Let’s talk breakfast: the wonderfully wholesome meal that makes getting out of bed in the morning just a bit easier. A bowl full of cereal and the first meal of the day are synonymous, but the traditional boxed and bagged puffs, crisps, and flakes are anything but wholesome. Cereal is an understandably easy choice, since it is shelf stable and even the most finicky of eaters can find a flavor they enjoy. Unfortunately, most popular brands of cereal use a base of bleached flours comprised of simple starches that quickly convert into sugar, causing blood sugar to sky rocket and insulin to release too quickly. Our stomachs are left feeling confused and hungry too quickly. Worse, the most infamous of brands use cereal as a veritable blank canvas for experimenting with different “flavors”: fruity, french toast, chocolate-filled, and yogurt covered. Unfortunately, the main flavoring agents for these cereals are just more simple sugar; cane or high-fructose corn syrup. Some cereals even boast sugar as the first ingredient. Not a great way to kick start your day.
Cereal can appear to be deceptively low in calories, but that’s because the main ingredient, sugar, is less calorically dense than fat. Yet these simple carbohydrates contain meager amounts of nutrients and fiber, and break down too quickly in the body, causing us to consume more than the recommended serving in order to feel full. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to stop eating after just one bowl? We’ve heard it countless times: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether or not this assertion is true, eating a balanced, filling breakfast is like stepping into your day on the right foot. It’s a simple psychological notion, but after making one good food choice, we feel compelled to continue with the same pattern throughout the rest of the day, and we have the proper fuel to do just that.
This week, we encourage your to trade in the traditional American “breakfast of champions” for something more complex and multi-dimensional. Granola is deeply satisfying: we start with certified gluten-free oats. Though cereal is often conflated with the sugary stuff, “cereal” is really just a general term for a cultivated grass that can be stripped of its edible grain. Oats are included in this family. Though oat itself is gluten-free, factories that process each kernel into the rolled form we are used to seeing often process other, gluten-containing grains alongside it. Provenance Meals makes sure to source our oats from processing plants that certify their oats are gluten free in order to avoid cross-contamination and keep in line with our weekly gluten-free menu.
Why oats for breakfast? The chewy, hearty texture keeps our mouths busy, which helps our brains register satiation. Oats are fibrous in nature, which promotes smooth digestion as they expand in our gut while releasing soluble fiber. Their neutral flavor makes them a great vehicle for mixing with other super foods too: in the case of granola, toasty walnuts and pepitas, smooth vanilla, fruity extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of honey for sweetness.
In an addition to the aforementioned, coconut flakes have begun to make their way into our usual granola blend. Coconut oil is not unfamiliar to the Provenance Meals kitchen: we love using it to cook with because it can withstand high heat before reaching its dangerous smoke point. Cooking past the smoke point of oil causes the oil to break down and release carcinogenic free radicals. The high smoke point of coconut oil makes a perfect choice for sautéing or stir-frying.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about“good” fats vs. “bad” fats, saturated fats being coupled with the latter of the two, along with the villainous trans fat. Though coconut oil is high in saturated fat, the fat in coconut is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) as opposed to long-chain triglycerides we are used to consuming in most other plant and animal-based fat sources. Because the molecules of MCT’s are smaller than those of LCT’s, they are easily digested and absorbed in the body, requiring less energy and enzymes to be broken down. A 2003 study found that coconut oil could actually lower the amount of adipose (fat) tissue in the body, due MCT’s ability to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Since we are able to break down coconut oil more quickly than other fats, it’s an excellent choice for those trying to lose or maintain their weight.
Coconut oil also has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. The monoglycerides and free fatty acids in coconut oil, found in the form of lauric acid, can penetrate certain lipid-coated bacteria and fungus, disrupting these intruder’s lipid membranes without harming the good bacteria found in the intestine of their host. These properties of coconut help bolster our immune system’s ability to defend itself.
This week in the Provenance Meals kitchen, we are utilizing the flaked flesh of mature coconut as it pairs beautifully with the golden crunch of granola. Toasting the coconut flake brings its perfume-y sweet nuttiness, and gives our granola added texture and chew. Not only does coconut contain a myriad of health benefits, but its warm, mild flavor is a perfect addition to your morning bowl of oats.