Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's For Breakfast?

Do you have a favorite breakfast food?  Do you go for eggs and bacon, or are you a pancakes and waffles kind of person?  Maybe you like a warm bowl of oatmeal, or do prefer a cold cereal with milk instead?

One of my favorite readers (xo) recently asked what I thought of their [almost] daily habit of a bowlful of bran, fruit, nuts and milk.  A few months ago, I'd have said it sounds awesome, keep up the healthy trend.  But then I started reading about what it means to really eat healthy and how far off the mark the standard American diet (SAD) really is.

I used to naively believe that the USDA and/or FDA was there for the protection of the American public and that the ingredients list was forthright and truthful about the contents of a box, can or envelope of "food."  Turns out that is not so, and as for protection; it's the corporate food industry that is being protected - the Monsanto Protection Act is a good example {slap my head!}.

So, while my newfound knowledge is often infuriating, it's good to know what habits must change (even our favorite ones) for the benefit of our well-being.

Let's start with the cereal.
Those boxes of flakes, O's, puffs, shreds and squares go through a denaturing process called extrusion.  The grains are mixed with water to form a slurry, then they are pressed through an extruder machine with a very tiny hole at high heat and pressure to form those shapes you pour into your breakfast bowl. The process is completed by spraying the shapes with a coating of oil and sugar to seal the cereal, helping it to maintain it's form when subjected to a dousing of milk.  It is said that the process destroys the nutrients, denatures the fatty acids essential for digestion, and even destroys the synthetic vitamins added at the end of the process (a lame attempt at restoring some integrity to the product).

Unfortunately, the extrusion process does not just create an empty food; one void of nutritional value, there is evidence that it is actually toxic.  The extrusion process alters the proteins in the grains turning them into neurotoxins (making the "healthy" cereals even worse for us because of their higher protein content).  One study done in 1960 by researchers at the University of Michigan revealed that of three groups of rats, those fed cornflakes and water were the first to die.  The second group to die were fed a steady diet of water and.. get this... the box the cornflakes came in!  Fed a steady diet of cardboard and water, they died of malnutrition, of course, yet survived longer than the rats fed cornflakes.  That's alarming.  (The third group of rats were fed rat chow and water and remained healthy throughout the study.)

Apparently the USDA can get away with marketing breakfast cereal as a healthy food source because they are fortified with synthetic vitamins.

Well, what about the fruit?
That's the best part of this breakfast, that is if you're buying organic, at least for those fruits on the Dirty Dozen list (because they are heavily sprayed with pesticides). For 2013, the Dirty Dozen fruits are apples, grapes, nectarines, peaches, strawberries.

The types of fruit on the Clean Fifteen list (safe to buy conventionally) are cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, papayas, and pineapples.

And, naturally, you should only select fruit that is in season.  "But what if I want an apple in May?" (In the U.S., you can typically pick a ripe apple from the tree between late August and early October.)

Okay, we'll use apples as an example.  It doesn't matter what time of year it is, you can walk into any grocery store in America and have several varieties of apples to choose from, all packaged neatly in their 3 pound bags or sitting proudly and shiny (waxy) in their tiered individual concave holders.

Uh, untreated apples will rot after a few weeks.  So, if apple season is approximately two months long how are we getting "fresh" apples year round?  Well, they're treated with a gaseous compound called 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP).

"Apples not intended for fresh market are stored at low temperatures, with low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide. While this slows the apples' natural production of ethylene and its effects,  fungicides must often be applied to prevent fungal rots from taking hold. But since its commercial debut in 2002 under the name "SmartFresh," 1-MCP has in some cases diminished the need for such treatment." (source)

That doesn't sound appealing or healthy to me.  Whether it's a fungicide or some [toxic?] compound created in a lab called SmartFresh, I really don't want my food treated with anything other than rich soil, sunshine, and water.

So, to recap; buy from the Clean Fifteen list, buy organic if on the Dirty Dozen list, and buy what's in season.  If you can, buy from farmers and farmers markets.  Your freshest, most true-to-nature fruit, won't come from a big supermarket.  Local Harvest is a good resource for finding food grown closest to you.

So, how about those nuts?
Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats... if they are "prepared" properly.  The thing with nuts is they have phytic acid, which blocks or inhibits valuable minerals and enzymes from being absorbed.  We think we're adding a valuable complexity to our meal, but we're actually being robbed of the nutrition from the food we've paired it with.

"Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the "arms" of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate." 

"The purpose of this article is not to make you afraid of foods containing phytic acid, only to urge caution in including grains, nuts and legumes into your diet. It is not necessary to completely eliminate phytic acid from the diet, only to keep it to acceptable levels.
An excess of 800 mg phytic acid per day is probably not a good idea. The average phytate intake in the U.S. and the U.K. ranges between 631 and 746 mg per day; the average in Finland is 370 mg; in Italy it is 219 mg; and in Sweden a mere 180 mg per day." (source)"

A small handful of nuts probably isn't terrible, you just want to be careful to consider all the sources of phytic acid intake; grains, seeds, nuts, legumes.

To eliminate (or reduce) phytates, you can soak your nuts, then dehydrate them in a warm oven (very low temperature) to restore their crispiness.  Don't be overwhelmed.  It's not as daunting as it may sound - it just requires a little planning ahead.

Milk. Does a body good, right?
Hmmm, well, that depends on where you get it and whether you drink whole milk or reduced fat milk.

