With its intense flavor and rich consistency, porridge is one of the most beloved breakfast dishes worldwide. For many families, it's an integral part of their morning routine. Some prefer it simple, while others top it with dark chocolate chips, dried fruit, nutmeg, pumpkin puree or peanut butter. From increased satiety to greater energy and mental focus, the benefits of porridge go beyond convenience and comfort.
Porridge can be made with most grains, including wheat and corn. Oatmeal, on the other hand, only contains oats. Both options are healthy and rich in nutrients.
Porridge Versus Oatmeal
Contrary to popular belief, oatmeal and porridge are not one and the same. Oats are often eaten as porridge, but you may use other grains if you wish. Wheat, buckwheat, rice, corn and barley are all popular ingredients in porridge. Therefore, its nutritional value varies from one recipe to the next.
Eating porridge for breakfast is a simple, convenient way to fuel your body for the day ahead. This popular dish is loaded with fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus and complex carbs that provide steady energy. Oats, for example, have a low glycemic index and pack a hefty nutritional punch. One cup of uncooked oats provides:
- 607 calories
- 26.4 grams of protein
- 103 grams of carbs
- 16.5 grams of fiber
- 10.8 grams of fat
- 383 percent of the RDA of manganese
- 49 percent of the RDA of copper
- 41 percent of the RDA of zinc
- 82 percent of the RDA of phosphorus
- 79 percent of the RDA of thiamin
Wheat germ — another popular ingredient in porridge — boasts 26.6 grams of protein, 59.6 grams of carbs, 15.2 grams of fiber, 11.2 grams of fat and 414 calories per cup. These grains are also loaded with B vitamins, selenium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. Depending on what toppings you choose, porridge will contain more or less protein, carbs and fiber. Peanut butter, for instance, will increase its fat content.
Why Eat Porridge for Breakfast?
This breakfast staple is made with whole grains and milk or water, so it's a lot healthier than refined cereals. Due to its high fiber content, it's easy to digest and keeps your blood sugar levels within normal limits. If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consider using oats in your daily porridge.
According to a 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients, oats may improve blood lipids and glycemic control in diabetics. Researchers attribute the benefits of oatmeal to beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that reduces postprandial blood glucose and enhances the body's ability to use insulin. Furthermore, these grains have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and promote weight loss.
Another study, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2018, indicates that whole grains may reduce the risk of diabetes by as much as 11 percent in men and 7 percent in women. Wheat and oats appear to be more beneficial for women than rye. Whole grains have also been linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality.
Porridge and Weight Loss
Many dieters avoid whole grains because of their high carb content. The ketogenic diet, Atkins and other slimming plans eliminate grains altogether. Yet, these foods can actually help you get leaner and keep the pounds off. Eating porridge for breakfast might be exactly what you need to curb hunger and stay full longer throughout the day.
Read more: Can Eating Porridge Help Me Lose Weight?
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found that barley may reduce appetite and improve blood sugar levels. In the study, subjects who ate barley bread at every meal for three days experienced positive changes in the gut hormones that regulate appetite and fight inflammation. Their metabolic rate increased for up to 14 hours after dinner. Scientists point out that barley's effects on appetite and metabolism vary among individuals, depending on the composition of their gut microflora.
A recent clinical trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 suggests that swapping refined grains for their whole counterparts may help reduce body weight and fat levels. Men and postmenopausal women who replaced cereals with whole grains had lower blood sugar levels compared to the control group. They also experienced significant improvements in energy-balance metrics.
Can Porridge Reduce Inflammation?
One of the lesser known benefits of porridge lies in its ability to reduce inflammation. The polyphenols in whole wheat can positively alter the gut microbiota, increasing the number of good bacteria that regulate inflammatory processes. A 2018 clinical trial, which appeared in the Nutrition Journal, confirms these findings.
This study assessed the role of fruits and vegetables versus whole grains in reducing inflammation and promoting digestive health. All subjects experienced a reduction in inflammatory markers and improvements in the gut microbiota, but via different mechanisms. Fruits and vegetables may trigger these changes due to their high content of soluble fiber, vitamin C, folate and flavonoids. Whole grains contain larger amounts of insoluble fiber, phytosterols and vitamin E.
Add fresh fruits to porridge to get the best of both worlds. This is a simple, effective way to boost your intake of soluble and insoluble fiber, fill up on vitamin C and power up your diet with antioxidants. Sprinkle a few slices of apples, pears or citrus fruits over oatmeal, add mashed bananas to the mix or top everything with berries.
Ward Off Chronic Diseases
Eating porridge for breakfast could add years to your life and ward off chronic diseases. As the journal Nutrients points out, eating two or three servings of whole grains daily can significantly lower the risk of developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular problems. Oats, rye, wheat and barley are all excellent choices.
The phenolic acids in unrefined cereals exhibit antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. When consumed regularly, these nutrients help balance the gut flora, protect your tissues from oxidative stress and improve digestive function. Researchers also note that ferulic acid, caffeic acid and other phenolic acids have the ability to destroy pathogens, improve insulin response and aid in weight management.
Refined grains, on the other hand, promote obesity and contribute to the onset of diabetes. These popular foods are chock-full of sugar and low in fiber. Most brands also contain high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, preservatives and flavor enhancers that may affect overall health.
Delicious Ways to Enjoy Porridge
What makes porridge so appealing is its versatility. This breakfast staple can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. If you're short on time, combine milk and oats in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook until soft.
Get creative in the kitchen and try new porridge recipes. Swap cow's milk for coconut or almond milk, add nuts and seeds to the mix or serve it with frozen summer berries. For extra flavor, sprinkle nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon or cocoa powder over porridge. You can even add some protein powder to it to fuel your morning workouts.
For a nutty flavor, toast the oats before cooking them. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil or grass-fed butter if desired. This will result in a thicker consistency and keep you full longer. Serve your morning porridge with almond butter, baked apples, Greek yogurt or dark chocolate chips for a unique flavor.
- SELFNutritionData: Oats Nutrition Facts and Calories
- SELFNutritionData: Wheat Germ
- Nutrients: The Metabolic Effects of Oats Intake in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
- The Journal of Nutrition: Higher Whole-Grain Intake Is Associated With Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Among Middle-Aged Men and Women
- JAMA Network: Association Between Dietary Whole Grain Intake and Risk of Mortality
- Lund University: Barley Helps Improve Blood Sugar Levels and Reduce Appetite
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Substituting Whole Grains for Refined Grains in a 6-Wk Randomized Trial Favorably Affects Energy-Balance Metrics in Healthy Men and Postmenopausal Women
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Whole-Grain Wheat Consumption Reduces Inflammation in a Randomized Controlled Trial on Overweight and Obese Subjects With Unhealthy Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors
- Nutrition Journal: Role of Whole Grains Versus Fruits and Vegetables in Reducing Subclinical Inflammation and Promoting Gastrointestinal Health in Individuals Affected by Overweight and Obesity
- Nutrients: Whole Grains and Phenolic Acids: A Review on Bioactivity, Functionality, Health Benefits and Bioavailability
- Jamie Oliver: Porridge, Lots of Ways
- Heart Matters: 14 delicious heart-healthy porridge ideas
- Love in Dublin: 14 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Porridge This Morning