My Power Breakfast

Does him the world of good.
Does him the world of good.

There wasn’t much my boyfriend could find to recommend about our trip to India. Where I saw romantic monuments, beautiful saris and dreamy settings, he could only see the next pile of excrement to avoid along his path. Where I bought jewels and silks and wall-hangings, he could only count the days until our return flight from Delhi. Where I stayed healthy, he was as sick as a dog.

Still, the one thing he did acknowledge was that our daily breakfast of ‘muesli and curd’ was an absolute winner. It was nourishing and tasty and would keep us going for hours. You see curd being made on the streets everywhere you turn in India, huge vats of the stuff being stirred over a low flame. The muesli varied but usually contained a mix of cereals, seeds and nuts with some chopped fresh fruit.

Now, I’ve been ambivalent about breakfast for years, often not bothering with it at all at home only to crack at the patisserie near work and have a pain au chocolat with my coffee. The boyfriend, however, being the athletic sort who thinks nothing of climbing for hours in the mountains on a bicycle, takes his food – and the effects it has on his body – very seriously.

Having genned up on GI foods, he immediately saw the sense in the slow release of energy provided by our muesli.  In brief, the glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to the effect they have on our blood glucose levels.   Without going into tons of scientific details (you can find them elsewhere), it’s enough to say that choosing low GI carbohydrates aids long-term health and sustainable weight loss.

Once we got back from India we decided to replicate our Power Breakfast, and over the months, it became increasingly elaborate, but we started off simply with ready-bought muesli mixed with natural yoghurt.  Then I started adding post-Christmas nuts that were past their sell-by date, and, inspired one day by an article about a batty old woman – sorry, delightful English eccentric – who sprinkled wheat germ onto everything she ate, we invested in a bag and discovered, to our surprise, that it tastes surprisingly good. 

So here’s our general list of ingredients – but the joy of this is to mix and match as you like.  If you’re smart and short of time in the mornings, you could keep a ready-made batch in a large storage jar.  For some reason, I get a nerdy pleasure of spooning out a little of everything each morning.

The Key Ingredients
The Key Ingredients

The Key Ingredients:

Rolled Cereals – at our local health shop we get a ready-mixed supply of oat, wheat, rye, rice and bran. Packed with complex carbohydrates, fibre, folate, selenium, phytoestrogens, or lignans, which are said to prevent heart disease and certain cancers, phytic acid, which lowers the blood sugar, protein, calcium and iron.

Flaked and/or ground almonds – one of nature’s super-foods, almonds are an excellent source of protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and Vitamin E.

Hazelnuts – a good source of B1, B2 and B6 vitamins, which protect against heart disease and cancer.

Linseeds – one of the richest sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, which improves the quality of skin, hair and nails, and helps to regulate body-weight while lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Sesame Seeds – high in calcium, magnesium, copper and lignans.

Sunflower Seeds – rich in Vitamin E, an antioxidant which is great for the skin and has anti-ageing properties, magnesium and selenium, which works with vitamin E to protect body cells and promote cell growth.

Wheatgerm – a genuine super-food, high in folic acid, phosphates, to keep the nervous system healthy, vitamin Bs, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, omega 3s, potassium, which keeps the muscles working, and zinc, for cell growth and repair.

Natural Yoghurt – a source of protein, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamins B6 and B12, potassium, phosphorous, for bone strength and growth, and zinc.

The much-maligned prune: not just for constipated old women
The much-maligned prune: not just for constipated old women

Now, on top of all that, you can add your favourite fruits, either fresh or dried. Watch the sugar content in dried fruits, though. Our staple fruits are prunes, raisins or sultanas, and the occasional dried apricot.

Prunes – one of those neglected super-foods, like tinned sardines, that people associate with lonely old women who live with cats, in fact prunes are packed full of vitamins, proteins and minerals: the list contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, sodium, vitamins A, B, C and E, and zinc. As if all that wasn’t enough, their anti-oxidant content is said to be higher than that of the infinitely trendier blueberries. And yes, they help you to ‘go’.

Raisins, sultanas or currants – the dried versions of different grapes (raisins are white grapes, sultanas seedless white grapes and currants black grapes), they are rich in phenols, which have anti-oxidant properties, and the trace mineral boron, which helps to strengthen bones.

Apricots – rich in Vitamin A which promotes good vision, with a high beta-carotene content that helps prevent heart disease. Also a terrific source of fibre, to ease constipation, but the downside is they may create an unwanted ‘wind’ effect.

So there you have it. The great thing about making up your own muesli is that you can mix and match and get creative with it. It might seem a fiddle having to get hold of, and to store, the ingredients individually, but it’s well worth the effort.

And let’s face it, if this breakfast can power a man in lycra up some of the toughest climbs in the south of France, just think what it could do for you!

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