Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not your traditional morning oatmeal, other grains to try instead.

It's 6 AM and breakfast is on my mind! I think breakfast is the most important meal of the day and easily the one most often skipped by the majority of us. Instead of taking the time to sit down to a well balanced meal, we run out of the house or start on our to do list with a granola/health bar, a cup of cold cereal or forgo the whole meal all together. Advertisers have us believing that we can get our daily vitamins in fortified cereals/breakfast bars and those oh so healthy foods will give us the energy we need to get through our day. Ah, how misleading those advertisements are. I won't delve to much into this one, at least not now, but just because a cereal/breakfast bar says it has 100% of your daily vitamins doesn't actually mean that your body can absorbs those vitamins. Most mainstream cereals/breakfast bars are filled with synthetic vitamins and sadly our bodies are not able to absorbs vitamins in this form, at least not as well as vitamins from whole, natural foods. Getting past the synthetic mess, next look at the list of ingredients on the package of your cereal/breakfast bar. If there are any words you can pronounce or don't know what they are, pitch it. That's a good cue that most likely what your eating really isn't good for you.

If you are in a time crunch in the morning, it's time to try and restructure the morning. I certainly know how busy the morning can be. Hence working at 6 AM on this post so I can hopefully get a couple things done before the kids are up! :-) My husband and I used to always eat breakfast together, however he now leaves for work at 6:45 AM and rarely are the kids up at that time, so now he makes breakfast for himself and takes it to work with him. He's then able to have a well balanced meal and also get his day started by checking email and doing all those other activities that fill the beginning of the day. I always try to eat with my son, so I wait till he is up and then we typically have a well balanced meal of eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, some toast and a large glass of fresh whole milk. It's quite a bit of food, but by doing a full breakfast I am able to balance my sugar lever (I've always had a bit of a problem with hypoglycemia) and give my body the healthy calories and vitamins it needs to give me energy for my day. Plus, when your body is content because you've met it's nutritional requirements you don't find yourself needing or wanting to snack. This has it's pluses since typically when I grab a snack I'm not grabbing the healthiest thing for my body!

Okay, with that all said, back to the point of this post. Who wants to eat the same thing everyday for breakfast? I always used have oatmeal once or twice a week, but then I saw a 5 grain cereal recipe in Nourishing Tradition by Sally Fallon and thought it sounded interesting, so I gave it a whirl. The cereal recipe includes 2 cups of wheat or spelt, millet, short grain rice, barley or oats and split peas or lentils (yes you read correctly peas or lentils is in this cereal mix :-)). You mix your ingredients together and then coarsely grind them and store them in your refrigerator
until your ready to use the mixture. This ended up being a very satisfying meal, more so then just oatmeal which always tended to leave me hungry an hour later and a bit shaky from too many carbohydrates and not enough protein.

Now I incorporate anywhere from 3-5 grains, always including quinoa because it's a complete protein. I typically mix together enough dry ingredients so I have 1 - 1 1/3 dry cereal mix, I then mix this with about 2 1/2 cups of water and a couple tablespoons of whey or yogurt and let it all sit together on my counter overnight.

"All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits."
~Nourishing Tradition by Sally Fallon, page 452

After my grains have soaked, I dump them and their liquid into a medium size pot and add some sea salt, about 1/2 tsp. and cook them covered over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, if you've ground your grains they may cook in as little as 5-10 minutes. If you choose to not soak your grain, do realize that it will greatly increase their cooking time, up to about an hour or so.

Once the hot cereal is cooked, top it with a variety of nuts, fresh or dried fruit and even some shaved coconut meat (a favorite with my son). You can add just about anything you want like butter or cream and even incorporating 1-2 egg yolks. Be creative here and have fun trying new foods.

Below I've included some of the grains and nuts I use and their health benefits. This is hardly a comprehensive list of nutritional information. Check out the links to read more about each item. A couple of other grains to consider and that I don't have pictured below are kamut, spelt and rye. One of the goals here is to try and get away from eating the typical and trying to incorporate more variety into the diet. I've heard that one of the reasons we see some of the food allergies that we do is because of the lack of variety in out diet. We over consume the same foods like eating to much wheat or peanuts, which can then stress our digestive system ultimately causing food allergies in ourselves and our children.

