Oat Cuisine – for health and weight loss

Oats for whole-grain goodness
Oats – a natural whole-grain superfood

My Oat Obsession

When I was young I ate so much oats and oatmeal porridge that my brothers nicknamed me ‘Hoss’ (partially as a nod to the famous character on the 1950s-60s TV show ‘Bonanza’ – RIP Dan Blocker!). I was known to regularly fill up a small saucepan with thick oat porridge, sprinkle it liberally with brown sugar, splash on some milk and sit down for my favourite feast!

Over the years I haven’t quite kept up the same oat consumption, but I still enjoy the delights of oatmeal porridge, muesli, and even a sprinkling of rolled oats over my breakfast cereal.

It turns out that my oat obsession wasn’t such a bad thing health-wise either. When I was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol, one of the foods I researched that was recommended to help reduce high cholesterol levels was, you guessed it, oats.

Health benefits of oats – a whole grain superfood

Did you know that oats are a great source of phosphorus, selenium and manganese? They’re a good source of soluble dietary fibre, iron, zinc and magnesium, vitamin B1. Oats are also rich in carotenoids, tocols (Vitamin E), flavonoids and avenanthramides – a class of polyphenols.

Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fibre known as beta-glucan, which has been shown in many studies to reduce blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. The intake of the equivalent of three grams of oat fibre (in one bowl of oatmeal) daily generally reduces total cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent.

According to an article from The George Mateljan Foundation,
recent research suggests that oats may have another cardio-protective mechanism.

A study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition found that an antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides helps prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol.

Another study also conducted at Tufts and published in Atherosclerosis, researchers exposed human arterial wall cells to purified avenenthramides or oat phenols from oats for 24 hours, which significantly suppressed the production of several types of molecules involved in the attachment of monocytes (immune cells in the bloodstream) to the arterial wall—the first step in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

We know that consumption of dietary fibre and whole grain products such as oats can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. Harvard researchers looked at the effects of cereal consumption on heart failure risk by following 21,376 participants in the Physicians Health Study over a period of 19.6 years. After adjusting for other factors (age, smoking, alcohol consumption, vegetable consumption, use of vitamins, exercise, and history of heart disease), the researchers discovered that men who enjoyed a daily morning bowl of whole grain (but not refined) cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart failure.

Other oat health benefits:

  • Beta-glucan has beneficial effects for diabetics as well. Type 2 diabetes patients given foods high in this type of oat fibre or given oatmeal or oat bran rich foods experienced much lower rises in blood sugar compared to those who were given white rice or bread.
  • Researchers in Mannheim, Germany carried out a dietary intervention with 14 patients who had uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. The patients were introduced to a diabetes-appropriate diet containing oatmeal during a short hospital stay, then examined again four weeks later. On average, patients achieved a 40% reduction in insulin dosage – and maintained the reduction even after 4 weeks on their own at home.
  • When researchers looked at how much fiber 35,972 participants in the UK Women’s Cohort Study ate, they found a diet rich in fibre from whole grains, such as oats, and fruit offered significant protection against breast cancer for pre-menopausal women. (Cade JE, Burley VJ, et al., International Journal of Epidemiology).
  • In laboratory studies reported in Surgery, beta-glucan significantly enhanced the human immune system’s response to bacterial infection.
  • Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands pooled published evidence that covered nearly 2 million people to evaluate whether a high fibre diet (mainly from whole grains and cereals like oats) is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer, and found that for every additional 10g of fiber in someone’s diet there is a 10% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a diet which includes plenty of whole-grains (such as oats or wholemeal bread) is just as effective as taking anti-hypertensive medication in lowering blood pressure.
  • A phytochemical especially abundant in whole grains including oats are plant lignans, which are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.

Several studies suggest that eating whole grains such as oats has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and premature death. A new study and accompanying editorial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains the likely reasons behind these findings and recommends at least 3 servings of whole grains should be eaten daily. So much for the Paleo proponents’ claim that whole grains aren’t any good for you!

