Saturday, June 4, 2016

The true breakfast of champions

Before getting into today's post, let's make a few things clear. One: I am not a doctor. Two: I do not have, and never have had, a serious diverticulitis event. And three: If you a senior, do not make big changes to your diet without consulting your doctor. Increasing the fibre in one's diet is generally not recommended for those presently suffering a severe diverticulitis event. Whether fibre is good or bad for those attempting to fend off another event is an open question.

Yesterday I had a fierce chest pain. It doubled me up and left me somewhat dizzy and out of breath. I told my wife: Mistake number one. At her insistence, I called our family doctor: Mistake number two. When I mentioned the pain started in the front of my chest and moved to my back, I was ordered to go to the hospital. It was recommended I call an ambulance. I was ordered not to drive myself. I had my wife drive me.

On entering the hospital, blood was taken almost immediately and rushed to the lab for analysis. With the blood sample taken I was off for a CAT scan. A dye was injected into my arm making me feel hot and flushed. For a moment I forgot the chest pain that was now a nagging ache.

It wasn't long before the emerg team knew I was not facing my immediate demise and they lost interest in my medical problems. There were others who needed immediate care and so I was wheeled into a screened off area and left to age like a fine cheese. It would take some time to get the complete report from my CAT scan and blood test. Until the report was ready, I was pushed to the side. I didn't mind. I was relieved.

It was after five when I got the report. It was an extensive, three page document. I will give a copy to my family doctor and to the lead doctors on the medical teams that keeps me alive. I'm not an easy case. I have an ICD/pacemaker in my chest for my arrhythmia and bradycardia, I have micro-bleeding in the brain, I often have TIAs, commonly called mini-strokes, and those are just the three most obvious medical problems I face.

On page three of the report I read: "Very mild sigmoid and descending colon diverticulosis." Diverticulosis means one has small, bulging pouches forming in the digestive tract. These pockets are called diverticula. The greatest number of diverticula develop where the colon is the narrowest, in the sigmoid.

According to the Harvard Medical School, diverticulosis is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans have it by age 85. This wasn't always the case. A hundred years ago diverticulosis was rare and it is still uncommon in the developing world. Why? Diet. The typical American diet lacks sufficient fibre. In other words, North Americans eat too many refined carbohydrates.

According to Harvard:

 "dietary fiber is a mix of complex carbohydrates found in the bran of whole grains and in nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, and vegetables . . . dietary fiber has little caloric value — but it has plenty of health value." 

Dietary fibre keeps the colon healthy by drawing "water into the feces, making the stools bulkier, softer, and easier to pass. Dietary fiber speeds the process of elimination, greatly reducing the likelihood of constipation." The Harvard medical folk couldn't say enough good things about fibre.

Steel cut oats go well with fruit and chopped nuts.
Which brings me to my breakfast. It's healthy, packed with fibre, delicious and inexpensive. Meals like this keep diverticulosis from developing and if it does the fibre may prevent the progression to diverticulitis and irritated, inflamed, possibly infected pouches.


  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 peeled, cored, and coarsely diced apple
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 20 grams dried blueberries
  • 2 Brazil nuts
  • 5 or 6 cashews
  • 1 mashed banana
  • dusting of cinnamon



I boil the water in my microwave at high for 2 minutes 10 seconds. When boiling, I add the steel cut oats, swirl the oats in the steaming hot water and put the mixture in the microwave to cook  for five minutes at 40% power.

While the oats are cooking, I measure 1 tablespoon of Qi'a (a chia, buckwheat and hemp dry cereal) into a small bowl. I add two tablespoons of 1% milk to soften the Qi'a. While the dry cereal softens, I turn my attention to peeling, coring and coarsely dicing an apple. I add the apple chunks to the bowl of Qi'a and dribble one tablespoon of maple syrup over the apple.

At this point the microwave is beeping. I stir my oats and hot water and put the mixture aside for a minute to cook the Qi'a topped with apple chunks and maple syrup for a minute on high. After the apples have softened with the slight cooking,  I return the oat mixture to the microwave for another four minutes at 40% power.

With the oats again gently cooking, I coarsely chop 20 grams of dried blueberries plus a couple (2) Brazil nuts and five or six salted cashews and I mash a banana.

If the oats need more cooking, I give them from 45 seconds to a minute on high in the microwave. At the end of this time all the water should be absorbed with the oats looking very moist, almost soggy. I add the Qi'a, milk, apple and maple syrup mixture, the blue berries and nuts, and finally I add the mashed bananas and stir. If the mixture isn't hot enough, I heat all on high for an extra 45 seconds. It's done, I stir it to get rid of any hot spots the microwave may have created and it is ready to eat.

My doctors tell me a breakfast like this fights diverticulosis. As my problem is still in the early stages with the diverticulosis described as very mild, I may be able to avoid progressing to the more serious diverticulitis with inflammation and possibly infected pockets. It's a pity I didn't eat like this all my life.

Sadly, when I was younger I used to eat stuff like "the breakfast of champions." Humbug.

(According to the Website Fooducate, Wheaties is low in fibre. The cereal still earns a rating of B+ overall but in the fiber category it is a dismisal D+.)

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