Today’s Health Morsel: Oats


Since I discovered how much energy I get from eating whole grains (whole-y energy, Batman!), I just can’t get enough. More often than not, whole grains are the basis of my meals (though I must admit that sometimes I’m perfectly happy just eating a big plate-full of oven-roasted potatoes). Of all these whole grains that I’ve learned to love, oats play the most important role. They’re a major part of my breakfast – I use a mix of whole grains for my homemade muesli, but oats comprise the lion’s share. I use old-fashioned, also known as rolled, oats. See the Kitchn’s explanation of the different kinds of oats. The nutritional profiles of the different kinds of oats are basically the same, except for glycemic index. Instant oats are higher on the glycemic index than either steel-cut or old-fashioned oats. I also throw them into a coffee grinder to make some flour to add to veggie burger mixes, among other things.

Oats are an excellent source of manganese & molybdenum. They are a very good source of copper, biotin, thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, zinc, & protein. They also contain two important phytonutrients: beta-glucans (a specific type of fiber) and saponins. Here’s a breakdown of the role that each of these nutrients plays in health:

Manganese is important for bone health and collagen production. It also helps to protect skin from UV damage and oxygen-related damage. It also plays a role in blood sugar control.

Oats are among the top sources of molybdenum. This element plays an important role in supporting the body’s detoxification process, developing connective tissues, and antioxidant activity. It may also play a role in neurotransmitter metabolism.

Copper helps iron to be absorbed into our red blood cells, so that it is possible for a copper deficiency to be mistaken for an iron deficiency. There might be an even bigger problem with copper, though. High levels of copper is associated with cognitive decline, but only in the presence of saturated & trans-fats. So, obviously, eliminate the bad fats, and you don’t need to worry so much about higher copper intake.

Biotin plays an important role in the metabolism of fats & sugar.

Vitamin B1 (a.k.a. thiamine), of which oats are in the top 10 in terms of bang for your caloric buck. Thiamine is actually widely available in whole food sources, but is easily destroyed by our ways of processing foods, so that it’s relatively easy to be deficient unless you eat a whole foods plant-based diet. It is vital to our body’s system for producing energy out of dietary carbohydrates and fats. It is also important to the brain and the rest of the nervous system, likely because they require so much energy to function.

Even a mild magnesium deficiency can lead to significant bone loss. Magnesium has also shown an anti-depressant effect, helps to enable energy production and to control inflammatory processes and blood sugar.

Zinc is essential to skin health and a functioning immune system. It is also incorporated into the retina, and works alongside Vitamin A to detect light, and transmit nerve impulses to the brain.

β-glucans (beta-glucans) and saponins are both fibers. β-glucans are a viscous soluble fiber – see my post on Kale). Saponins do a lot of the same, binding with cholesterol-containing bile acids to prevent their re-absorption into the body, supporting digestion, antioxidant activity, antimicrobial activity, and perhaps helping to fight cancer cells.

So, that’s a lot of reasons to eat oats. And did you see how many times energy came up? No wonder I get so much energy from eating my morning muesli! I was buying muesli for a while, but I have a very limited selection of the stuff in the shops around my home. I had trouble finding one the didn’t include either banana chips or coconut shavings, neither of which I’m a big fan of, so I decided to make my own maple-walnut muesli, and I’ve been doing that for several months now. It’s not at all time-consuming, and I make enough for about a week and a half at a time. If you wanted to do the same, but you’re shorter on time, you could easily make enough for 2 weeks. What’s really nice about this is that I can take advantage of seasonal fruits. I have a dehydrator, so I just dry as many as I can, and add them to the muesli until they run out. I love when it’s mirabelle season – mirabelles are berry-sized yellow plums that only grow in the Grand Est region of France, and are rarely seen elsewhere. You could substitute whatever dried fruits you want.

Here’s how I make my muesli:

  • 500 g of 5-grain muesli mix (the one I use includes oats, wheat, barley, rye, & spelt)
  • 20 g sunflower seeds
  • 75 g old-fashioned (a.k.a. rolled) oats
  • 50 g toasted buckwheat (You can buy it toasted, or, for cheaper, toast it yourself)
  • 35 g hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 135 g sultanas/raisins
  • 100 g dried fruit & berries (I cycle through mirabelles, cranberries, gooseberries, apricots, goji berries, etc)
  • 55 g dried apple pieces
  • 120 g raw walnuts (pecans are also really nice, but more expensive in my area)
  • 3 – 4 T maple syrup

See the recipe page for detailed instructions.

And here’s how I eat it each morning:

  • 1 1/2 c muesli (that’s about 1 c whole grains + 1/4 c dried fruit + 1/4 c nuts & seeds)
  • 1 T flaxseed & 1 clove, ground and mixed into the muesli

Checklist items: berries, flaxseeds, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices, 1 whole grains (5 out of 18 servings)


  • corn tortilla
  • 1 c beet greens cooked with garlic, cumin, paprika, lime juice, parsley, cilantro, & bouillon
  • 1/2 c black beans
  1. Use the above ingredients to make a burrito. I always make sure when I cook the beet greens to have plenty of sauce, which will season the beans.

Checklist items: 1 beans, 2 greens, herbs & spices, 1 whole grains (5 out of 18 servings). 


  • 1 1/2 c diced apple
  • 1 c diced turnip
  • 2 c fresh peas
  • handful of fresh mint or any herb you want
  • 1/2 c beets
  • piece of cornbread (oil-free, of course: recipe review up-coming)
  1. Cook & mash the apple & turnip together with some black pepper.
  2. Cook & blend the peas together with the mint (like mushy peas, but without the salt, butter, & cream).
  3. Beets are boiled, cooled, and seasoned with vinegar & black pepper.

