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One of my favorite breakfasts (or sometimes even for lunch) is Steel Cut Oats. So warm, nourishing and tasty it really satisfies me.  They are easy to make and well worth the short wait. Here is my favorite way of cooking them.

Steel cut oats are SO much better than processed oats, and adding in some nuts and cinnamon make them something really special. It is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast.

RECIPE:

1/2 cup organic steel cut oats (buy some here)

2 cups mixed almond milk & water (buy some here)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (buy some here)

1/8 cup raisins (buy some here)

1/8 cup slivered almonds (buy some here)

1 tsp monk fruit/stevia leaf sweetener (buy some here)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (buy some here)

Detailed instructions are in the video. First add the milk to a small saucepan with the heat on medium-high. I use a mix of almond milk and water but you can also substitute with any other milk of your choosing. Let the milk heat to boiling, then add in the steel cut oats. Stir gently. Turn the heat down to Medium and set a timer for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally. At the 10 minute mark, drop the heat down to just above low and mix in your add-ins. I typically use walnuts, almonds, raisins, cinnamon and sometimes a sweetener. These are all optional and can be switched out for whatever suits your fancy. You can use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or whichever sweetener you prefer. You can use cranberries or blueberries in place of the raisins if you like. You can use nutmeg instead of cinnamon if you are feeling spicy, The options are endless. Stir occasionally for the next 15 minutes or until it is to the desired consistency. This is a dairy free, vegan, heart healthy recipe that also has a low glycemic index. A wonderful way to start your day!

Let me know what you think if you try this recipe. And please share what your favorite mix-ins are! Enjoy!!!!

Peanut butter on whole grain toast with fresh banana slices

QUICK, EASY BREAKFAST


The thing about eating this way is that you can eat much less, be much more full and be sated much longer.  This breakfast was super fast and easy. It carried me over all the way till lunch so it was perfect!  Balancing your foods is the important part.  This is two pieces of whole grain toast, organic sugar free peanut butter on the toast and fresh banana slices on top. Sprinkled on top of the bananas is hemp seed and ground flax and some blueberries were included on the side for some antioxidants. I could technically have made it a sandwich but it somehow feels like so much more food this way, plus it forces me to eat more slowly. If you eat slower, your body is better able to digest what you are eating. So give it a try!

KNOW YOUR LEGUMES

Getting enough protein when on a vegan diet can be challenging. Legumes are a BIG help in that regard. Get to know some of the legumes you can choose from and incorporate them in your dishes for some added calcium that is also very tasty!!  In addition to the protein, they provide you with essential B12 , help reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar, add healthy bacteria to your gut and are a great source of fiber and you will see how great they can be to add to your diet.

What are legumes? They come from plants in the Fabaceae family that produce seeds inside of a pod.  Here is some great info so you can Know Your Legumes. These are 8 of some nutrient-packed legumes to include in your diet.

LENTILS

Lentils can help reduce blood sugar, benefit gut health and sprouted lentils can help reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, helping your heart. They also provide fiber, Vitamins B9 and B1, Manganese and Copper. Lentils are a nutritional superfood that can be added to SO many dishes. I find they are the most versatile of all the legumes.

Buy lentils

Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)

Garbanzo beans are also very versatile. They can be used many more ways than you probably are aware of and are the prime ingredient in things like hummus and falafel. They can help lower your heart disease risk, possibly lower your risk of cancer, can help you lose weight, reduce your blood sugar and improve your blood cholesterol levels. In addition to protein, garbanzo beans supply you with fiber, Vitamin B9, Manganese, Iron and Copper. Chickpeas can also help improve the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Buy chickpeas 

Kidney beans

Kidney beans are the beans you commonly see in traditional chili. They are also very good for your health! Kidney beans can help reduce your blood sugar levels, help reduce body weight, and are wonderful with rice. In addition to the protein, they provide a good source of fiber, Vitamins B1 and B9, Manganese, Iron and Copper. Great to add to your diet! 

