Tart Cherry + Apricot Oatmeal

Just in time for summer, here’s a delicious new way to start your day.

So many athletes and active individuals tend to eat oatmeal as a morning go-to, and inevitably get stuck in a rut with the same ingredient and flavor combinations day in and day out.

Oatmeal is super nourishing, filling, fiber-rich, and generally an all-around superb breakfast option. But changing it up every now and again is also optimal to encourage digesting and absorbing a wide range of micronutrients as well as feeding diversity in the gut microbial community.

Another challenge that you might find yourself in, is that active individuals often don’t start the day with “enough” food.

Classified as a “within-day energy deficiency,” an example is starting your day with a small breakfast, slightly larger lunch, and then having a moderate to large dinner. OR expending more energy than you’ve consumed (through both activity and daily living), in the early hours of the day and not topping up the tank until hours later, creating metabolic and physiological stress.

I also used to eat this way. It was part of my restrictive eating and diet mentality paradigms.

Not only is this style of consuming most of the day’s caloric energy late in the day problematic for digestion, since eating larger meals late at night is challenging for the body to digest and negatively impacts sleep quality, but it also creates a feast and famine cycle in the mind and body.

When I was caught in this pattern, I was routinely hungry all the time because I was training fairly heavily, and not proportioning all my meals to be adequate for what I needed.

For more information on the topic of Within-Day Energy Deficiency, here and here are two great articles.
And two of the scientific studies frequently referenced on this topic:
Within-Day Energy Deficiency and Reproductive Function in Female Endurance Athletes
Within-Day Energy Deficiency and Metabolic Perturbation in Male Endurance Athletes

The portion size below is “larger” than usual, but just about right for moderately active individuals. If you’re more or less active, or in a larger or smaller body (than average), feel free to adjust portion size accordingly.

Tart Cherry + Apricot Oatmeal 

Prep:  none  | Cook: 10-15  minutes  | Serves: 1

1 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. mineral salt
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats, certified gluten-free as needed
2 Tbs. dried tart cherries
2 apricots, diced (approx. 150 grams)
2-3 tsp. sunflower butter
1-2 tsp. chia seeds

  1. On the stovetop, bring the water, salt, and spices to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. When boiling, turn down to medium-low, and stir in the oats and dried cherries. Let cook until it is soft and nearly all the water has been absorbed, about five minutes.
  3. Then add in the diced apricot and stir. Turn off the heat and stir in the sunflower butter, and chia seeds, making sure they are spread evenly throughout.
  4. Spoon into a bowl and enjoy!

Notes / Substitution Suggestions:
– adjust the spices as needed for your energetics
– omit the tart cherries and increase to three apricots
– for a smaller portion, use ½ cup rolled oats
– omit either the sunflower butter or chia seeds and double the amount of the one you keep in. 

Within my nutrition practice, I specialize in endurance athletes and digestive imbalances. If you’re curious about how to improve your performance, health, and digestion, I encourage you to reach out to me for more personalized support.

Making Beans More Digestible – And the Fiber Connection

When it comes to digesting beans and legumes, complaints about not being able to digest them, or suffering with a painful balloon belly is a common concern. 

One of the common reasons for this has to do with your gut microbiome — all those microorganisms that live in the GI tract.

Your digestive system is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that ideally live in a symbiotic relationship with you. This means you and they both benefit from them being there. Just like you, the microbes need to eat to live and grow, so they obtain nourishment from the food you eat. In the case of beneficial bacteria, they feed on the undigested part of the food, (fiber,) that is passing through your large intestine by fermenting it into short chain fatty acids such as Butyrate. And beans and legumes are rich in fiber. 

When we introduce any food that we haven’t routinely been eating into our diet, what often occurs is a readjustment period at the microbiome level. Think of it like the first day of a new job or school year. There’s going to be some shakeup to the internal routine and homeostasis. This means there might be more uncomfortable symptoms before optimal digestion occurs because the type of bacteria that eat the food you’re eating is growing its population, while die off of the type that no longer has a food source is also happening. 

But if we can make that transition smoother and get to the optimal digestion that occurs when we can tolerate eating beans and other fiber-rich foods, we’re setting ourselves up for increased intestinal health. This is because short chain fatty acids, produced by those beneficial bacteria in the intestine, play an important role in the maintenance of the intestinal barrier. 

Whereas we don’t want an overgrowth of bad bacteria, having ample and diverse beneficial bacteria is a hallmark for optimal health. Low beneficial bacteria can impact your protective mucus lining in the intestinal tract, which supports up to 80% of our immunity. The commonly used phrase “leaky gut” comes into play here when the interplay between a low fiber diet, low beneficial bacteria count, and difficult to digest macromolecules poke holes in the cheesecloth-like fragility of the intestinal lining and then opens the way for the immune system to do its job –in overdrive – resulting in sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies to many foods that are in your normal routine. 

Tips for Increasing Digestibility of Beans and Legumes

If you struggle with tolerating beans and legumes, first try out the smallest, quick-cook split mung beans, red lentils, and whole green mung beans. They are easiest to digest. The larger beans are more drying in nature, and tougher for the body to break down. Red lentils and split mung beans break down and cook quickly in 20-30 minutes, and they don’t usually need soaking or planning ahead. However, if you are already having tummy troubles, soaking is a good idea. 

