Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. After over eight hours of starvation during which your body has expended energy rebuilding and repairing, you are literally running on empty and it’s essential to get some fuel in the tank to help you get through the first part of your day.
Many people make the mistake of reaching for a processed and sugary cereal which gives you a rapid jolt of energy but then is gone in about an hour and leaves you reaching for the cake trolley by 10am. Others will skip breakfast altogether and end up suffering a mid-morning energy and concentration crash which can result in a significant downturn in productivity.
So if sugary cereals are no good and things like toast just aren’t very filling, what is the best breakfast for the health and figure conscious consumer? The answer is oats.
Known as oatmeal, porridge or just plain oats, this natural cereal makes for an ideal start to your day. It is packed with low glycemic carbohydrates which release slowly into your blood and provide a steady supply of glucose for your brain. This avoids the customary mid-morning crash associated with sugary cereals. Oats also contain soluble and insoluble fibre which help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and are also highly beneficial for regulating your blood glucose levels and digestive processes.
Oats are also associated with a significant reduction in serum cholesterol levels and may reduce your risk of suffering coronary heart disease, CHD for short, one of the biggest causes of premature death in developed countries.
Unless you buy flavoured, instant hot cereals, most oats are completely natural with absolutely no added sugar, colours, flavours or preservatives. In terms of healthfulness, the Rolls Royce of oats is steel cut, old fashioned organic jumbo oats which are available from many supermarkets and most health food stores. Oats are prone to absorbing land and water-borne pollutants so it’s generally best to avoid oats that are not certified as organic.
When it comes to making your oatmeal, you have a number of choices: You can use milk, water or a half and half mixture. Need more protein? Add a measure of your favourite whey protein. If you want sweeter oats, you can add a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup and cinnamon adds an extra taste dimension when sprinkled liberally over your cooked oats. You can add dried fruit, a mashed banana or even a tablespoon of jam if you so wish. You can even add a serving of oats to your protein smoothie so long as you blend the mixture thoroughly.
Real oats can take as long as 10 minutes to cook and if you are pressed for time, this might be conceived as a problem. If you are really that short of time, try soaking your oats overnight they only need to be warmed through in the morning which takes no more than two minutes.
One of my favourite oat-based breakfasts is called eggs ‘n’ oat scramble. Take three large organic free range eggs and whisk them in a bowl. Add half a cup of plain oats and leave to soak for five minutes. Heat a little butter or coconut oil in a pan and then add the egg and oat mixture. Cook for three to five minutes until the eggs are firm and then serve with cinnamon and maple syrup – quick, balanced and nutritious!
Oats aren’t just for breakfast – they make for an easy to make and satisfying snack anytime of the day or night. As oats are converted to glucose relatively slowly, oats make a great pre-bed snack which will stave off the midnight munchies. You can even make your oatmeal in advance and then let it cool – it tastes a bit like rice pudding!
On the downside, oats do contain gluten, a protein that is found in most grains. If you suffer from gluten intolerance, you may have to avoid oats or eat them in moderation although some companies have developed gluten free oats which may be worth trying.