Revealed – why you are not a freak of nature if porridge doesn’t fill you up

by sophie on January 13, 2009 · 18 comments

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Everybody and their Mum knows that porridge is a super-filling breakfast. Except that you really wouldn’t think so from reading the comments on my last post about having quinoa for breakfast; it’s just not true that porridge is a filling breakfast for one and all.  There are a whole host of reasons why this might be and I’ve jotted a few of them down in this post. If nothing else, now you now know that it probably isn’t because you are freak of nature if you don’t find porridge a filling breakfast. Plus the information here might also give you an inkling as to why nutrition research is so tricky; people and their food are just so variable.

But first, a little bit about why porridge does do the trick for so many people.  Oats are high in soluble fibre, which forms a jelly like substance in your stomach, slowing down how quickly porridge is digested compared with a cereal lower in soluble fibre.  Porridge is also classed as a low glycaemic index food meaning that the porridge releases its energy into our bloodstreams in a slow and steady way, theoretically delaying that bit just before lunch when your blood glucose levels drop low enough to cause hunger, prompting you to eat again.

So on to those reasons why you might not find porridge to be a filling breakfast:

Porridge and portions vary

  • People have massively different portions size. Some people have a few tablespoons of porridge, others have a massive bowlful.  A quick scan across a few recipes and packages showed serving suggestions from 35 to 75g of oats per person. There is no right or wrong to this; a little bit extra everyday might contribute to weight gain or might be just enough to help you resist that mid morning biscuit.
  • Some people embellish their porridge with all kinds of nutritious optional extras like fresh and dried fruit, seeds and nuts (I am very firmly in this camp).
  • As I mentioned in that last post, not all porridge oats are equal.  Old fashioned big fat porridge oats are low GI; instant oats are not.

Glycaemic response varies between people
The Glycaemic Index values you read about are measured by looking at what happens to people’s blood glucose levels when they eat a particular food.  Glycaemic index can’t be calculated by a machine and instead is determined in a laboratory; those published values are an average value obtained by testing the food on at least ten different healthy individuals (you can read more about GI testing on the University of Sydney site).  Across those ten people there will be a range of responses and for some people the energy from the food will effectively be released more quickly, most likely leaving them hungrier sooner.  Which is a roundabout way of saying that for some people porridge might be a medium to high GI food.

Your metabolism can vary from day to day
In a healthy person there are still a whole host of factors that could make a difference to your baseline blood glucose levels and how far you get into the morning before before you get hungry:
-    drinking alcohol the evening before
-    having an illness or infection
-    a very large or late evening meal the night before
-    Strenuous exercise

Some people find a higher protein breakast more filling
Protein is more filling than carbohydrate.  There is research to suggest that eggs for breakfast can aid weight loss because they are filling and can reduce the amount that you eat later in the day.  Quinoa is higher in protein than porridge and so you might find a porridge style quinoa breakfast more filling.

All of these factors may contribute to whether or not a bowl of porridge makes a filling breakfast for you.  The answer is to experiment and find the breakfast that works best for you.   

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