When I was 16 and a healthy weight, I still struggled with diet- and stress-related medical issues. I was diagnosed with an ulcer, and my doctor told me I had the cholesterol level of an 80-year-old man. He also told me to lay off the pizza. Did I listen? Of course not–I was 16.
I started packing on the extra pounds by the time I was 18, and I gained about 40 pounds or so in less than 4 years. As you can imagine, my body was not too pleased with this, and my gall bladder surrendered. It was surgically removed when I was just 21 years old. Did I make any changes? Of course not–I was 21 and still stubborn and stupid.
So fast forward to about age 28. Got my cholesterol checked and it was a whopping 280. (It should be below 200.) My doctor told me to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get my cholesterol checked every 3 months. Did I do any of those things? Of course not–I moved and got a new doctor.
Here I am today in my early 30’s and, finally, I’m ashamed about my cholesterol. My doctors know about my history, and they’ve repeatedly told me to get my levels checked at a lab (one doctor practically yelled it at me!), but I haven’t done it in years. I’m just not ready to face what will probably be failure and disappointment.
I am ready, however, for a change in my lifestyle. I want to spend some time exercising and eating healthy, and then, maybe, I’ll be ready to face that ugly little blood test. Part of eating healthy means finding foods that are not only low in cholesterol (bye-bye, egg yolks), but that promote cholesterol absorption and healthy arteries. Harvard and the Mayo Clinic agree that oats are where it’s at. Oatmeal has soluble fiber which binds to cholesterol and pulls it out of your body, thereby reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Studies show that 2 servings of oats per day can lower your bad cholesterol by more than 5% in just 6 weeks.
So my breakfast of choice these days is a bowl of steel-cut oats, usually with a handful of blueberries on top. Blueberries have some fiber, but they’re better known for being packed with antioxidants (which are nutrients and enzymes that help counteract damaging oxidation in our tissues) and studies indicate that they help prevent heart disease. I’ve been using McCann’s quick & easy steel-cut Irish oatmeal. It’s not loaded with sugar and additives like Quaker instant oatmeal which is good, health-wise, but leaves a little something to be desired, taste-wise. So, I sprinkle a little cinnamon on my oatmeal, mix in about a teaspoon or so of local honey, and mash in some blueberries. It’s a yummy, hearty start to my day.
What’s your favorite oats dish?