Oats for weight loss and appetite control

Studies have revealed that starting the day with a nutritious, fibre-rich meal such as oats can help with maintaining a healthy weight. A cup of oatmeal is only 130 calories. It stays in your stomach longer, making you feel full longer, with less hunger and cravings.

Australian researchers studied fourteen people who ate a control meal and three different cereals with different levels of oat beta glucan. They then collected blood samples for four hours after each meal, and found a significant dose response between higher levels of oat beta glucan and higher levels of Peptide Y-Y, a hormone associated with appetite control.

Also in Australia, researchers at the University of Sydney fed 38 different foods, one by one, to 11-13 different people, then asked them to report their “satiety” or fullness every 15 minutes for the next two hours. From this, they ranked all 38 foods in a “Satiety Index.” Oatmeal rated #3 overall for making people feel satisfied and full, and it rated #1 in the breakfast food group.

Information Sources: Whole Grains Council ; Nutrition Research, October 2009; 29(10):705-9 ; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 1995; 49(9): 675-90 ; Nutrition Facts ; Medical News Today

Cooking and eating oats

The distinctive flavour associated with oats is partly due to the roasting process they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Oats are then hulled, though this process does not strip away their bran or their germ, which allows them to retain a concentrated source of their fibre and nutrients.

Versatile oats can be eaten raw or cooked as porridge; made into oat flour; oat bran (the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull); added to baked goods (oat cookies, oat cakes), and even consumed as oat milk.

Tom’s Quick and Easy Oatmeal

I have a favourite, very quick and easy way to cook low-fat healthy oatmeal porridge:

Ingredients:

  • Half-cup of rolled oats
  • One cup of water

Method:

  • Add ingredients to a microwave bowl with lid.
  • Microwave (or alternatively cook in saucepan) for 2 minutes.
  • Stir ingredients well, then serve.

Depending on taste, you can then add fresh fruit such as banana, or dried fruit for texture and natural sweetener. I also add some ground flax seed for omega 3 fats, and soy-milk (I drink fat-free), although you can add the milk of your choice (oat milk is also recommended).

Tom Perry

Raw plant food blender review – the NutriBullet

The NutriBullet – healthy fuel for a busy lifestyle

Are you always busy with family and work commitments? Are you often too tired or time-poor to eat more healthy whole plant foods? Are you put off by the thought of all that messy preparation, munching and crunching? If so, then I have a great solution for you – the NutriBullet Hi-Speed Blender/Mixer System.

When you’re always on the go like me, with a job, kids and endless commitments, you want a blender that is easy to store, easy to clean, and quick and easy to use.

Easy to use, store and clean

With the NutriBullet’s compact design and powerful 600-watt motor and extractor blade, you can open seeds, crack through stems, shred skins, and access all the nutrients present in fruits and veggies in a very short time. The NutriBullet breaks food down to its most digestible state to help you lose weight, improve your health and energy levels.

The NutriBullet takes up very little space on your kitchen bench, and the large containers (that double-up as drinking cups) that come with it are very quick to fill with your favourite raw plant food combination. From the time you get out your fruit and veg, add a little water, then attach to the blade and blend on high speed, you’ve spent maybe five or six minutes to get your ‘NutriBlast’, and another 30 seconds to rinse the blade, and later the container-cup under the tap to clean them. Unlike juice extractors, which take out most of the fibre, all of the ingredients are used in the NutriBullet. This means there is no wastage, minimal cleaning, and maximum nutrition.

Healthy NutriBlast recipes and nutrition guide

The NutriBullet also comes with a handy user guide and recipe book, full of delicious and nutritious life boosting recipes, as well as the NutriBullet 6-Week Transformation Plan with loads of nutritional information and meal plans to guide on your path to sustained, healthy weight loss.


Do you have a particular health condition, like fibromyalgia, diabetes, or heart disease? The NutriBullet ‘Natural Healing Foods’ book has a raw plant food ‘Nutriblast’ recipe to help you feel better. This handy book has a wealth of information about the best plant foods for cardiovascular health, foods to detoxify, foods to prevent ageing, foods to help with insomnia, and improve many other conditions from constipation to heartburn.

