Can you Boast of your Oats?
Next in my series of checking out nutrition labels of popular products is, as the title suggests, oats. Oats are a fantastic grain high in fibre, including soluble fibre such as beta-glucan which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. My advice is always choose products with as little processing as possible to preserve nutritional content as well as avoid unwanted extras such as sodium and sugar. There are dozens of breakfast oat varieties on the supermarket shelf. Regular rolled oats, quick oats, high-fibre oats, and delicious sounding honey to name a few. Which ever you choose, it's good to be aware of what else is in your breakfast bowl.
Here, I look at a selection of Uncle Toby's (TM) oats. I have not been approached by Uncle Toby's (TM) or their parent company Nestle (TM), nor is this post meant to be any form of advertisement for their products. Please view the information as an educational exercise in the value of reading the nutrition labels of products, which can help you make more informed choices. The range of products I selected is what was on my local supermarket shelf. For this comparison I used the single serve of each, even though there were some minor differences. Some were 40g serves, some were 34g, and I did include the 'big bowl' options just to see how much difference a slightly bigger serve (46g) would make. The varieties of Uncle Toby's Oats (TM) I compared were:
Quick Oats 2 minutes
Quick Sachet Original
Quick Sachet Hi-Fibre with Oat & Linseed
Quick Sachet Creamy Honey
Quick Sachet Gold Syrup
Quick Sachet Big Bowl Original
Quick Sachet Big Bowl Banana Honey
The nutrient labels on these products include all the usual macronutrients (energy, carbohydrates, sugars & fat) and fibre. It's unclear why the only micronutrient listed is Sodium. A quick look at a food database revealed that the average serve of traditional oats has 124mg potassium, 42mg magnesium and 1.4mg of iron. OK, let's dive in to what I learned. Bear in mind the figures are for the oats only and will change depending on what you add (e.g. whole or skim milk, fruit, yoghurt etc). If you want to skip the graphs, just scroll down to my analysis!
Interestingly the total energy (kilojoules) per serve of each doesn't vary greatly. The two Big Bowls give 740 kj for their 46g serve. Consider this though, a 40g serve of Original Oats gives 640kj. If you adjust to the same size 40g serve, the Big Bowls would give 643 kj! But don't go crazy for the Banana Honey Big Bowl just yet. While Big Bowl Original has the same low sugar content as Traditional Oats (as you'd expect), its Banana Honey cousin packs 8g of sugar. You might have looked at the sodium graph and thought WHOA, Banana Honey is a salty number too, but really, 11mg of sodium is not bad at all. In fact all of the options are low in sodium and have less than 1% of the recommended daily intake. Compare that to my analysis of Weet-Bix (TM), which apart from the Kids variety, all were between 89mg - 178mg of sodium.
Joining Banana Honey in the sugar medals was Golden Syrup and Creamy Honey (I don't think there is any surprise there). The Hi-Fibre Soy & Linseed has a moderate sugar content compared to the others at 3.7g per serve. This seems a poor trade off for the fibre content even though it did out-fibre all others. Talking of fibre, I found it odd that the sweet flavoured options didn't list beta-glucans, which is a major health benefit of oats. All other varieties are similar in their beta-glucan content, though the Hi-Fibre has a tad under (1mg vs 1.4mg). Not a huge difference and the linseed provides other benefits such as omega-3 fatty acids. Put into perspective though, the content of linseed & oat fibre is 10%. That's 4g in a serve which is about a teaspoon.
For me, the winners out of this selection are Traditional Oats, either original or quick, which have the lowest sugar and sodium and for their serving size good fibre. Bear in mind that a quick variety has had extra processing applied to make the grain finer. It is quick to cook but also quicker to digest and this increases the glycemic index. In other words, quick varieties are absorbed and broken down into simple carbohydrates (sugars) much faster. This gives you a quick energy burst, but it doesn't last. Less processing and higher fibre will keep you fuller for longer.
Finishing off, if it sounds sugary, it is sugary. Skip the Golden Syrup and Honey flavours. For sweetness top your bowl with some organic berries. If you're wanting to add a boost of fibre and omega 3's from linseeds, then I'd recommend skipping the added sugar by just buying a pack of linseed meal and adding a tablespoon to your Traditional Oats and enjoy with low fat milk!