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It doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in, if you have ever been sick then it is likely that you have had some porridge. Porridge, often mistaken with daliya in India, is one of the most common and versatile dishes that you can add to your diet. It’s a dish that is also cooked in most households across the world in some form or the other. 

Porridge is traditionally made from a variety of broken cereal grains (wheat, oats, corn, rice) and the dish is a staple in many parts of the world. It can be served as breakfast, lunch or dinner and is usually cooked or boiled in water or milk to make sweet or savoury dishes, usually with a creamy consistency. 

The best part about porridge is that you get an array of health benefits when you have this dish. Porridge is rich in health-building nutrients and loaded with dietary fibre, which makes it not only healthy but also filling. It is safe to consume for people of all ages, from babies to older adults and the ingredients required are easily available in local stores. What’s more, it’s also very easy to prepare at home with minimal but nutrient-dense ingredients. Here’s everything you need to know about porridge. 

(Read more: Whole wheat or multigrain bread, which is healthier?)

  1. Is porridge good for your immune system?
  2. Benefits of eating porridge
  3. Side effects of eating porridge
  4. How to cook porridge
Doctors for Porridge: Benefits and side effects

Porridge is not just light and easy to digest but also packed with nutrients. No matter which broken grain porridge is made of, it contains high amounts of dietary fibre. Most of these whole grains also contain micronutrients like vitamin B1, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iron, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Some plant proteins are also present in porridge, though the concentration and nutritional quality are likely to be suboptimal compared to animal sources of protein. 

(Read more: Vitamin B)

This apart, based on the type of grain, porridge is also packed with phytonutrients and plant compounds, which aid the synthesis of antioxidants in the body. Ferulic acid, phytic acid, alkylresorcinols, lignans, wheat germ agglutinin, lutein and avenanthramides are a few of the prominent plant compounds you are likely to find in porridge. Since porridge is so packed with nutrients that your body, specifically your immune system requires to function properly, it is safe to say that eating porridge is good for your immune system. 

(Read more: Weak immune system)

There are many benefits you can get by eating porridge and not just when you are sick. These benefits are derived from the separate components that make up a good bowl of porridge - broken grains and milk or water. Occasionally, people also add sugar or honey and healthy toppings like berries, fruits, nuts and seeds to make the porridge more filling and nutritious. The following are some of the key benefits you can gain by adding porridge to your diet.

Eating porridge aids in weight loss

Porridge is low in fat and rich in fibre, which makes it an excellent addition to your weight loss diet. Fibre adds bulk to the food and increases the intestinal transit time, which refers to the time taken for food to travel through the intestine. This keeps you feeling full for longer periods of time, helps avoid overeating and aids in shedding weight.

(Read more: 7 common weight loss mistakes)

Eating porridge reduces inflammation

Various studies have shown the anti-inflammatory benefits of eating porridge, be it oats or a wheat porridge. Experts say that oats, in particular, contain a special plant compound called avenanthramides that helps fight inflammation. Whole grains, in general, are rich in polyphenols that are known for their role in improving metabolism and reducing inflammation markers in the body.

(Read more: Metabolic syndrome)

Porridge improves gut health

Your gut is full of microorganisms that make up a microbiota that helps all types of functions in the body. Good gut microbiota health is necessary not just for proper bowel function but also for the health and maintenance of the brain, lungs and other major organs of the body. All foods that are made of grains, including porridge, are great for gut health as they supply the intestines with resistant starch, unsaturated triacylglycerides, complex lipids and phenolic compounds. 

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

Eating porridge helps control cholesterol

As mentioned before, porridge contains phytochemicals that help fight inflammation in the body. What’s more, the same plant compounds, phytochemicals and antioxidants also help reduce oxidative stress on the body. This, combined with the gut-health benefits, helps control blood cholesterol levels. A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2019 even suggests that oatmeal, or porridge made with oats, is particularly good for patients of hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol.

(Read more: Foods to reduce and control cholesterol)

Eating porridge reduces constipation

Being rich in fiber, porridge is one of the best ways to prevent or deal with constipation. A clinical trial done in Sweden suggested that regular consumption of fruit-rich porridge has a better effect on stool frequency than laxatives in geriatric patients. Another study indicated that consumption of porridge once a day can relieve constipation in children as well. Ensure that you drink enough water while on a fibre-rich diet as fibre without water can worsen constipation.

(Read more: Home remedies for constipation)

Porridge is good for the heart

Regular consumption of porridge has several benefits for your cardiovascular health. The fiber present in porridge helps fight inflammation and reduce both total and LDL (or bad) cholesterol. This, in turn, reduces your risk of developing atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, some of the most common risk factors for heart diseases. Meanwhile, the antioxidants present in whole grains fight free radical damage and promote heart health.

Eating porridge helps control blood sugar levels

Porridge has a low glycemic index, which means that your body takes a while to break down all the carbohydrates in it to generate energy. As a result, your blood sugar levels do not spike right after consuming it. Increased intake of whole grains also reduces your risk of developing diabetes as it increases insulin sensitivity (the ability of your body cells to take up glucose from your blood).

(Read more: Diabetes)

While people with bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are often told to lower their intake of high-fibre foods, eating porridge is considered to be safe for most. This is because porridge is usually softened and provides soluble fibre, which helps regulate bowel movements. However, if you have any bowel disorders or other gastrointestinal problems, then it is best to consult your doctor before eating porridge. 

It is also important to ask a nutritionist which type of porridge (meaning the type of grains) is best suited to your individual needs. Those with wheat or gluten insensitivity may find that eating broken wheat porridge causes a reaction. Although other grains like rice and corn also contain trace amounts of gluten, porridge prepared with them do not cause any allergic reactions in most cases. Apart from this, there are no other known or suspected side effects of porridge.

Making a healthy bowl of porridge and having it for breakfast is one of the best things you can do for your health. To make a simple porridge, you need two basic ingredients:

  • 50 grams of broken grains (oats, wheat, corn or rice)
  • 350-400 ml water

You could replace the water with milk, but this will make the porridge stickier. Here’s the method you need to use to cook the porridge:

  • Place the grains and the water in a pan.
  • Add a pinch of salt if needed.
  • Turn on the flame and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Allow the mix to simmer for five minutes while stirring from time to time.
  • Once all the water has been soaked up and the grains are cooked, turn off the flame and transfer the porridge to a bowl.

When you have the cooked porridge ready, you could eat it as it is or you could make your bowl of porridge even healthier by adding the following toppings:

If you have an upset stomach then it may be best to hold off on these toppings and have plain porridge.

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience

References

  1. Veleur, Jorgen. et al. Oatmeal porridge: impact on microflora-associated characteristics in healthy subjects. Br J Nutr . 2016 Jan 14;115(1):62-7. PMID: 26511097
  2. Rose, Devin J. Impact of whole grains on the gut microbiota: the next frontier for oats?. Br J Nutr . 2014 Oct;112 Suppl 2:S44-9. PMID: 25267244
  3. Pavadhgul, Patcharanee. et al. Oat porridge consumption alleviates markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in hypercholesterolemic adults. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr . 2019;28(2):260-265. PMID: 31192555
  4. Vitaglione, Paola. et al. Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 2, February 2015, Pages 251–261.
  5. Wisten, Aase and Messner, Torbjorn. Fruit and fibre (Pajala porridge) in the prevention of constipation. Scand J Caring Sci . 2005 Mar;19(1):71-6. PMID: 15737169
  6. Gibas-Dorna, Magdalena and Piatek, Jiacek. Functional constipation in children – evaluation and management. Prz Gastroenterol. 2014; 9(4): 194–199. PMID: 25276249
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