Apart from making nutritious beverages, the NutriBullet can also be used to make delicious soups, dressings, desserts, all-natural ice creams, dips and more. The NutriBullet comes with an additional Milling Blade that can mill brown rice into brown rice flour, almonds into almond butter, wheat berries into all-natural wheat flour and more.

How does the NutriBullet stack up against its competitors?

There are certainly larger, more powerful blenders on the market, such as the Vitamix. These blenders also cost substantially more than the NutriBullet, take up more space, and have more surface area to clean. In one comparison with the NutriBullet and Vitamix there was very little difference in the smoothness of the blended plant food drink that the NutriBullet made compared to the Vitamix.

The NutriBullet is quite expensive for its size and power. It also doesn’t have the capacity, versatility and grunt of a big, powerful expensive blender like the Vitamix or Ninja. However, if you’re looking for powerful blending system with a compact design, very easy to use, quick to clean, and will help you incorporate healthy plant foods into your diet without resorting to messy salads or buying drinks from an expensive juice or smoothie outlet, you won’t be disappointed with the NutriBullet.  I recommend that you buy the 14-piece NutriBullet, as I did, with the flip-top to-go lid with oversized mug, pocket nutritionist, natural healing foods book and manual.

Free Bonus Offer

If you purchase this product through the affiliate links I have provided, I will send you a free printable quick-start checklist that you can download and print off, to help you get started with the NutriBullet.

Happy blending!

*Please note: this as an affiliate promotion. If you purchase this product by clicking on the link provided, I may receive a commission. I guarantee that I will never promote or recommend any products – with commission or not – that I haven’t personally tried and found to be beneficial. I would also welcome any questions or feedback that you might have on this product.

Tom Perry

My European vegetarian vacation: fifth instalment

A journal of cholesterol-free culinary delights

Fifth (and final) instalment: Low-cholesterol cuisine in Austria and Italy

From Mosonmagyarovar we took another rail jet train across the Austrian/Hungarian border to Vienna. Vienna is a feast of magnificent palaces,  museums,  cathedrals, art and sculptures, and surprisingly veg-friendly.

At Yamm restaurant
Enjoying a night at Yamm

Once we’d checked in to our hotel on the Ringstrasse in central Vienna,  we walked a few blocks to discover a trendy all-vegetarian eatery, ‘Yamm‘ (www.yamm.at). Yamm is a buffet-style restaurant that offers an eclectic range of fresh, healthy vegetarian dishes. Rather than select your meal from a set menu, you load up a plate with whatever you choose from the buffet. You then take your plate to the counter where you are charged by the weight of your plate, rather than your specific food choices.

Yamm food
Assorted healthy vegan food at Yamm

Each buffet dish has ingredients identified, including categories such as vegan or gluten-free. Like a veritable kid in the lolly shop, I eagerly stacked my plate with a cornucopia of plant-food delights, such as seitan steaks, falafels with 4 different flavours of hommus, cous cous balls, burghul salad, beetroot salad, rosemary potatoes and more (see photo). If you’re looking for healthy vegetarian food that won’t raise your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, the variety and fresh, wholesome flavours of Yamm are highly recommended. The service was good, the atmosphere relaxed and informal, and it only cost me and my wife about 32 euros in total to eat very well (not including drinks). I only hope that a ‘Yamm’ restaurant is available in Australia as well as Austria in the not-too-distant future!

Other types of vegetarian food in Austria included pasta and vegetable dishes, often accompanied by viennese rolls, which are more like fine white cake than bread. White bread is not on the Portfolio diet list, but I found that viennese rolls are too addictive to say no to. They were melt-in-your-mouth delicious on their own, and didn’t need any margarine or butter.

On our last night in Vienna we did the obligatory tourist thing, and ordered an apple strudel with vanilla sauce (to share), at the Cafe Landtzmann, which opened in 1873 and was a favourite haunt of Sigmund Freud. This confection of apple, sugar, cinnamon and pastry wouldn’t generally be recommended if you have high cholesterol levels or high triglycerides, but as a one-off indulgence it was definitely worth it.