I was a proponent of drinking skim milk (gray water) because I bought into the notion that full fat milk was unhealthy... that it would cause heart disease and muffin tops.  Boy, was I wrong!  Do you know that whole milk from a grass-fed cow is one of the most nutrient-dense, good-for-you foods on the planet?  It contains fat soluble vitamins, B vitamins, calcium and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid found in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer!), enzymes, complete protein, beneficial bacteria, the list goes on.

So... don't waste your time with 2%, 1% or skim milk.  Blech.  Enjoy the full fat (good-for-you!) version.  But wait...

Don't go to your grocery and pull a pasteurized, homogenized gallon of whole milk off the shelves.  That's not the wholesome, real milk that has all the good stuff in it.

Pasteurization kills all of the good bacteria, along with the majority of vital vitamins and nutrients (and ultra pasteurized milk is virtually sterile).  Homogenization breaks up the fat globules (cream) so that they do not rise.  The process increases the susceptibility to spoilage.  Homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.

"Real milk -- full-fat, unprocessed milk from pasture-fed-cows -- contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer). Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that protects against pathogens and contributes to a healthy flora in the intestines. Culturing milk greatly enhances its probiotic and enzyme content, making it a therapeutic food for our digestive system and overall health." (source) Please read this source article, it is so very informative.

I'm so thankful to live in a state where raw milk is accessible and legal to purchase (it galls me that it's actually illegal in some states!).

Many of my readers are from Florida (hi, friends).  You can access raw milk in Florida, but law mandates that it be labeled "for pets." (Oh brother!)  Please don't let that dissuade you.  It is not a lesser form of raw milk, it's just what the farmers have to state in order to sell it legally.

If you absolutely can not get your hands on raw milk where you live, then find a source for organic (to avoid the hormones and antibiotics given to the animals in the factory farms - which I didn't touch on here, but please read the full source article, linked above), that was organic, and lightly pasteurized milk (not to be confused with ultra pasteurized, which is the complete opposite).

What, then, do I have for breakfast?
Eggs!  Usually, I have delicious, nutritious eggs from pastured hens.  Hens that went outside in the sunshine and pecked for bugs and picked at greens.  Those girls produce nutrient-dense eggs.

Be careful about paying lots of extra money for eggs at the grocery store just because they're labeled "free-range" or some other trendy buzz word.  Grocery store eggs come from factory farms, and even if they are "free-range" that doesn't mean they saw the light of day; it just means they weren't caged... but they still lived in a metal building with concrete floors, packed like sardines with 10,000 other chickens and never ate a blade of grass.  Find a farmer.

I'll have easy, grab-n-go hard boiled eggs on busy work days with some fresh, seasonal fruit, and I'll have more time-consuming eggs with bacon or sausage on the weekend.

When I don't have eggs, I'll typically have a bowl of oatmeal and (again) fresh, seasonal fruit.

Here's how I do it:

1/2 cup old fashioned, rolled oats
1 cup water, plus a 1/2 cup water
1 T lemon juice (the oats need to soak in something acidic - could be vinegar or yogurt, too)
1 T raw honey
sprinkle of cinnamon
diced fruit
splash of milk or cream

Before bed, put the oats in a 1/2 pint jar, add the cup-ish (just fill the jar) of water and the lemon juice.  Cap and let soak overnight on the counter (should be a warm place).

In the morning, if I have time to do it at home, I cook them on the stove adding about another 1/2 cup of water.  They'll cook quickly, takes just a couple of minutes.  (If I don't have time, I just grab the jar and do it at work in the microwave.)

Pour into your serving bowl and add honey, cinnamon, fruit and milk to your desired consistency.

Fills me up and tastes so good!

Now that cold breakfast cereal is out (at least the boxed version - I haven't tried any homemade versions, yet), what will you be having for breakfast?

Linking up with Tasty Traditions, Hearth and Soul, From the Farm, Chicken Chick, What Am I Eating


Mom said...

Oh boy!! And today was cereal day too! We always alternate between eggs and cereal. John loves oatmeal, but ugh, I can't get past that oozey looking stuff, just as I can't take grits. Same looking consistency!! Hmmm - perhaps I can acquire a taste for it! We've been drinking whole milk for some time in our cereal..and that's the only time we drink it. "milk for 'pets only'!! Another big hmmm!! I didn't check your sources yet, but will. I'm discouraged, none the less!

GiGi Eats Celebrities said...

You know what I have been eating for breakfast lately? Sauteed Mussels & Squid!! Weird but delicious :)

The Provision Room said...

I eat eggs nearly every morning for breakfast in some form or another. And while I fix them the kids snack on pieces of chicken liver pate. (No joke! This is a new reality for us, but one I'm thoroughly enjoying!)

The kids usually have some form of oatmeal from oats I've soaked the night before.

Heather said...

What a great post! When your eyes are opened to the amount of chemicals and other issues involved with the food we call "safe" it opens the floodgates to healthy eating! At least it did for me :-) I would love for you to share this at what i am eating

Pam O'Brien said...

Thank you, Heather. I'll head over to What I'm Eating and share there. ~Pam

Millie Copper said...

Great post. When we first decided to eliminate cold cereal it sounded almost overwhelming but now I think our breakfasts are easier than the cold cereal days. Soaked oats are one of our favorites as are (homegrown) eggs.
Thanks for sharing at the Nourishing Pin It Party.

Barb @ Frugal Local Kitchen said...

Your oatmeal sounds yummy!

I typically have eggs for breakfast. They can keep me going for hours.