What is in your por­ridge oats?

There are a lot of claims about the value of oats, but what can you be­lieve?

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Nutrition - Rose Costello Read­ing La­bels

There is plenty of con­flict­ing ad­vice as to what to have for break­fast and even whether we should eat in the morn­ings at all. But one grain that unites many is oats. Whether you choose jumbo, pin­head or progress, eat­ing oats is gen­er­ally seen as a good idea by di­eti­cians and blog­gers alike.

You can read all about why that is on some pack­ets of por­ridge oats. Take Fla­ha­van’s – tThe key to their pop­u­lar­ity is on the side of the packet. There is only one in­gre­di­ent – 100 per cent whole­grain rolled oats – and it’s nu­tri­tious. “Whole­grain” means that the whole of the ed­i­ble part of the grain is used, which in­cludes the germ, en­dosperm and bran. The bran and germ are re­moved from re­fined grains so they are lower in fi­bre and nu­tri­ents.

The nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion ta­ble un­der­neath shows the prod­uct is low in sat­u­rated fat and sug­ars, but has good lev­els of fi­bre and pro­tein. It also shows oats con­tain iron and thi­amin, an es­sen­tial mi­cronu­tri­ent also known as vi­ta­min B1. These have not been added but are nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring.

There is even bet­ter news in the notes un­der the nu­tri­tion ta­ble. It ex­plains they con­tain beta-glu­cans and what they can do for you. “Beta-glu­can is a sol­u­ble fi­bre found in oats and some other foods. Reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of beta-glu­can as part of a var­ied, bal­anced diet and healthy life­style can con­trib­ute to the main­te­nance of nor­mal blood choles­terol lev­els,” it reads.

There’s no need to dis­miss this as usual mar­ket­ing-speak found on some pack­ag­ing be­cause there is clear reg­u­la­tion gov­ern­ing the nu­tri­tion and health claims made in com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions, such as on la­belling, pre­sen­ta­tion or ad­ver­tis­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Food Safety Au­thor­ity of Ire­land. This means the prod­uct must be shown to have “ben­e­fi­cial nu­tri­tional or phys­i­o­log­i­cal ef­fects es­tab­lished by gen­er­ally ac­cepted sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples”. So any claims made must stand up to scru­tiny.

Nu­tri­tional ta­ble The reg­u­la­tion also says, “The ben­e­fi­cial nu­tri­ent or sub­stance for which the claim is made [should be] present in the fi­nal prod­uct in a sig­nif­i­cant quan­tity.”

This means iron can be listed in the nu­tri­tional ta­ble on Fla­ha­van’s oats be­cause it makes up al­most 4 per cent of a serv­ing. There is no men­tion of the other min­er­als in oats, such as zinc, mag­ne­sium or se­le­nium, be­cause there aren’t enough of them in a bowl of oats to get ex­cited about. They are still there though. The nu­tri­ent must also be in a form that is bioavail­able, which means “avail­able for use by the body”.

In ad­di­tion, the ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect has to

Whether you choose jumbo, pin­head or progress, eat­ing oats is gen­er­ally seen as a good idea by di­eti­cians and blog­gers alike. be pro­vided by a “rea­son­able quan­tity of the con­sumed prod­uct”. So a rea­son­able amount oats must have an ad­e­quate amount of the ac­tive nu­tri­ent. Fla­ha­van’s high­lights how well its oats do on this score to the con­sumer by writ­ing, “Each serv­ing (40g) con­tains one-third (1g) of the 3g of beta-glu­can sug­gested per day to help main­tain nor­mal choles­terol lev­els.” This is help­ful as 40g dry weight of por­ridge makes quite a good serv­ing.

Od­lum’s makes sim­i­lar en­cour­ag­ing claims for its por­ridge oats.

Com­pare Fla­ha­van’s or Od­lums por­ridge oats with Ready Brek and you might be con­fused into think­ing it was nat­u­rally health­ier than the tra­di­tional ones. The front of Ready Brek trum­pets that it is “rich in cal­cium” and is a “source of vi­ta­min D”. The nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion on the back then in­di­cates that it also has ri­boflavin (vi­ta­min B2), niacin (B3), B6, B12 and folic acid.

What might not seem ob­vi­ous is that these have been added dur­ing pro­cess­ing. Check out the in­gre­di­ents and you will see Ready Brek is made with: whole­grain rolled oats (60 per cent), whole­grain oat flour (38 per cent), cal­cium, niacin, iron, ri­boflavin (B2), vi­ta­min B6, thi­amin (B1), folic acid, vi­ta­min D and vi­ta­min B12. So those ex­tra vi­ta­mins and min­er­als have been added in. There’s noth­ing wrong with that, but it is good to be aware of why it can make such claims.

Ready Brek, which is made by Weetabix, is streets ahead of any sug­ary ce­real but is not seen as be­ing quite as good as other por­ridge.

It ap­pears as a mush be­cause it is very finely milled. Reg­u­lar por­ridge oats, such as those from Fla­ha­van’s or Od­lums, take longer for the body to di­gest. This means they re­lease en­ergy more slowly so you don’t feel hun­gry so soon.

Even bet­ter in my book is that it is easy to get Ir­ish-grown and milled oats for a rea­son­able price. Fla­ha­van’s has a stamp on the front cover of its progress oatlets to say they are grown and milled in Ire­land.

You can’t get clearer than that.

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