Product Review: OATS

Porridge is notorious for being a healthy breakfast, particularly on cold winter mornings. But are all oats made the same?

oat groats .jpg

Oat groats: All oat grains begin as groats, they are simply hulled, toasted oat grains. They are not commonly available except for in some health food shops. Normal cooking time is 20 – 25 minutes, similar to any other wholegrain like buckwheat or barley. If you have the time to find and cook these guys they are the least processed of your oat products but aren’t necessary for a hearty healthy breakfast.

 

Steel cut oats:  These have recently made resurgence into the marketplace due to health trends/bloggers. In actual fact, they have been eaten traditionally in Scotland and are known as ‘Scottish oats’. Steel cut oats are produced when the groat is cut up into small, thick pieces. They taste nuttier and have a gritty texture. Cooking time: 15- 20 minutes once added to boiling water.

 

Rolled oats: Instead of being cut into chunks, oat groats are flattened, rolled out and then steamed. This processing makes it cook faster and means they can be cooked in around 5 – 10 minutes once added to boiling water.

 

Quick oats:  These are the most heavily advertised and commonly used oats from what I have seen with clients. Quick oats are more processed than rolled oats because they have been cut into smaller pieces, rolled for longer and partially cooked which reduces their cooking time to 1.5 minutes in the microwave.

 

Instant oats/ flavoured:  Another step down the processing line we find instant oats. You’ll find they are cut even finer than quick oats, plus are partially cooked and often have skim milk powder, emulsifiers and other preservatives added to help them develop a creamy texture when you cook them.

The two debates: 

1. STEEL CUT vs. ROLLED OATS 

This is where the debate gets a little heated – health nuts often argue that steel cut oats are far superior to rolled oats. However there is actually very little difference between the two types. Prevention did a great comparison between both options, check it out here.  

As you can see there are a few SLIGHT differences, however nothing that will drastically make a difference to your health. Energy, carbohydrates, fibre, GI are pretty much identical. Due to our fascination with health foods, food companies have brought out steel cut oat ranges now, which are nutritionally wonderful but are more expensive than your regular rolled oats. Eg. Uncle Toby’s now sell 750g steel cut oats for $5.99, but a 750g homebrand rolled oats is only 0.99c.  

                                  750g = 0.99c 

                                  750g = 0.99c 

                     750g = $5.99 

                     750g = $5.99 

2. QUICK & INSTANT OATS vs. STEEL CUT & ROLLED OATS

 HIGHER GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI) than steel/rolled oats

What this means: faster release of the sugar (from carbohydrates and any added flavours) into your blood stream. Giving you a quick burst of energy in the morning, causing a larger insulin response (not ideal for those with insulin resistance or diabetes) and requires less work for your body to break down.

LOWER FIBRE than steel/rolled oats

What this means: Due to the level of processing a lot of the fibre that wholegrain oats naturally have are lost. Machines have done the mechanical work that your digestive system was originally designed for. Generally this means they are less filling and chances are you’ll be hungry again an hour or two after breakfast.

MORE ADDED SUGARS than unflavoured oats 

What this means: Added sugars are a significant energy contributors to the diet and one of the biggest nutritional challenges we face as a population – it is not secret that Australia is consuming more now than ever before. Flavoured sachets have extra sugar added, just look at the ingredients list. Our general rule of thumb is to avoid products that have sugar listed in the top three ingredients. In most quick/instant flavoured oats sugar is the second ingredient, which adds extra sugar you simply don’t need on a daily basis. Plus eating sweet tasting foods as part of your regular diet is only training your taste buds to constantly seek out sweet foods.

FOR EXAMPLE:

        35g = 8.4 g sugar per serve

        35g = 8.4 g sugar per serve

 
                  35g = 0.4g sugar

                  35g = 0.4g sugar

THE VERDICT: 

Choose traditional rolled oats and if time and budget allows then splash out for steel cut oats. 

