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Health Hub

Is porridge good for weight loss?

This simple breakfast food is hearty, warm, filling, and good for you.

Is Porridge Good For Weight Loss? | Juniper

Porridge has been a staple food in human diets for thousands of years which, to be honest, can make it feel like a rather uninspired choice.

Allow us to inspire you once again because this simple breakfast food is hearty, warm, filling, and good for you. It can help protect from chronic disease, keep your gut in great condition and, with the right swaps, form a healthy part of your weight loss diet.

Here’s all that you need to know about porridge and weight loss.

What is porridge?

Porridge, also known as oatmeal, is a warm breakfast of oats boiled in water or milk. It’s common to add toppings, like fruit or nuts, to make it more appetising.

Even though they’re all made with oats, not all porridge is the same in terms of texture or cooking time. It comes down to how the oats have been prepared [4][5][6]: 

  • Old-fashioned or rolled oats: These are the most popular kind made from whole oats which have been lightly roasted and flattened. This helps them to cook faster, in around 10 minutes.
  • Steel-cut oats: These are whole oats that have been sliced into a few pieces using a steel blade. Since they are minimally processed, they take longer to cook — up to 30 minutes.
  • Instant oats: These oats often come in a sachet or pot and can be cooked in a few minutes with only boiled water. They have been rolled thinner to help them cook faster and make your porridge smooth.

While most types of porridge are considered a healthy breakfast option that is full of fibre, the less processed your oats are, the healthier your meal will be too [3][4]. For example, you should be careful of eating too many quick oats which can be high in sugar. It helps to check the nutrition label when you purchase this kind.

What are the health benefits of eating porridge?

Given that oats are the main ingredient in a hearty bowl of porridge, when we talk about health benefits — we are really talking about all the goodness we get from eating oats. Things like better digestion, low blood sugar levels, and improved cholesterol. Let’s break down some of these key benefits.

Lowers cholesterol

A lot of foods lay claim to being cholesterol heroes, but only a few have actually received a seal of approval from national health bodies. Oats are one food that has been proven to help lower cholesterol and reduce risks of heart disease [1].

This benefit is thanks to a certain type of fibre known as beta-glucan. It’s a form of soluble fibre that helps to slow down digestion and move things smoothly through your gut [1].

On this journey, beta-glucan binds with cholesterol which helps transport it out of your gut — instead of allowing it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This is how it helps keep cholesterol levels low [6].

Regulates your blood sugar levels

Eating a diet high in refined grains, red meat and sugary beverages is a sure-fire way to hype up your glucose levels and may put you at risk of type-2 diabetes.

Luckily, a healthy diet and regular exercise can limit this risk — and whole-grain porridge is a fantastic food to include [1].

Multiple studies have shown that the high fibre in oats, especially our friend beta-glucan, can lower your blood sugar levels by slowing digestion. Specifically, it is the starch in oats that is digested slowly which means your blood sugars are less likely to spike [2]. 

Keep in mind with this one that not all oats are created equal. A minimally processed variety, like steel-cut or rolled oats, has a lower glycaemic index than instant oats. Instant oats may also contain added sugars, which are likely to increase blood sugars [6].

Maintains healthy digestion

Bloating and constipation are no one’s idea of a good time. But, if you eat porridge regularly, you might be able to avoid it. 

As a nice high-fibre food, oats contribute to what is known as the bulking effect. To put it simply (and somewhat cleanly), this effect helps improve the consistency of your stool and the frequency of defecation [1].

In other words, a porridge diet can help keep you regular with no straining or discomfort.

Rich in antioxidants 

When you think of antioxidants, we doubt that cereals or grains come to mind. But oats are actually one of the healthiest grains and full of antioxidants from vitamin E to flavonoids. They even have their own exclusive group of antioxidants called avenanthramides [1].

The main benefit of antioxidant-rich foods is their ability to scavenge free radicals in the body. This has a number of benefits; from reducing signs of ageing to protecting you from chronic disease [1].

How many calories does porridge have? 

Let’s start with the answer you really want: an average serve of porridge made with cow’s milk contains 168 calories [5].

But, that’s only part of the story. Even though watching calories is important when you want to lose weight, it’s also important to focus on the nutritional value of the foods you eat.

That means choosing foods that are both low in calories and high in other nutrients. For example, when it comes to oats [2][4][5]:

  • They have the highest protein content of all the cereals
  • They have good levels of healthy unsaturated fat
  • They contain lots of vitamins and minerals — like vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and calcium

Is porridge weight loss-friendly? 