Checklist items: 2 beans, 1 1/2 other fruits, 1 cruciferous, 2 other vegetables, herbs & spices, 1 whole grains ( 8.5 out of 18 servings)


  • 1 1/2 c fruit salad

Checklist items: 1 1/2 other fruits (1.5 out of 18 servings)

Taking account of the day:

20 servings in total.

We got at least the recommended servings of everything today, plus extra herbs & spices.



Today’s Health Morsel: Fenugreek

Fenugreek is related to clover. The leaves, called methi in Hindi, can be eaten, but I’ve never seen them for sale in any place that I’ve lived. I’m familiar with the seeds, which are used as a spice. They are also sold as a supplement, but are effective at edible quantities, and taste so good that I have a hard time seeing the point of the pill version. I prefer to buy the seeds whole, but where I live now I can only find them pre-ground, so that’s what I’m currently using. I’ll get into all that after breakfast & lunch…


I was ready for a change in the mornings, so I’ve switched up my routine breakfast a bit, but I still get in my flaxseeds and some fresh fruit.

  • 1 1/2 c muesli with 25% dried fruit (that’s 1 1/8 c whole grains + 1/3 c dried fruit)
  • 1 T ground flaxseed mixed into the muesli
  • 2 apricots (fresh)

Checklist items: 2 other fruits, flaxseeds, 1+ whole grains (4+ out of 18 servings)


Here’s what’s awesome about chopped salads: you can cram a lot of high-nutrient-density food into a small space if you chop it up real good.

  • 3/4 c corn
  • 1/4 c buckwheat, toasted
  • 1/4 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c carrot
  • 1/4 c onion & garlic
  • 1/2 c broccoli
  • 1 c arugula
  • 1 c lettuce

I chopped up the greens and vegetables before adding the corn, seeds, and buckwheat. Then I mixed it together with a little bit of tamari, lime juice, sriracha, and seaweed flakes.

Checklist items: cruciferous, 2 greens, 1 other vegetables, nuts, 2 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)


 20170816_145209.jpgI wish you could smell this picture, but you can’t, so you’ll just have to go buy some fenugreek. It’s like a blend of curry and maple syrup.

Fenugreek is most noted for its potent anti-cancer properties, and for its ability to help nursing women lactate (though not recommended for pregnant women because of uterine side-effects). What most people don’t know, though, is that the seeds are also antimicrobial and anti-parasitic.

Based on studies done with rats, which may be translatable to humans, fenugreek fights kidney stones by reducing calcium oxalates in the kidneys. It also helps to combat heartburn and acid reflux, and to reduce cholesterol by binding to it and ushering it out of the system.

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, using fenugreek significantly impacted body strength and composition compared to the placebo in men working on resistance training (a.k.a. weight lifting).

Fenugreek is also a good source of protein & fiber, and is rich in iron, copper, potassium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, & phosphorus.  Did you know it’s important to consume copper, iron, & zinc in roughly the right ratios? I was curious when I learned about this, so I entered a bunch of random fruits & veg into cronometer – everything I happened to enter respects the general bounds of this ratio. So, it’s really only a worry if you’re supplementing. For example, too much iron can prevent the body from absorbing zinc and copper. Supplementing with zinc also prevents copper absorption. The ideal ratio of copper : iron : zinc is 1 mg : 18 mg : 12 mg for women (men need less iron at 8 mg, but more zinc at 15 mg). Fenugreek, like most whole plant foods, is also in the ball-park, with 1.1 mg : 33 mg : 2.5 mg. It could have a little more zinc, but it’s not way out of whack.

Last but not least, just like its relative, clover, fenugreek fixes nitrogen in the soil, so it can be used in crop rotation to restore nitrogen to depleted soil in a more sustainable way than manure or chemical fertilizers. A great reason to increase demand for it in the marketplace! Aaand, now that I’ve brought up manure, let’s talk recipes. Sorry.

This is a healthy, fast & simple way to enjoy fenugreek. It also happens to be one of my favorite things to make with all the beets I’ve been taking out of my garden.

This recipe is for 2 people; the checklist below is for half the recipe:

  • 1 1/4 c dry red lentils (≈ 3 c cooked)
  • 1 c onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 c bouillon, homemade if possible
  • lime juice
  • 1 tsp fenugreek, ground or whole pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander, ground
  • s&p, to taste
  • 3 c of beets, pre-cooked
  1. Sauté onion & garlic with fenugreek, coriander, s & p. Deglaze with a little bit of lime juice & bouillon.
  2. Add lentils and bouillon, cook covered for about 15 – 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  3. Add the beets and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes more.
  4. At the end of cooking, add lime juice, to taste, about 2 T. This really brings the flavors together! Don’t skip it!

Checklist items: 3 beans, 4 other vegetables, 2 spices (9 out of 18 servings)

By the way – this recipe contains an insane 40 g of protein per serving. At my weight, that’s my day’s worth in one meal! So, never let anyone tell you vegans can’t get enough protein. It also contains 44 g fiber per serving, which you won’t find in any animal products.


  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 cup berries, frozen

Make yourself a small bowl of banana ice dream like this.

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruit (2 out of 18 servings)

Taking account of the day:

21 servings in total.

We got at least the recommended servings of everything today, plus extra spices, and 2 extra servings of other vegetables.