Steel Cut Oats
Health Benefits: Contains manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, dietary fiber, magnesium, protein, phosphorus, copper, folate (folic acid), vitamin E and zinc

Interesting Fact: "The modern oat draws its ancestry from the wild red oat, a plant originating in Asia. Oats have been cultivated for two thousand years in various regions throughout the world. Before being consumed as a food, oats were used for medicinal purposes, a use for which they are still honored."
~ World's Healthiest Foods, article on Oats

Cracked Wheat
Health Benefits: Contains protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc

Interesting Fact: "Wheat is the largest and most important grain crop in the world and has been cultivated since 7,000 BC."
~The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Nicola Graimes

Cracked wheat contains all the same nutrients as wheat berries, since it's simply wheat berries that have been crushed. If you are normally one who likes to eat wheat germ or bran, consider eating cracked wheat instead. It's almost always wiser to eat a food in it's whole form instead of isolating one or two parts. Good rule of thumb, the less it's processed the better it will be for you! Wheat bran is actually a bi-product of white flour production.

Health Benefits: Contains fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.

Interesting Fact: "Barley, one of the first crops cultivated by man, has been used as a food and medication since biblical times."
~ Wholehealthmd.com

The most nutritious form of barley is called pot barley, however we more often see pearl barley in our stores. Pearl barley has been husked, steamed and polished, so it looses some of the extra nutrients that is contained in the bran, which has been removed.

Health Benefits: Contains B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, manganese,

Interesting Fact: "Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was used during those times to make bread. Millet has been used in Africa and India as a staple food for thousands of years and it was grown as early as 2700 BC in China where it was the prevalent grain before rice became the dominant staple."
~ Whole Grains: Millet by Karen Railey

"Millet is highly nutritious, non-glutinous and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid forming food so is soothing and easy to digest. In fact, it is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available and it is a warming grain so will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates."
~ Whole Grains: Millet by Karen Railey

Brown Rice
Health Benefits: Contains zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, fiber

Interesting Fact: "Because the bran is not milled away, brown rice contains four times the amount of insoluble fiber found in white rice--a prime reason for eating brown rice instead of white."
~ Wholehealthmd.com

Health Benefits: Contains iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin, B6, niacin, thiamine, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, protein (it is a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids)

Interesting Fact: "It has been cultivated in South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. and has been a staple food of millions of native inhabitants. The ancient Incas called quinoa the 'mother grain' and revered it as sacred. Each year at planting time it was traditional for the Inca leader to plant the first quinoa seed using a solid gold shovel! Quinoa was used to sustain Incan armies, which frequently marched for many days eating a mixture of quinoa and fat, known as 'war balls.'"
~ Quinoa from the Andes by Karen Railey

Split Peas
Health Benefits: Contains soluble and insoluble fiber, folate (folic acid), iron, selenium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, thiamine, potassium and some protein.

Interesting Fact: "The modern-day garden pea, from which dried peas are made, is thought to have originated from the field pea that was native to central Asia and Europe. Dried peas have been consumed since prehistoric times with fossilized remains being found at archeological sites in Swiss lake villages. Peas are mentioned in the Bible and were prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome."
~The World's Healthiest Foods article on Dried Peas

Peas and lentils (listed below) both decrease harmful LDL cholesterol in our bodies which can help fight against heart disease. They are also high in fiber, which helps the colon and bowels work properly . One other great benefit of fiber is it can slow down the rate sugar can enter into our bloodstream. This can be beneficial to those who have diabetes.

Health Benefits: Lentils are very similar in health benefits as split peas. They also contain soluble and insoluble fiber, folate (folic acid), iron, selenium, folate, manganese, zinc, phosphorus and thiamine, potassium and some protein.