Focus on the quality of your food products not simply the energy on the side of the packet. Beware of added sugars, especially in the gourmet packets of oats with added flavouring, dried fruit and other bits and pieces. Do it yourself by picking up good old fashioned rolled oats (like your grandma would have) then add some flavouring turn to your natural, fibre rich fruits and vegetables like bananas, pears, apples, berries and even carrot with a sprinkling of cinnamon, crushed nuts and a little (1 tsp) raw honey or 100% maple syrup. 

                 Caramelised banana oats with vanilla, cinnamon and toasted macadamias

                 Caramelised banana oats with vanilla, cinnamon and toasted macadamias

*Prices as per Woolworths online 4/6/2015.

**Body Fusion and this author is not affiliated with or compensated by any companies, brands or products discussed in this review. 

Sunday Runs, Markets and Muesli (Recipe Included!)

Imagine this:

On the horizon sits the sun, a bright yellow beginning, slowly climbing its ladder up the coloured sky. A light breeze pushes you into a rhythmic run, right along the sleepy beach and up to a grassy green headland. You stop to catch you breath, your heart hammering gratitude as you drink in the 360-degree view.

A couple of more minutes. A couple of more colours… Time to go.

Following the seagulls down the sandy path, past the receding aqua wash and waving to the local surfers, you finally reach the end of your journey. With the salty ocean breeze brushing your face, you turn like a magnet to the sparkling ocean. With a start, you run in to meet your old friend with a joyful laugh, still fully clothed. There you float. Free. Happy. Alive.

With exhilarated rosy cheeks and slight regret, you drag yourself away from the caring hands of the ocean… time for the markets!

 And this is just the way my Sunday began.

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I am a big fan of local markets in Sydney. They offer fresh produce, you can meet and support local farmers and taste before you buy. It’s such a sensory experience. They smell of warm crusty bread, cinnamon sticks and freshly blended citrus juices all of which mingle in with a sea of interesting people as you weave your way in and out. My fresh produce lasts about twice as long and tastes about twice as good!

This Sunday I was on a mission. A client had given me a delicious muesli recipe and brought some in as a gift (thank you, you know who you are). It tasted phenomenal and I was committed to making my own variety.

As I wondered amongst the bustling stores I bartered over buckwheat and nutted out the best place to buy my pecans. Half an hour later I was content with a bag full of goodies. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so excited.

Experimentation took the good part of my Sunday afternoon but this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 300g sprouted buckwheat
  • 1 cup of oats (you could use quinoa flakes if you want gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup of amaranth
  • 200g pecans or walnuts
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 2 long (10-12cm) cinnamon quills
  • 2 tsp. dried nutmeg
  • 120g medjool dates (deseeded and cut into small pieces)
  • 300g dried apple (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 80g Canadian Maple Syrup

Optional (makes it a little higher in energy but a lot more crunchy!)

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 100g shredded coconut

Method:

1.     Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2.     With mortar and pestle or end of rolling pin bash/grind cinnamon to break up sticks. With your hands then break/rip up cinnamon into small bits (as small as you can!).

3.     Add all other ingredients into a big mixing bowl, melting coconut oil if necessary. Mix well to coat with oil and maple syrup.

4.     Put into 1 or 2 large baking trays lined with baking paper.

5.     Periodically check muesli over next 30-40minutes, using a wooden spoon to slowly turn over the muesli when it looks brown.

6.     Leave to cool for 20 mins.

Nutrition:

  • Amaranth is a great source of iron (~5mg/cup).
  • Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Apples contain polyphenols and flavonoids, which prevent oxidation in the body, preventing  disease and ageing.
  • Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, a micronutrient responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including enzymes required for maintaining stable blood glucose levels.
  • All the grains, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of fibre, which makes you feel full and aids digestion.
  • This mix is also high in healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, which promote clear cognition, boost HDL (healthy) cholesterol, maintain hormone production and lubricate joints.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, vital for promoting immunity, clear skin, strong hair and nails.
  • Sesame are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals including Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc and selenium.

How to eat this delicious mix:

  • Portion out ½ a cup (trust me doesn’t look like a lot but its so filling!). Add some milk, yoghurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Wouldn’t be surprised if you are content until lunch ;)
  • Nibble on as a snack during your work day.
  • Add over the top of some ice cream as a treat.