Oatmeal Porridge, Cocoa, and Hazelnut Butter: Healthy Food
A Flavorful and Nutritious Breakfast
I love the taste of chocolate and I love the taste of hazelnut butter. I think the combination of both of these foods is absolutely delicious! Cocoa gives chocolate its flavor and contains beneficial antioxidants called flavonoids. It's also a good source of minerals. Hazelnut butter is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and other nutrients. Cocoa, hazelnut butter and a healthy sweetener make wonderful additions to oatmeal porridge, which is also a nutritious food.
Porridge cooks quickly when it’s made from oats that have been ground into a meal. I like Scottish oatmeal because it produces a lovely porridge with a creamy texture. It's quick and easy to stir extra ingredients into the porridge either while it's cooking or after it's cooked. The meal can have a wide range of flavors, depending on the ingredients that are added. It’s good for breakfast or at any other time of day.
In the United Kingdom, the word porridge generally refers to a meal made from ground oats that have been boiled in water or milk. This is a term that I grew up with and that I still use. In North America, this meal is often known as oatmeal. The word "oatmeal" is also used to refer to the raw and ground grain before it's cooked.
Cocoa Health Benefits
Cocoa seems to have several important health benefits. Research suggests that it improves the health of the circulatory system by lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of blood clots and improving the functioning of blood vessels. In addition, cocoa lowers the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in the blood. Some studies suggest that it also raises the level of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It may also improve thinking skills.
Chemicals known as flavonoids are thought to be responsible for the health benefits of cocoa. Some reports refer to the benefits of cocoa flavanols instead of flavonoids. Flavanols are a group of chemicals within the larger group known as flavonoids.
The most beneficial flavonoid in cocoa seems to be epicatechin, which may help to treat or prevent certain diseases. There is preliminary evidence that epicatechin helps to improve diabetes and prevent cancer, for example.
In addition to containing flavonoids, a single serving of cocoa (one tablespoon) is also a good source of minerals, including manganese, copper, magnesium, and iron. It also contains fiber.
There is one important point to consider in relation to eating and drinking cocoa in an effort to improve health. Maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle or eating foods that contain a lot of sugar or unhealthy fat as well as cocoa may negate any benefit offered by the cocoa.
High Flavonoid Cocoa
Although cocoa sounds like a wonderful substance, we shouldn't assume that eating or drinking cocoa products is going to help a particular health disorder. When population surveys are done to examine the link between cocoa and the risk for certain diseases, it may be hard for researchers to decide if ingesting cocoa is helping people or if other aspects of their lifestyle are benefiting them. In addition, clinical tests with cocoa use a version that is high in flavonoids, which may be quite different from the version that we obtain in stores.
The best that a consumer can do to get as high a flavonoid concentration as possible in store bought cocoa is to buy a product that is "natural" instead of "alkalized". Alkalized cocoa, sometimes called Dutched cocoa, has been treated with an alkali (base) to raise its pH. Cocoa is alkalized to improve its flavor by removing bitterness and also to make its color more appealing, but unfortunately the alkalization process destroys some of the flavonoids.
Healthy Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Recipe
Hazelnut Butter and Health
Nuts and their butters contain oils, but these oils are usually very healthy. Hazelnut oil has a very high percentage of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid, and a very low percentage of saturated fatty acids.
Fatty acids are an important component of fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids form monounsaturated fats, which decrease the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Saturated fatty acids form saturated fats, which may increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Excess LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
Hazelnut butter is made from ground hazelnuts. It's a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper and vitamin E. It also contains smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals, including iron, and a small amount of protein as well.
I'm not tempted to add one of the prepared chocolate hazelnut butter spreads to my porridge, even though they are delicious. Store brands of these spreads are generally loaded with sugar and may contain added fat that spoils hazelnut butter's healthy fatty acid profile.
Cooking Oat Groats Frumenty
Oatmeal Health Benefits
Oatmeal contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Soluble fiber joins with water in our intestine to form a gel that reduces the cholesterol level in the body. It's thought that this gel lowers cholesterol by binding with bile acids in the digestive tract. These substances are made from cholesterol in the liver and help the digestive system to break up ingested fat. Some of the acids are normally reabsorbed into the body through the lining of the intestine. When they are trapped by soluble fiber gels, the body has to break down more cholesterol to make additional bile acids.
Oatmeal is also rich in minerals. It's a very good source of manganese and a good source of selenium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper. It's also a good source of thiamine.
Cooked oatmeal removed from a saucepan quickly develops a gooey texture. Some people love eating it in this form, but I think of plain porridge as a raw canvas, ready for a new creation that's limited only by my imagination, ingredient availability and taste preferences.
Ingredients for One Serving of Oatmeal Porridge
The ingredients and proportions that I generally use when I make porridge are given in the list below, but other combinations can be delicious, too. The mixture that I make has a rich chocolate taste, which I enjoy. If you prefer a milder taste you might want to use less cocoa. The porridge is sweet enough for me, but you could add extra strawberry jam or use another sweetener instead - preferably a healthy one - if you need more sweetness. You may also prefer to use other fruits or different versions of milk or non-dairy milk.
- 1/3 cup of oatmeal
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1 tablespoon hazelnut butter
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1 tablespoon all-fruit strawberry jam
You may have your own preferred method for making porridge. This is the method that I use.
- Place the oatmeal and milk in a saucepan.
- Place the saucepan on an oven burner at a medium low setting until the first bubbles appear in the liquid. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until the porridge thickens.
- Turn the heat down to low.
- Allow the oatmeal to simmer for five to seven minutes until it's soft and creamy. Stir frequently.
- Remove the oatmeal from the heat and pour into a serving bowl.
- Stir in the cocoa, hazelnut butter, sliced banana, blueberries and strawberry jam.
- Add a little extra milk if the porridge doesn't have a consistency that you like.
- Place the six strawberry halves on top of the porridge as a topping.
More Oatmeal Facts: World Porridge Making Championship
Oatmeal porridge is my favorite breakfast meal. In some parts of the world porridge is more than a meal, however. Every year the village of Carrbridge in the Scottish Highlands holds the World Porridge Making Championship event. People from around the world travel to Scotland to compete in the competition. The winner is given a golden spurtle trophy. A "spurtle" is a wooden stick traditionally used to stir porridge in Scotland.
The winner of the golden spurtle trophy in 2016 was Bob Moore, the founder of Rob's Red Mill company in Oregon. The company is known for its production of a wide variety of packaged whole grains and their flours.
Mary's Meals: Providing Food for Children in Need
World Porridge Day
The village of Carrbridge also organizes World Porridge Day. The goal of this annual event is to raise money for Mary's Meals, an international charity organization based in Argyll, Scotland. The charity uses the money to produce school meals for children in developing countries who don't receive enough food. The idea is not only to feed the children but also to encourage them to stay in school and gain skills that will hopefully lift them out of poverty.
World Porridge Day is held on the tenth day of the tenth month every year. The meal that is given to the children is often a maize (cornmeal) porridge, but the event still has a link to oatmeal. People around the world are encouraged to hold fundraising events in which they serve oatmeal porridge or other products made from the grain in return for a donation. It's great that oats can not only produce a nutritious meal but can also be used to help others.
© 2012 Linda Crampton