essential role in a range of enzyme and metabolic processes. There’s also a good helping of a few B vitamins as well as magnesium, chromium and zinc. These last three are particularly needed for heart health, managing blood sugars and keeping the immune system on track.
Most importantly, though, seems to be the particular type of fibre found in them – beta-glucan. It’s this special fibre that helps to lower cholesterol levels by removing excess amounts from the gut in an effective manner (and deals with the problem of constipation and help keep gut bacteria happy at the same time!). Oats also contain certain anti-oxidants that reduce free radical damage on LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the damaging effect it can have on the body. So a double win.
Oats are great for the skin too, both on the inside and out. The nutrients digested help to reducing inflammation and nourish the skin from the inside, but you can also use oats in the bath to soothe itchy and irritated skin (wrapped up in a pouch not loose). I used to do that for my son when he was little, even though he would complain that I was making him bath in porridge!
The main bonus is that oats are delicious! I use them in all sorts of plant based dishes, either as the star ingredient or as a filler to provide extra fibre or a creamy texture. Pure oats are gluten free but do contain a protein – avenin – that is similar to gluten so people with celiac disease might be sensitive to oats as well. The problem with oats is cross contamination when they are processed in factories dealing with wheat and other gluten containing products, so if you want to aire on the side of caution, buy gluten free oats to be safe.
This breakfast is really simple and so delicious. When I used to do night shifts, this is what I’d take with me – it’s perfect when the 4am hunger hits and you need satisfying sustenance to see you through until the morning staff arrived. 4am hunger is the worst – ask any night shift worker!
If you’re in a hurry in the morning, make it the night before and then it’s ready and waiting for you first thing. If you forget though, it still taste good with less soaking. I usually get up, make my tea and put a bowl together, then go off and get showered etc. Once I’m all ready, so is breakfast. If you’re really short of time, my daughter says even 5 minutes is enough (if you’re a disorganised teenager!).
Toppings are up to you. I love a few blueberries and ground flaxseed, but any mix will do. Give it a go and see what works for you. Your body will love you for it!
Soaked oats and chia seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Approx 150ml dairy free milk
a handful raisins
sprinkle of cinnamon
toppings – blueberries, seeds, ground flaxseeds, nuts, grated apple, banana – the choice is yours!
Place the oats in a bowl, stir in the chia seeds, raisins and cinnamon. Pour over the milk and leave it to soak in the fridge overnight, or for as long as you have. Add toppings of choice and enjoy.