Vegetarian eating in Venice and Rome

The following day we travelled by train for 11 hours to Venice, which afforded us breathtaking views of the magnificent Austrian alps. Our stopover at Innsbruck was cold and rainy, a welcome change from the European summer. We bought a thick, crusty rye-bread salad roll with juice at Innsbruck train station as a quick healthy dinner on the move.

gondola
View from a gondola at Venice

The Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco at Venice were spectacular, but I couldn’t say the same about the food. We had been warned that the pizza in Italy was fairly basic, with a hard base and not much topping compared to what we are used to in Australia. This advice proved correct. The vegetarian pasta selections were also limited, and varied in quality. A mushroom fettucine that my wife ordered in a cafe in Vactican City was barely edible, yet on the plus side they did have an ‘Manhattan Vegetariano’ burger which was packed with lettuce and onion and pretty tasty.

When we reached Rome on the last leg of our travels togther the quality of the meals we had seemed to improve. As we did in Vienna, we walked several blocks and visited many famous landmarks, such as the Trevi Fountain, where we literally tossed in our 2 cents worth (Euro cents, that is!).

gnocchi, pesto and salad
Assorted pasta, eggplant and salad

For our last restaurant dinner in Rome my wife had pesto tagliatelle tossed in walnut meal and a little olive oil; both scrumptious and heart-healthy. I ordered a selection from the buffet of grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, chicory greens and assorted salad and anti-pasto (pictured), with a bowl of fruit salad for dessert. This was the culinary highlight of our stay in Italy, and a fine way to complete our whirlwind European tour.

Tom’s travel tips:

  • When eating out, look for menus that offer a vegetarian selection, or at least a selection of healthy vegetable and salad dishes. This usually means that a range of low-cholesterol, heart-healthy plant-based foods is available.
  • Don’t just catch trains, buses and taxis – do plenty of walking around a given city, town or location. You are more likely to find hidden culinary treasures; you’ll get some valuable exercise and build up a healthy  appetite.
  • Eat a full range of healthy plant-based foods, enjoy the occasional indulgence, and happy travels!
Tom Perry

My European vegetarian vacation: fourth instalment

A journal of cholesterol-free culinary delights

Fourth instalment: Good plant-based food in Budapest

Budapest breakfast
Beautiful breakfast spread in Budapest

From Torok Kanizsa we drove to the 2000 year-old city of Pecs (pronounced ‘Petch’), and went further on to stay with my wife’s cousin in Vecses (pronounced ‘Vachesh’), just outside Budapest, Hungary’s biggest city and capital.

My wife’s cousin and her husband are very friendly and fabulous hosts. For breakfast one morning we enjoyed a real homemade

Danube view
Buda Var by the beautiful blue Danube

treat:  a dish of peppers,  tomatoes, avocado, and black olives, cooked in Croatian olive oil (see pictured). This was served with crusty, locally-baked bread, Hungarian cheese, and a little salami. Sticking with my cholesterol-lowering dietary regime, I focused on the vegetable dish with some bread, and organic green apples freshly picked off the tree in the lush backyard garden (also pictured).

That day we visited Buda Var (old Buda), overlooking the beautiful blue Danube (pictured), and enjoyed dinner al fresco at a nearby restaurant. After checking the menu for vegetarian/vegan options, I ordered pancakes with vegetables (pictured). I ate this with brown bread and salad with tomato, cucumber,  lettuce and pickled cabbage, while my wife had mushroom schnitzels with cheese, salad and chips.

veggie pancakes
Vegetable pancakes

The next day in downtown Budapest, we had lunch at the ‘Fatal’ restaurant. Despite the name’s unfortunate English meaning, we lived to tell the tale (in Hungarian ‘fatal’ – pronounced ‘fo-tahl’ – means wooden dish).

I didn’t eat from a wooden dish, but a pan on a wooden tray. I enjoyed mushroom gulyas (goulash) with nokedli (freshly made pasta). My wife had crumbed mushrooms with vegetable rice.

Mushroom Goulash
Mushroom Goulash

Vegetarian convenience food in Hungary

Alpro soy
Alpro soy milk

There’s not a lot of vegetarian convenience food in Hungary, as the locals love their pork and sausage. However not far from where we stayed in Vacses there was a Tesco supermarket which sold 2 brands of good quality soy milk. I tried some flavoured ‘Alpro’ soy milk, (see photo) which was delicious.

