Amanda Hamilton & Slow Release Energy
I'm a big fan of oats; from porridge to oatcakes they are a cupboard staple in my household and something I encourage my whole family to eat.
As well as being incredibly handy (I always carry a pouch in my handbag to nibble on throughout the day) the nutritional benefits are outstanding too! Oats are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B and E, iron and magnesium. Magnesium and vitamin B are both particularly important for strong nerves - perhaps why those Scots explorers and warriors were so intrepid!
Back to the 21st century, oats help to maintain a healthy heart, aid concentration levels, promote a sound night's sleep by assisting melatonin to reach your brain and conversely provide sustained energy due to high levels of soluble fibre and complex carbohydrates. Oats are also a low GI food, which means they are even better for slow release energy needs.
GI, also known as the glucose index, is a measure of the rate at which our bodies break down the carbohydrates in our food to energy in the form of glucose. Oatcakes have a low GI, which means they are digested slowly by our bodies, keeping blood sugar and energy levels even throughout the day. As well as oatcakes, some other low GI foods you'll recognise include lentils, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
A word of warning, using the GI index in isolation to make decisions on what and when to eat can be misleading. Foods with a high GI are not all necessarily unhealthy and not all foods with a low GI are healthy. For example, chocolate cake has a lower GI value than watermelon. Also if you slather rather than scrape your low GI oatcakes with honey for instance, the sugar content and therefore the GI of your 'healthy' snack will shoot through the roof. Use common sense!
On the other hand a protein rich topping, such as nut butters, eggs, chicken and salmon, will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates further, meaning you will get even slower release energy helping to keep you going until dinner!
So although oatcakes are an ideal healthy and wholesome snack, particularly if you are heading to the gym after work or running about after your kids, in order to get the most from your oats you need to think about what you're eating with them too! It's easy to come up with quick yet delicious toppings too! Always think of combining complex carbohydrates (which is your Nairn's oatcakes) with protein and some fat, it doesn't have to be complicated!
What about trying out the following?
- Start your day with smoked salmon and low fat cream cheese. It's an old favourite and packed with essential fats and protein.
- Top your oatcakes with nutritious, protein rich almond or hazelnut butter and some sliced apple. Pink lady apples work particularly well.
- This is my favourite Spanish inspired slow-release topping. Thin slices of Manchego cheese, chopped baby tomato, and toasted walnut. Cheese is protein rich, walnuts are a great source of vitamin E and heart-healthy essential fats and finally the colourful Mediterranean tomatoes add an antioxidant rich flavour burst.
- You could also add chicken and spinach to your oatcakes, both of which are great sources of vitamin B and rich in protein so ideal to eat before a gym class.
Anti-afternoon slump snack...
- For a sweet fix why not top your oatcake with chopped banana. Easy, practical and rich in pre-biotic fibre to help your digestion.
- For a savoury fix then try pesto. Pine nuts, crumbled feta and a chopped baby tomato is a good source of magnesium to boost flagging energy levels. Perfect is you're looking for a great use of salad leftovers.
Lunchbox idea for kids...
- Hummus and sweet red pepper - this combination is especially rich in protein and vitamin C with a taste that most kids love.
- Fusspot proof - slices of mild cheese and chopped grapes. Cheese is also helpful to eat at the end of a meal to reduce plaque acid.
Remember if you're really busy then just grab a pack of Nairn's to go, as even on their own they're a great option for a natural boost in energy.