Buy kidney beans

BLACK beans

Black beans are often served in rice or made into refried beans. They are a very common part of meals in Latin countries. Black beans can help reduce blood sugar spikes due to their low glycemic index. They are also packed with nutrients. In addition to the protein, they provide you with fiber, Manganese, Magnesium, Vitamins B1 and B9 as well as Iron.

Buy black beans 

PINTO beans

Pinto beans are the beans commonly used in refried beans. They can also be eaten as whole beans or incorporated in a chili. Eating pinto beans can help your cholesterol levels. Pinto Beans will help to reduce the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. They can also help prevent blood sugar spikes.  Pinto beans provide fiber, Manganese, Vitamins B1 & B9, Copper and Protein, making them a very healthy legume choice.

Buy pinto beans

soy beans

Soy beans are the beans used in tofu and in some shirataki style noodles, among other things. They have been shown to help reduce the risk of stomach and gastrointestinal cancer. Soybeans have particularly high levels of antioxidants also. Soy is helpful to women in menopause, due to the phytoestrogens in it. These can help take the place of the estrogen which so rapidly declines in those years.  This helps reduce the incidence of osteoporosis. Add to that the protein in them, plus Fiber, Iron, Phosphorus, Iron, Manganese, Vitamins B2, B9 and Vitamin K, making soybeans a powerhouse of health benefits.

PEAs

Peas are also legumes, and they provide many health benefits. They can help grow beneficial gut bacteria, aiding in digestion and reducing belly fat. Peas help reduce blood sugar levels, help make you feel full and are downright tasty!  Some of the nutrients found in peas include Protein, Vitamin K, Fiber, Manganese, Vitamins B1 and B9 and Manganese.

Peanuts

You might not have realized it, but peanuts are actually a legume and have many health benefits. Peanuts can even lower your risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Peanuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are healthy fats that can help with weight loss and can help decrease inflammation in your body.  Whole, unsalted, unroasted varieties provided the most benefits. Peanuts also provide you with Protein, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Fiber, Vitamins B1 and B9 and Niacin. 

Buy Peanuts 
Fresh Fruit

 

 

REMOVING TEMPTATION


The next step, if I was to get healthy, was to remove all the food I should no longer eat from my house.  I didn’t want to throw it all in the trash so I packed it up and gave it away.  Some things were easier to pack up than others.  It was going to be a lifestyle change and I hoped I was up for this challenge.

With the bad food gone, I went out shopping for more suitable foods. My cupboards, refrigerator and freezer now only hold things that I can eat. It is mighty hard to falter and go back to old habits when there are no bad foods in the house anymore. Removing temptation is both smart and effective! 

WHAT DO I EAT NOW?

The challenge to a new way of eating is a new way of shopping. The old familiar parts of the grocery store are no longer places where I will go. Once I get used to this, it will be easier and easier to keep stocked up on the staples that I need.

I admit I do have a slight advantage when making this change. I have spent a lot of time off and on being vegetarian and/or vegan over the years. I was no stranger to making tasty food that fulfilled most of these new rules I am living by. There are different challenges this time, those will be written about in future posts. 

For now, I just had to stock up on things that would be filling as I transitioned. I stocked up on legumes… many many different types of beans and nuts. I had a lot of healthy grains already in my house so I didn’t need those, but I definitely needed more beans, and I needed to buy brown rice, and some healthy pasta. I paid very close attention to the labels on everything I purchased. It is amazing how many foods have hidden sugars, cholesterol, fats and sodium in them!

I also stocked up on fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. These are great to have on hand, and should be included in almost all your meals. Berries and bananas are especially great. They are full of vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy. I also purchased some clementines to satisfy any sweet tooth that cropped up.  I added an assortment of broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, peppers and some other veggies that I can incorporate into meals. I also purchased some super firm tofu, which is a quick and easy meat replacement in stir fry, and some texturized vegetable protein, which is awesome in sauces and recipes that call for ground meat. Another great ground meat substitute is lentils. They have to be one of the most versatile foods I have ever eaten, so I always have multiple varieties on hand.

