Like Zoodles and Zoats, Proats are the latest health buzz of 2018, and for good reason. Proats is a combination of two of our favourite daily go-to’s, protein and oats. However, oats are so healthy on their own, should we bother going to the extra effort of enriching our bowl with extra protein? That depends on a few factors… high protein needs, hunger and health goals.
Oats are the best cereal base to start the day with. They are cheap and rich in fibre, providing approximately 1g of fibre for every 10g of oats consumed. Oats also contain a form of soluble fibre called beta-glucan which has been shown to reduce cholesterol by preventing the cholesterol found in food being absorbed and helping to remove it from circulation. Not to mention oats are packed full of B Vitamins, Vitamin E and Minerals.
While all styles of oats contain these nutrients and share a very similar nutrient profile, there are some differences in the way the carbohydrates are absorbed based on how they are processed. Steel cut oats followed by whole rolled oats have the lowest GI which is beneficial for blood sugar levels, insulin response, fat storage and satiety. Quick oats have the highest GI, and while they cook faster, they’re absorbed quicker and make you feel hungrier, quicker.
So, while oats at breakfast are a super healthy option, a bowl of porridge or oats with 150-200ml of milk contains only between 10 and 12g of protein, even less if you’re using a milk alternative like almond or coconut milk. This is the same amount of protein that you would get from eating less than half of a small chicken breast, and there are some situations where this amount might not cut it.
- High protein needs. Most of us easily meet our protein requirements of 0.8-1.0g/kg/day. However, some athletes, particularly elite power athletes and some people with certain medical conditions may have higher requirements which means working in more protein at each meal.
- Hunger. Fibre, fat and especially protein have been proven to help induce satiety, in other words, these macronutrients do the best job keeping us full. So, if you find you’re hungry within a couple of hours of your oatmeal, porridge, bircher, muesli or overnight oats in the morning, then aiming for at least 15g of protein at breakfast is a good target.
- Health Goals. It is easy to go overboard with the portion size of oats given the recommended serve size for most people is between 30 and 40g uncooked. This is a lot less than most people realise, check it out by weighing your portion size before your next bowl. This is particularly important for those who need to put extra focus on keeping blood sugar levels stable including people who are overweight or obese and trying to lose weight, those managing diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance and PCOS. While oats have a favourable glycemic index, the amount of carbohydrate consumed in a meal is also important when managing blood sugar levels. The glycemic index combined with amount of carbohydrates consumed in a meal is called Glycemic load (GL) and like Glycemic Index (GI) is also measured in low, medium or high. So you could be eating a meal made of ingredients with favourable GI, but if the overall portion size of carbohydrates is too high, the GL is raised which pushes your blood sugar levels up. The impact of this is a resultant blood crash which leaves you feeling hungry and promotes fat storage.
Adding protein to oats will:
- Increase the protein in your meal
- Help keep you fuller for longer
- Help lower the Glycemic index and Glycemic load of the dish by replacing some of the carbohydrate. It is still very important to keep the portion size of the oats within recommendations to achieve this.
Increasing protein in your oats doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start investing in expensive protein powders. There are multiple ways you can go about making Proats.
- Use a protein rich yoghurt instead of milk. There are a few brands on the market now that have more than 9g of protein per 100g so depending on the tub or serve size you’ll get close to 15g of protein from the yoghurt alone. The oats and any added nuts and seeds will provide a bit extra.
- Add protein powder. Whey, collagen, pea or soy protein powders are the better options for protein content. Check the label for % of protein that the brand provides and aim for at least 80-90% protein. This is easier for Whey proteins as you can look for Whey Protein Isolates (WPI) which contain about 90% compared to Whey Protein Concentrates where the % is lower and varies a lot more by brand. Usually more neutral flavours such as vanilla or cacao work best but this is personal preference.
- Add some nut butter. Adding 1 Tablespoon of peanut better for example will add an extra 5-6g protein. It is important to be aware that this method adds more calories and less protein to the overall meal compared to other strategies. Adding nuts and seeds to the dish can also increase the protein a bit but the amount required to be added in order to increase the protein by a decent amount means this is not the best way if you’re watching your calorie intake.
- Cook oatmeal with egg whites. Two egg whites will give between 7 and 9g of protein depending on the size of the egg. While there is nothing wrong with the egg yolk, which also contains protein, this often has an unfavourable effect on the flavour of the meal.
Worried about eggs at breakfast? Read an article to find out more here.