There has been plenty of research into potential foods that can help you lose weight; from salmon to chicken, avocados, cottage cheese and even the humble oat.

When it comes to oats and weight loss, most of the studies point to the high-fibre content as the biggest benefit.

Fibre is well-known for its ability to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Feeling full and satisfied after a meal means you’re less likely to eat too frequently or too much [1].

Along with reducing your appetite, the fibre in oats has been shown to help regulate your metabolism and reduce fat storage [2].

While porridge does have many of these weight loss benefits, being a meal made from oats, it is important to consider how you're making porridge for the best chances of weight loss.

A big bowl of porridge made with full-cream milk and extra flavour from chocolate chips or adding sugar is edging closer to dessert than a weight-loss-friendly breakfast.

Simple swaps like using skim milk or plant-based milk can make it healthier, as can swapping any sweet treat toppings for fresh fruits and nuts.

Can eating porridge help burn belly fat?

There is a small amount of evidence that the soluble fibre in oats can help reduce belly fat. For example, one study that looked closely at the risk factors for abdominal fat found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre, there was a 3% decrease in visceral fat [5].

But, diet was only part of the answer. The same study showed that the biggest improvements in belly fat came from exercise [5].

Overall, our advice would be to focus less on how to lose weight in one particular area and instead adopt a holistic approach to weight management.

If you’re not sure where to start or would like support, then Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme could be for you.

Our 3-tiered approach includes a biological reset, behavioural coaching, and a supportive community to help you kickstart a sustainable, long-term weight loss journey. The results speak for themselves with an average 15-20% weight loss after 16 months.

Is it healthy to eat oats every day?

According to the NHS, starchy foods like oats should make up around 1/3 of your daily diet. So yes, you can absolutely eat a serve of oats every day [3].

While starchy foods on their own are not typically high in fat, the ways that we cook them often are. For a healthier approach to oatmeal porridge, we recommend using low-fat ingredients like skim milk and fruits to add sweetness.

For people who haven’t been having much fibre, eating porridge every day can cause bloating and discomfort. This doesn’t mean you need to cut out oats — just try and start slowly to let your gut get used to the new diet [5].

The other thing to keep in mind is how much porridge you eat per serve. In most of the studies on weight loss, they were using 30-60 grams of dry oats which equates to 1 standard serve [2].

How to make low-calorie porridge oats

The main ingredient in porridge is oats, which are not too high in calories. It’s the added flavourings like milk, chocolate chips and sweeteners that can add up to an unhealthy bowl. With that in mind, here are four tips for a low-calorie porridge that helps with losing weight.

Skip the full-cream milk

We know that a bowl of porridge with cream and sugar makes for a delicious breakfast, but sadly it’s not low-calorie. That dish should be kept as a sweet treat for your sometimes list.

Instead, we suggest following the basic recipe with low-fat milk which helps reduce saturated fat [8]. You can also try plant-based milks like oat milk, almond or soy which are typically lower in calories [9].

Go for fresh or frozen fruit

Fresh or frozen fruit is possibly the best kind of low-calorie topping for your porridge. For a fast fix, try slicing a banana on top or grating some apple [7]. 

When you have extra time, why not cook the fruit in your porridge? Doing it this way makes for a mouthful of flavour with every bite. Frozen berries work great, as does a ripe pear when they’re in season [9].

One of the reasons we love fruits as a topping is that even though they contain natural sugars, they are also high in fibre — which means your body will absorb those sugars slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar [10]. 

Mix it up with nuts and spices

Maybe you’re bored with the creamy consistency of porridge or you’re looking for a less sweet flavour. In this case, nuts and spices work best.

Chopped nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and macadamias are perfect for adding a bit of texture. While low-calorie spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger can cut through the sweetness of your dish [7][9].

Try some natural sweetness

Honey and maple syrup are both lower in calories and slightly better for you than pure sugar, so we suggest adding these to porridge if you have a sweet tooth [10].

Maple syrup is lower in glucose than sugar, so it won’t push your blood sugar as high. It also contains other nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Honey is known for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties; which is why we love to use it for soothing a sore throat. With a bit of calcium, vitamin C, and zinc — it’s not a bad addition to your porridge bowl either.

Get inspired by your favourite desserts

Porridge is commonly eaten for breakfast, but that doesn’t mean it’s a morning-only meal. It can make a great snack for the middle of the day or even an after-dinner dessert, with the right flavourings.

For example, you can whip up a bowl of carrot cake porridge using grated carrot, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger. It will have most of the same flavour as your favourite dessert, but fewer calories with no butter, sugar or frosting [9].

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