A Tribute To Oats and ANZACS

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One of the best ways to lower the absorption of iron in the body is to eat foods which inhibit the amount of iron first getting into your blood stream. Foods containing phytates, an antioxidant compound found in whole grains, walnuts, almonds, cashews, sesame, dried beans, lentils and peas, do just this – they are essentially our “back pocket” or  “linebacker” in the defence against iron overload.

Now, we have all heard that oats are a superfood and rich in iron, but because of the high phytate content, almost none of this iron is absorbed into the bloodstream. For this reason, it is often dubbed the “anti –nutrient” and many paleo advocates do not recommend grains and legumes for this reason.  It is also why paleo devotees will often advise sprouting, fermenting or soaking the phytakes out of nuts.  For haemochromatosis sufferers, however, phytates are king.

There are so many other health benefits of oats too – they supply slow release energy, help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and are a great source of fibre. But ‘oats aint oats’ so, steer away from the processed and sugar laden quick oats and stick to the whole oats – you know, the type your grandmother would use to make a steaming bowl of stick to your ribs porridge.

Personally, I use organic unstabilised rolled oats, meaning the natural oat kernel has been rolled immediately after hulling to retain the highest level of vitamin content and nutritional value. Whatever you choose, please ensure you use a whole oat variety and remember to check that it has not been fortified with extra iron.

Oats are, of course, a key component in ANZAC biscuits, the ingredients for which were hoped to provide the greatest nutritional value, love and care to our service men and women fighting on any number of horrific fronts during the Great War. As the story goes, the biscuits were packed in Billy Tea tins to ensure a safe passage and to keep out any moisture which might otherwise make the biscuits soggy.  Based on a Scottish recipe using rolled oats, they were originally called ‘soldiers’ biscuits’, but after that fateful landing in Gallipoli, they became known as ANZAC biscuits and, with that, became a quintessentially iconic part of Australia’s history.

As we commemorate 100 years since that fateful day on 25 April 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli, I, like so many of us, find myself reflecting and paying my respects to so many who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

ANZAC Day has a special place in my family’s heart.  At this time of year we reflect on family members who served in the Great War.  We recall stories of those who did not return, and those who made the long journey home but were forever changed due to their deep and irreparable mental and physical scars.

William John Beasley and Andrew James Beasley were brothers who, at age 25 and 23 respectively departed Melbourne in 1916 to serve on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Andrew returned to Australia in August 1918, only to suffer for the term of his remaining life from the effects of ‘gassing’, whilst William lies interred in Belgium mud, having been killed in action during a trench raid at Ploegsteert Wood, Messines, on 28 May 1917.  William has no known grave.

In 2011 we made a pilgrimage to Ploegsteert Wood, now partially returned to what I can only imagine it was like before the decimating chaos of war – a fairyland of dense leaf canopies and thick shrubbery, but amongst this the scarring of trenches carved deep into its moss covered earth.   Today, it is a tranquil, moving and beautiful resting place.  Gone but not forgotten, William is recognised as part of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Beasley Brothers Andy & William

And so, it is within this context that the humble ANZAC biscuit has far greater meaning to me, and I am grateful to have this forum to honour family members whom I have never met, but to whom I owe an eternal debt and gratitude.

There are many variations on a theme when it comes to ANZAC biscuits – you can add ground ginger, lemon rind, macadamia nuts or sultanas and this year there has been a wave of paleo friendly and gluten free recipes too. Struth!

This morning I have whipped up a batch of my mum’s ANZAC biscuits, which hark back to the original recipe and are lovingly made with rolled oats, coconut, golden syrup and melted butter, which amazingly becomes a frothing sweet sensation with the addition of bi-carb soda. Out of respect to the tradition of the ANZAC biscuit, I elected not to tweak this classic, so enjoy in moderation.

Lest we forget.

Nita’s ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

½ cup sugar

¾ cup desiccated coconut

2 tablespoons golden syrup

½ cup butter (125 grams)

½ teaspoon bicarb soda

1 tablespoon boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to slow (160 degrees) and grease or line two large baking trays.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. In a bowl or saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup together.
  4. Mix soda with boiling water and add to melted butter mixture. Watch it froth, add to dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Place heaped teaspoons of mixture on baking trays and flatten slightly.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
  7. Let cool on the trays until they firm up slightly and enjoy!

3 responses to “A Tribute To Oats and ANZACS”

  1. […] In addition to the obvious beneficial ingredient of apples, this recipe also includes tannin and antioxidant rich cinnamon and iron inhibiting whole oats, almond meal and macadamia nuts (due to their phytate content – if you want to know more about phytates, click here). […]

  2. […] after hulling to retain the highest level of vitamin content and nutritional value.  My mum’s Anzac Biscuits are a great way to incorporate more oats into your […]

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