I keep coming across blogs about how studies have found that oats can have harmful effects. This is getting ridiculous. You could take any food item in isolation and out of context, and make claims about it being potentially harmful. I’m waiting for the new study claiming that we shouldn’t drink water because it contains hydrogen which could kill you, or oxygen which could destroy your tissue. Oats are an incredible source of energy, and have anti-inflammatory properties and, if you cook them correctly, they will fuel you for four to five hours. This eliminates the need for coffee runs and constant snacking during the morning which leads to weight gain and sugar crashes.
I don’t buy into this nonsense of finding faults in wholesome foods. Healthy eating is all about yin and yang. Eat as much wholesome food as possible and regulate yin and yang within yourself via chi practices, yoga and compassionate actions, and all will be well. For me, oats are still the best breakfast ingredient ever. Your stomach and spleen love them, and a nice warm bowl of porridge for breakfast ensures that the morning is productive. This boosts all organ functions and has a beneficial flow-on effect for the rest of the day.
The recipe for a delicious chi boosting porridge:
But you can’t just chuck some oats in a saucepan, boil them up, and gulp them down (secretly unconvinced that you even like them) and expect a productive morning. Porridge can be medicinal and delicious, but you have to enjoy it and cook it with love and chi and a pinch of alchemy! This process begins the day before. Oats need to be soaked overnight (I never use quick oats so can’t speak about them) with around three times the amount of liquid (I use activated almond milk). Otherwise they will swell in your stomach and weigh you down, this is why some people find porridge ‘too heavy’ or feel it slows them down.
Then add some interest and complex flavours with herbs, spices or seeds. I always add four tablespoons of poppy seeds as they assist in the digestive process, and are good for heart health and immunity. They are also loaded with iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc (1 teaspoon provides 5% of your daily mineral needs). But the big attraction of poppy seeds is the chi activation factor: poppy seeds help to make chi flow. This is perfect for helping to relax muscles after your great morning exercise session. And, by the way, four tablespoons won’t give you an opium high!
I also add two to three tablespoons of black sesame seeds as they lubricate the intestines (helps to relieve indigestion and constipation). They are also a powerful Jing builder and we all want this. Jing is your life force and it prevents grey hair and brittle bones. Black sesame seeds also stabilise blood pressure and have anti-ageing properties. Next I add a palm full of chopped fresh ginger. This is widely used in TCM for its powerful medicinal properties, especially its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger reduces muscle pain and can help with osteoarthritis. It lowers blood sugar levels, cholesterol and fights against dementia. And it’s delicious of course.
Let this all soak overnight. The next morning cook the porridge slowly on low-to-medium heat for around 20 minutes. This ‘opens’ the oats and combines them with the other ingredients to generate the powerhouse nutritional punch. It’s a gold mine of chi. Make sure your porridge maintains a smooth creamy texture like a thickish soup, so keep adding liquid if it is turning into cement. Towards the end I add two scoops of pea or rice protein, sometimes a tablespoon of cocoa or cacao, and always a tablespoon of raw honey.
How to eat mindfully
Now to the most important factor which is how to eat. Don’t eat on automatic, spooning porridge into your mouth while you do other tasks, read or check your phone or tablet. We are not machines, we need to be conscious of every action and conscious eating is one of the quickest ways to improve your health and happiness and prevent lifestyle disease. In TCM, the way you eat is as important as what you eat, as it is a determinant in the development of the symptoms underpinning every lifestyle disease. Eating while feeling rushed or while multi-tasking impairs nutrient absorption and leads to bloating, toxicity and weight gain. So the goal is to eat slowly and mindfully. Try to take at least 15 minutes for breakfast. Listening to calming, serene music helps to counter the sense of urgency that dominates contemporary life and ruins our digestion.
You need to enjoy your porridge too. Our taste buds are connected to our meridians and these have direct access to our organs. If you enjoy every mouthful, chi flows and this enhances nutrient absorption and boosts health. If something tastes bland, or even yucky we consciously or subconsciously resist it, and the flow of chi in the meridians is blocked, which then disrupts the digestive process. The problem with many health fad diets is that they are unappealing. They may have no carbs, or only raw foods, or too much fat or meat. There’s not a lot for our taste buds or organs to love here, and they often come with a sense of deprivation which runs contrary to eating for health. Healthy eating should be a celebration not a chore because eating joylessly weakens the spirit. Our spirit wants as much celebration, love and joy in each day as possible and it’s our job to deliver this.
Don’t ever skip breakfast
There is always a diet around that suggests skipping breakfast too. Never do this, it’s the sure fire way to set off internal organ malfunctions that will create symptoms. Your fuel for the day will come from your own internal store, and sure, you might lose weight, but you’ll be accelerating ageing, weakening your emotions and making your life needlessly hard. Fad diets are an insult to our organs. Fad diets belong to a quick fix mentality. But there are no health quick fixes. Only an ongoing lifestyle fix creates health and happiness. Forget the diets and rediscover the joy of eating; start a love affair with cooking and discovering wholesome foods, and eat as many meals as possible as if it was a great celebration. Your organs and chi will take care of the rest!