Monday, May 16, 2011

Supercharged Oatmeal Breakfast

When my mom was a little girl her father got up early every morning and made a big pot of oatmeal for the entire family for breakfast. My grandfather had good nutrition sense. Oatmeal was one of the few whole grains that was readily available and frequently eaten in the typical American diet. I would not agree with having oatmeal every day – variety is the spice of life – but oatmeal is a frequent visitor to my breakfast table. Here is a breakfast that takes oatmeal to a new nutritional and taste level.

Let's start with the cereal. The night before take one cup of whole oats and 1/2 cup of whole barley, rinse and put in a large pot with 5 cups of water and one or two pinches of salt. When I say whole oats and barley, I mean whole. Not rolled, not cut. You can buy them at Whole Foods in the bulk section. The labels will probably read "oat groats" and "hulled barley". Bring the water to a boil. If you have time, let it simmer for 10 or 15 min. Then turn off the heat and leave the lid on the pot. The next morning the oats and barley should be mostly cooked. Add water if necessary to bring your oatmeal to the consistency that you want. Then bring it to a boil again.

Top your oatmeal with raisins and ground flaxseed. Raisins help prevent calcium from leaching out of your bones [1], and flaxseed is the plant kingdom's champion source of omega-3 fatty acids [2].

Pair your oatmeal with a lettuce, carrot, and radish salad. Top the salad with a simple dressing made from flaxseed oil (more omega-3's here), olive oil (high in monounsaturated fats), and balsamic vinegar.

[1] Amy Lanou and Michael Castleman, Building Bone Vitality, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2009), 197.
[2] Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, Becoming Vegan (Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company, 2000), 70.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Channel of Destruction

Put on your Indiana Jones hat and come with me. We are going on a great adventure. We will start at the gaping, cavelike mouth of the Channel of Destruction. Don't worry. Your Indiana Jones hat has strong protective powers and will keep you safe.

As we enter the Channel of Destruction we see a huge sleeping slug on the bottom of the cave. Watch out! The slug is moving. Oh, no! It has knocked off your Indiana Jones hat and and now you are vulnerable. Now the jaws of the cave close on you and cut you into chunks. Then stalactites and stalagmites come together and grind you into smaller pieces. A strange liquid oozes from the walls of the cave and mixes with the pieces of your body. Then the slug makes a surging movement and you feel yourself entering a dark vertical tube. Pushed along by contractions of the side of the tube, in a few minutes you enter the acid bath. It is like a washing machine, only the water is extremely acid. It churns you around and begins to dissolve your chunks of flesh. Then your mushed up body is pushed into another tube, where powerful enzymes tear apart your flesh, sugars and fat. The walls of the tube suck up these your nutrients, leaving you as nothing more than waste products, fiber, and water. Then you are pushed forward to another tube where most of the liquid is sucked out of you. This tube is filled with lethal bacteria. Finally a violent contraction expels you back into the outer world. You are now a foul-smelling, bacteria-ridden, brown blob. No one wants to talk to you or even be close to you. You feel like a piece of poop, because that is what you have become.

The Channel of Destruction is your own digestive tract. This scary process is occurring right now inside you. No wonder most of us don't want to think about it. But how can we make head or tail of the conflicting views on diet and nutrition that we find all around us unless we have a basic understanding of our own digestive process? If you're like me and never took biology in school, or if you did take biology and vacuumed your brain the minute you walked out of the final exam, then it's time for you have to brush up on what your gut is doing.

I brushed up on what was happening inside my gut by watching the videos in Understanding the Human Body: An Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology by Dr. Anthony Goodman. You can probably get this series at your local library.