Interesting Fact: "Lentils are believed to have originated in central Asia, having been consumed since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archeological sites in the Middle East. Lentils were mentioned in the Bible both as the item that Jacob traded to Esau for his birthright and as a part of a bread that was made during the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people."
~The Word's Healthiest Foods article on Lentils

Sunflower Seeds
Health Benefits: Contain an excellent amount of vitamin E, as well as, folate (folic acid), copper, magnesium, selenium, protein, zinc and other B vitamins

Interesting Fact: "While sunflowers are thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru, they are one of the first plants to ever be cultivated in the United States. They have been used for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans, who not only used the seeds as a food and an oil source, but also used the flowers, roots and stems for varied purposes including as a dye pigment."
~The World's Healthiest Foods article on Sunflower Seeds

Health Benefits: Contain vitamin A, vitamin E, folate (folic acid), calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, zinc, protein

Interesting Fact: "New research, published in the August 2006 issue of Nutrition Research, shows that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping prevent coronary heart disease. The researchers suggest that this positive effect was in part due to the pecans’ significant content of vitamin E – a natural antioxidant. Pecans contain different forms of vitamin E, which protects blood lipids from oxidation. Oxidation of lipids in the body - a process akin to rusting – is detrimental to health. When the "bad" (LDL) cholesterol becomes oxidized, it is more likely to build up and result in clogged arteries."

"In addition, landmark research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (June 2004) found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s."
~National Pecan Sheller Association, article on pecans Nutrition in a Nutshell

Health Benefits: Contain ellagic acid, copper, manganese, tryptophan, omega 3, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, phosphorus and postassium

Interesting Fact: "Walnuts have often been thought of as a "brain food," not only because of the wrinkled brain-like appearance of their shells, but because of their high concentration of omega-3 fats. Your brain is more than 60% structural fat. For your brain cells to function properly, this structural fat needs to be primarily the omega-3 fats found in walnuts, flaxseed and cold-water fish. This is because the membranes of all our cells, including our brain cells or neurons, are primarily composed of fats. Cell membranes are the gatekeepers of the cell. Anything that wants to get into or out of a cell must pass through the cell's outer membrane. And omega-3 fats, which are especially fluid and flexible, make this process a whole lot easier, thus maximizing the cell's ability to usher in nutrients while eliminating wastes--definitely a good idea, especially when the cell in question is in your brain."
~The World's Healthiest Foods, article on Walnuts

"Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is involved in inducing and regulating sleep and is also a powerful antioxidant, has been discovered in walnuts in bio-available form, making them the perfect evening food for a natural good night's sleep. "
~The World's Healthiest Foods, article on Walnuts

Health Benefits: Contain calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, dietary fiber, protein, potassium

Interesting Fact: "Almonds are a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper, two trace minerals that are essential cofactors of a key oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), thus keeping our energy flowing. Fortunately, Mother Nature supplies both mineral cofactors in almonds. Just one-quarter cup of almonds supplies 45.0% of the daily value for manganese, and 20.0% of the daily value for copper. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) also plays at least two important roles in the body's energy production. When active in energy production pathways, riboflavin takes the form of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) or flavin mononucleotide (FMN). In these forms, riboflavin attaches to protein enzymes called flavoproteins that allow oxygen-based energy production to occur."
~The World's Healthiest Foods article on Almonds


  1. This article was a wonderful resource. I get into a rut eating oatmeal most of the time, but now I feel inspired to use more grains. It sounds easy if I just grind them up all at once and then store them in the fridge.

  2. Glad you liked it "Goofy Mama"! It's always nice to be inspired.

  3. If you are in a time crunch in the morning, it's time to try and restructure the morning.

    Sorry, but this makes me laugh. I wake up at 6:00 to leave the house by 7:00 to get my daughter to daycare so I can be at work at 8:00--where I have to eat my breakfast at my desk in an exhausted state.

    A lot of good information, tho. I'm going to see how I can translate this into a "desk breakfast."

  4. There's no doubt about it, it's much harder to have a healthy breakfast on the go. One thing you may consider is making your warm cereal the night before. It doesn't take hardly any work. Then bring it to work in the morning. My husband does this. I always make extra and then he brings some to work with him the next day. He keeps it in a mason jar that he can heat up in the microwave and eat right out of. He puts some milk in a separate container to pour on top. He loves it. :-)

  5. I just found you blog via the CultureForHealth blog regarding the natural fruit cake. Nonetheless seeing the question about food on the run reminded me of the folks atthisblog http://www.thermoscooking.com/. I have not yet tried your recipe using their technique but it seems it should work. Just posting the info herevsincevit seems like others might find useful.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.