If you like soy milk in your coffee or cappucino (as many do in Melbourne, where I live) don’t expect it in most European cafes. At one cafe when I asked if

veg convenience food
Vegetarian/vegan convenience food

they had soy milk I received a blank stare in return. I had to settle for an ‘Americano’ coffee, or what I would call a ‘long black’ (most black coffees are ‘expresso’, which is typically a double-shot of caffeine in a little cup).

At the local Aldi supermarket we discovered some frozen vegetarian food, which you can see in the photo: soya sticks, veggie medallions,  crumbed mushrooms and vegetarian nuggets. These are good for kids or quick, easy meals with salad or vegetables. At Aldi we

broccoli soup
Broccoli soup with dried chickpeas

also bought some vegetable pate made from potato and onion. This tasted great (not unlike liverwurst) on bread rolls with tomato and fresh basil.

From Vecses we took a ‘rail jet’ train (top speed 220 kmh) to Mosonmagyarovar, a picture-postcard town in northwest Hungary, near the borders of Slovakia and Austria. Our superb hosts there (close family friends) treated us to cream of

soy sausages
Soy sausages

broccoli soup with dried chickpeas (see photo), and lecso with zucchini,  onion,  tomato and paprika (all homegrown) with rice. We also consumed some soy sausages (pictured) and later some ‘soy salami’ which our hosts had kindly purchased for us at a german supermarket in Slovakia. These had a mild, pleasant savoury flavour, but I’m not sure of the brand.

Before we bordered he train to Vienna we enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant. I had

vegetable stir fry
Vegetable stir fry with salad

stir-fried vegetables with savoury rice and some greek salad – healthy and full of flavour (see photo).

Tom’s travel tips:

  • Look (or ask) around for plant-based food alternatives. You may find them in unlikely places, including where you’re staying.
  • Whether eating out or in, choose available healthy plant-based foods and have cholesterol-lowering fats such as olive oil and avocado, rather than butter, cream or cheese.
Tom Perry

My European vegetarian vacation: third instalment

A journal of cholesterol-free culinary delights

Third instalment: keeping fit and healthy with vegetarian food and exercise in Serbia

River Tisza
Training in heat on the River Tisza

We did plenty of sleeping and resting while in Torok Kanizsa, but we also went on long walks around local historical sites, and along the nearby river Tisza (comparable to the Murray river in northern Victoria where I grew up, in size if not surrounding verbiage). To keep up my cholesterol-lowering fitness regime, I managed to get a couple of jogs in, along the banks of the Tisza (you can see me pictured here, hot and sweaty in the 40C + degree midday sun). What is it they say about mad dogs and Englishmen…or is it Australians?!

Now you may be wondering if I was over-doing the carbs on this regime, but I would say not. The food was so healthy and filling that I found I didn’t over-eat, and hardly had any junk food at all, such as cake, cookies, and chips (except for one night that some family members drove us to Sobodka, and we ‘shouted’ – Aussie for treated – them to their first Big Mac at the Golden Arches, and I succumbed to some Macca’s chips/fries, washed down with icy coke that tasted much too good than it should’ve!).

potato pasta
‘Krumpli Teszta’, or Potato pasta, with broccoli, tomatoes and onions

One night my wife’s auntie cooked up a pile of ‘nagyon finom’ (very tasty) ‘krumplis teszta’ (potato pasta). I enjoyed 3 helpings of this with steamed broccoli, tomato & onion salad, and the obligatory bread with soy spread (see pictured).

Another savoury dish my mother-in-law made featured mushrooms, peppers and onions cooked with paprika, and onion salad made olive oil with a little sugar. Naturally this was accompanied by more hunks of crusty bread and soy spread.

Tom’s travel tips:

  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, especially locally grown or bought.
  • Keep exercising every day if possible,  even just walking, or jogging, swimming or cycling if you’re fit enough and enjoy it.
  • If you stray a little from your healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet, don’t sweat it; you’re meant to relax and enjoy yourself while on holiday.
Tom Perry