Irish people have a long-standing relationship with oats. This is down to the fact that they are one of the cereal crops that we can actually grow here – at least in some parts of the country. As a result we have always eaten a lot of them. As well as being a staple of our diet, Irish farmers also traditionally used them to feed their livestock. Very versatile indeed. Unfortunately, our lack of ability to spice-up our oats meant that it was often gruel, not porridge, that was being eaten. Thankfully, we have moved on and oats have too. Our collective love affair with them endures and they continue to take pride of place on breakfast tables across the country. With a rich history of cultivation reaching back thousands of years, it is understandable that oats would have such cultural significance for us, but why are they important in our diet?
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that oats are good for you. My own granddad, for instance, swore by them and he lived to 98. As well as my family folklore, there is also a great body of scientific research to support the claim that there are many benefits to including oats in your morning routine. The first major reason is fiber content. Our own oats have 10g per 100g of fiber, a vital component often lacking in our modern diet*. Cellulose is a structural polysaccharide; a complex carbohydrate contained in oats, which our bodies cannot breakdown. This allows the chain to pass – unbroken – through the digestive tract resulting in greater, shall we say, regularity. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommends that people increase their fiber and fluid intake to reduce constipation**. Perhaps this is the real reason my granddad was so steadfast in having oats for breakfast every morning. “It would be reason enough”, as he would say.
And oats have got a lot more than that going on. On top of insoluble fibre, they also contain a viscous, soluble fibre known as β-glucan or Beta glucan. It’s magical stuff that actually helps to reduce your LDL-cholesterol level***, which as part of a healthy diet, can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular decease (CVD)*. The oat beta gluten or cereal β-glucan is contained in the endosperm of the kernel and so it is always recommended to eat wholegrain oats, bread, oatcakes, etc.
* Irish Heart foundation— Nutrition News | 16th Jan 2019—click here for more information
** Irish Food Safety Authority—Recommendations for a national food and nutrition policy for older people. click here for more information
*** British Journal of Nutrition. 116 (8): 1369–1382 click here to for further information
When out taste-testing in a supermarket one day I got chatting to an older woman in her seventies about breakfast (naturally). It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to porridge and the fact that she “couldn’t stick it”. Day in and day out throughout her childhood, hot, watery porridge would be put in front of her and she would be instructed to finish the entire bowl. She went on to tell me of that whenever she got the opportunity, she would quickly scoop it into a brown paper bag and ceremoniously dispose of it over her back wall later that day.
Thankfully these days oats can be found in many new and exciting forms, from oat milk to ice cream. They are a truly innovative food source. Oats seem to be always finding new reasons for us to consume them and are fast becoming the sustainable go-to dairy alternative. They are relatively easy to grow in countries that have adequate rainfall, making oat milk a more sustainable choice than nut milks. All of this space for innovation, coupled with its nutritional profile, bodes very well for our old friend the oat, who looks set to remain a vital favourite for some time into the future.
Below, we have teamed up with culinary creative, Erica Drum, who kindly shares another unique – and healthy – way to eat your oats. You can find more about Erica and her fantastic life in food here
blueberry smoothie bowl with coconut and granola and seeds.
Recipe by Erica Drum
- 50g organic chia Porridge.
- 1 Banana.
- 100g blueberries or blackberries.
- 100ml oat/Nut/Dairy Milk or water.
- 30g organic chia clusters.
- mixed toppings – desiccated coconut,
chopped nuts like pecans and walnuts or seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and chia.
- finely fresh mint.
- Place the banana, berries & porridge in the food processor & blitz.
- Add in your milk a little at a time. You can use regular milk, nut milk or even a mixture of yogurt & water. If you prefer it more as a drink then you can put in more liquids.
- Pour into a bowl and top with coconut, granola, seeds and mint.
oats, all year’ round
Hot porridge eaters tend to be seasonal, except for the die-hard fanatics and there are plenty of those. But some people just don’t like the texture of a bowl of hot oats. We hear you. We’ve been experimenting with a stick blender and have come up with some recipes to get oats in quickly and without cooking. This recipe is particularly good in the summer when a bowl of hot porridge isn’t calling your name. We recommend starting your mix with porridge oats, adding half a banana and a quartered kiwi (skin and all). You can then add whatever nuts you have to hand, a medjool date for sweetness and some fresh blueberries. Today we’re feeling fancy so we’ve also added some roasted cocoa nibs and fresh mint. You then add milk or oat milk, but even water works well. I will leave you with this recipe, shot in collaboration with video maestro, Sean Clark from Substance media. Also, a special thank you to my girlfriend’s mother for allowing us to shoot in her light-filled kitchen.