Below are a few more tips to help make lentils and beans more digestible:

– Introduce beans and lentils into your diet slowly. Because beans are rich in fiber and will take a few days or couple weeks to repopulate the type of bacteria in your gut that will break them down and digest them, introduce them in small amounts. If you’re particularly sensitive, start with 1-2 tablespoons per meal, and work up from there to a standard ½ – ¾ cup serving.

– Soak and rinse in a big bowl of water, overnight or for 1-6 hours, depending on the type of legume. For large beans, you’ll need an overnight soak. For smaller beans such as adzuki and mung beans, a six hour soak will do. And for lentils and split mung, a soak of an hour is sufficient. Discard the soaking water before using in your recipe.

– If there is foam that rises to the top of the pot while cooking, skim it off. The foam contains a type of protein that is hard on your digestive system. When in nutrition school, my cooking instructor Eleonora constantly repeated, ‘skim your beans’ so often that I hear her voice every time I see foam! 

– Make sure the lentils – or other beans – are cooked thoroughly. This means they are soft, not al dente. One of the biggest challenges with digesting canned canned beans is that most of them are not actually cooked as well as they should be for proper digestion. Cooking until the lentils or beans begin to break apart, or in the case of red lentils and split mung, turn into mush completely, is the best way to know they’re done.

– Add spices! Carminative spices, meaning they boost the digestive capacity, makes meals more digestible. This is why a big soup pot with beans and meat often contains a bay leaf. Other carminative spices include ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel seed, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and more. Virtually every cuisine of the world is ripe with carminatives in the traditional recipes for the exact purpose of not only adding flavor, but also boosting digestion!

– Add a squeeze of lemon, lime juice, or vinegar. Ideally every meal contains a slightly sour flavor addition, since sour helps to activate digestive enzymes. Most meals don’t need to taste outright sour, however. A little addition at the end of cooking goes a long way and often balances the recipe that’s missing ‘just a little something.’

– Eat your foods warm. If you think of an ideal digestive scenario as a nice little cozy fire in the digestive system, eating cold foods is like throwing cold water on it. Not so great for turning food into nutrients and energy! 

– Reduce stimulus during mealtime. Eating while multitasking with your phone, computer, while reading or watching a video, and eating in a loud, overstimulated environment or while upset or anxious is a recipe for continued GI problems. Our gut and brain are incredibly closely linked. We can go a long way to improve tolerance to the foods we eat just by eating slowly, chewing each bite upwards of 30 times (yes, really!), and not doing anything else while eating, other than eating. If you try these tips, you might also find you enjoy your food more, which is always an added bonus.

Signs of Balance and Imbalance

Ultimately, the goal is to feel good in your body and mind. Signs of imbalance include lack of appetite, bloating or gas, pain or cramps, chronic fatigue, sluggish or rapid digestion, extreme Appetite, bodily aches, skin irritations, itching and rashes, brain fog, and irritability. 

Reach Out 

If you’re ready for more individualized nutritional guidance, I invite you to reach out to me for more personalized support on digestion, sports nutrition, or both. 

Beet and Banana Pancakes

Pancakes.

A food I had a love/hate relationship with for many years. But after realizing they don’t have to be glorified breakfast cake or particularly even eaten at breakfast (which also isn’t my go-to), I’ve fully embraced pancakes in all the wonderful ways. 

This version is just about as whole-food as you can get, with oats, beets, banana, eggs, and not a lot else. These days, I tend to add on greens and maybe an additional egg to make pancake meals a balanced meal.

Hope you enjoy!

One more big / little thing

I’ve decided to share most of my recipes in my newsletter going forward this year, rather than publishing all of them here on the blog portion of the website. If you enjoy regularly receiving recipes from me as well as focused nutrition topics, I encourage you to sign up to receive my nutrition newsletter.

Beet Banana Pancakes, serves 2

Inspired by David of Green Kitchen Stories
Prep:  40-60 minutes to roast beets (can be done ahead) | Cook: 15  minutes 

2 eggs
1 banana, peeled
1 cup /100 gr rolled oats
2 – 4 Tbs. filtered water, or more as needed
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 medium / 100 gr cooked beets
coconut oil or ghee for frying

To Serve:
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1-2 handfuls of greens
1 fried or scrambled egg, for each serving

  1. Prep ahead: Wash and halve the beets and wrap them in foil. Roast in a 400 degree F oven until soft, about 40 minutes. You can prepare more while you’re at for other meals or snacks. 
  2. To make Pancakes: Crack the eggs into a blender; add the banana, water, oats, salt and baking powder and blend until smooth. 
  3. Then pour into a bowl. Grate the cooked beets and add into the batter and stir through. 
  4. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. 
  5. Whisk the batter and thin it a little as needed, then pour in ⅓-½ cup amounts into the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter. If planning to have some leftovers, reserve the unused batter, so you can cook and enjoy them fresh. 
  6. For the greens and eggs: Heat the remaining coconut oil, add a pinch of salt, and stir in the greens, and a splash of water if needed. Steam/sauté for a couple minutes until wilted. 
  7. Then fry or scramble one additional egg per serving
  8. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, molasses or applesauce, and with the fried egg and greens on the side.