“Kindness is my religion” says the Dalai Lama. Kindness extends not only to the whole person, but also to parts of the body. A hot mug of tea on a cold stormy day like today, for example, warms not only the ‘cockles of your heart’ but also the blue fingers wrapped around it. Oats are the essence of kindness to our digestion. Growing well at our latitude, 55 degrees north of the equator, they are like a balm to the lining of our intestines, and having a low glycaemic index, they behave like rocket fuel in our systems.
The gut has ramped up its profile recently. No longer is it known as an organ which just looks after our nutrition and elimination. Now it’s redefining itself as our second brain. Subliminally, we’ve known it all along. Phrases like ‘butterflies in my stomach’ , ‘gut feeling’ and ‘gut instinct’ have been in the lexicon for years. Prof. Michael Gibney’s new book has a great chapter on it. The gut and its resident trillions of bacteria are our internal housekeepers and our defence forces. They deserve our care and kindness.
When my son-in-law rang at daybreak, eight weeks ago, to announce the birth of our first grandson, we were delighted. Mum well, baby well. who could ask for anything more? Waiting to visit that evening, I had to occupy my hands, so I made granola for my daughter, with all her favourite things in it.
Granola can be made any way you want. Toast some oats in the oven, add whatever seeds, nuts, dried fruits, spices you like. The one I ‘ve made here reads like a prescription and began with one thought- linseeds . Childbirth is a seismic event for the body. It takes some time for the tissues to recover and repair and for energy to regenerate. Anticipation being the better part of treatment, I figured that a granola based on linseeds would be a great kindness to a new mother.
Linseeds act as a mild laxative. To make them digestible, and effective, they need to be ground up.
Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. Chewed properly, they give a slow and sustained rise in blood sugar. A small portion creates a slow, serene burn of energy rather than a sugar rush that gives a transient high, followed by crashing and craving.
Seeds- pumpkin, sunflower, sesame contain omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. These reinforce the sheath on your nerves and help soothe inflammation. Always buy them fresh in small quantities from a retailer with a rapid turnover.
Nuts. Rich in protein to rebuild tissues and Vitamin E. Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, manganese are required in tiny, tiny (but regular) doses for the production of energy in every cell in the body. Nuts are a great energy powerhouse.
Rapeseed oil has a pleasing taste in granola and helps to toast the oats to an attractive golden shade. Grown locally in many parts of Ireland, it is rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. I like to use Newgrange Gold from the Boyne Valley. Springing from soil near hallowed chambers built by our neolithic ancestors five millenia ago, it boasts provenance, authenticity and nutrition.
Honey is a naturally occurring sweetener with innumerable health benefits. Local honey bears the gentle fragrance of whatever crop the bees fed on…e.g. lavender, meadow, heather. My sister- in law’s honey is darker than usual, and we reckon the bees feed in the National Botanic Gardens, down the road. What are they feasting on?
Cranberries have a bittersweet taste, a delightful counterpoint to the sweetness of the granola. They’re full of antioxidants and are thought to help prevent urinary tract infections.
Recipe for Granola
Golden linseeds- 1 cup/5 ozs/150g
Oat flakes- 5 cups/15 ozs/375g
Oat bran-1 cup/5 ozs/375g
Pumpkin seeds- 1/3 cup/2 ozs/60g
Sunflower seeds- 1/3 cup/2 ozs/60g
Sesame seeds- 1/3 cup/2 ozs/60g
Pecan nuts, chopped- 1/2 cup/3 ozs/75g
Flaked almonds-1/2 cup/3 ozs/75g
Rapeseed oil- 10 tablespoons/3/4 cup/5 fluid ounces/140 ml
Honey-10 tablespoons/3/4 cup/5 fluid ounces/140 ml
Cinnamon- 1 teaspoon
( all of the above are optional except the oats….some families would have a different jar of granola for each child depending on what the child likes. As they can make it themselves, it’s a great occupation.)
-Set your oven to 140 degrees Celsius/280 degrees Fahrenheit
-Dry roast the linseeds in a frying pan over a medium heat, stirring and shaking all the time. Watch them carefully as they can go from golden to charred very quickly. Grind them in a pestle and mortar and inhale the strong aroma.
-Measure oat flakes, oat bran, seeds, pecans,cinnamon, rapeseed oil and honey into a large bowl and mix well until all the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. Lay this mixture in three large roasting trays in fine layers. I hold back some of the flaked almonds and pumpkin seeds at this stage as their white-ness and green-ness looks pretty against the other strong colours.
-Roast for about 45 minutes ( ovens vary), checking every 15 minutes, moving the trays around if the top one is cooking faster than the lower ones and shuffling the contents in the roasting tray.
-When the granola is golden and slightly crispy ( it will crisp a lot more on cooling) remove from the oven and allow to cool in its trays.
-When cool, add ground linseeds, flaked almonds, pumpkin seeds and cranberries. Mix well
-Store in a pretty glass jar.
Terms and Conditions Apply!
Oats, like other complex carbohydrates will only give up their powerful nutrients if you chew them well. Yes, chew/masticate/grind. As highly evolved omnivores, our grinding teeth ( molars) are at the rear of the mouth on both sides. Conveniently located nearby are the salivary glands and their openings into the mouth. As we chew, saliva is released into the mouth providing the enzyme ptyalin ( pronounced T-Y-alin). Ptyalin is a super-efficient enzyme for breaking down simple and complex carbohydrates, and preparing them for digestion further on in the digestive tract. If you bolt your carbs quickly, without chewing, you miss the first step in prepping your them for digestion, and you present your stomach and intestines with a job that they cannot do efficiently.
So be kind to your digestive system. Sit down, take your ease. Eat slowly, one spoonful at a time. Relax as your body’s own mechanisms do the work they were intended for, and let them nourish and sustain you.
And the most rewarding thing of all….this granola is kind to a new baby, who gets his nutrients second-hand. Now that’s what we call cherishing all the children of the nation equally.