Another great thing to do at this point is to READ. Learn all you can and get inspired by healthy recipes so this is as easy a transition as it can be.  Some suggestions are The Plant Based Diet for Beginners and The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. Heart Book: How to Keep Your Heart Healthy is a great option to learn more about coronary artery disease. It is the number one killer in America. Finding out you have it can either be devastating or transformative. I choose transformative, which is why I am making the changes. “Glass Half Full” is much less stressful so I choose to look at this as me finding out BEFORE a catastrophic heart attack that I needed to make some changes.

I thought the best place to start would be at the beginning. I have always tried to be healthy. Besides the occasional dip into junk food or prepared meals, I have overall eaten healthy, or so I thought. Over the years I developed white-ish deposits under my eyes. At one point I remember asking the doctor about them. The doctor told me they meant that at one point my cholesterol had been high and those were cholesterol deposits. The doctor also assured me that my numbers looked good at that time so I shouldn’t worry. I went along through life not thinking about it.

A few years later I started to have trouble climbing stairs. I would get short of breath, my heart would race, I would feel pressure in my chest. I got worried. Heart disease runs in my family so I went to a specialist to try and figure it all out. They put me through all the standard tests, the blood work, the EKG, the stress test and nothing showed a problem. They sent me home with a portable monitor, but that proved fruitless as well.  I remember sitting in my cardiologist’s office in 2008. It was at Mass General Hospital in Boston. My doctor was baffled. He came up with an idea. He hooked me up to a small monitor and told me we would go for a walk. He held the monitor so he could watch what my heart was doing. We walked down a hall, nothing changed. He suggested we walk up the stairs. We got up to the landing about a flight and a half up when he told me to stop right away. My heart had definitely shown him what was happening. He had seen it on the monitor and was very concerned. He said that if we had kept going I was in danger of a heart attack. Now it was a matter of figuring out what was causing this problem. He told me the monitor had shown him an arrhythmia. Climbing those stairs had caused tachycardia. Now he could work from there to figure out why. Unfortunately, some circumstances in my life had prompted a huge life change and I moved far away before I was able to get a diagnosis. I hadn’t seen another cardiologist after that.

Fast forward a few years. In 2018 I started doing a lot of hiking. I was used to walking many miles when I lived in the city and had no issue with that. However, I started noticing that on hikes in the wilderness, when I had to climb elevation I was having the same problem I had been having a decade before. I started to get concerned. I took precautions and practiced my breathing, stopped when I had to. I decided to modify my diet. I ended up going on the keto diet (more on that in another post). It was rough to start but easy to maintain. I felt great on it, and had a lot more energy. I noticed that I had more brain power, memory and concentration than I had previously. I also had a significant weight loss and a reduction in the amount of these heart episodes. I felt like I had found the holy grail. However, the holidays happened and I fell out of keto. I tried to go back but could never quite succeed at it.

In 2020 the pandemic hit. As with many people, I stress ate. I gained weight. I ate things that were not so healthy. I dealt with depression and anxiety. I dealt with employment issues. I dealt with the death of my mother. I dealt with the start and end of a roller coaster relationship. I dealt with my first Christmas alone and my first birthday alone. 2020 was not a good year. It wasn’t all bad, but it was definitely not a good year. One of the high points was at the end of November. A rescue dog found his way into my life. Owning a dog and not having a fenced in yard meant that I had to start doing a lot of walking. There are acres of woods behind my house, but I have to climb a hill to get to them. Walking the dog meant that I was climbing this hill multiple times a day. I noticed the heart problem every single time. I would have to stop before I got to the top of the hill. The pressure in my chest had never been so strong. The pain was so much worse and there was numbness in my left side with these episodes. I started to get scared.

At the beginning of 2021 I saw a cardiologist. I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. It has the potential of giving me a heart attack and was causing angina and some other issues. The cardiologist explained that my past blood work had shown consistently raised levels of bad cholesterol. This was where the problem was. My heart wasn’t getting enough blood due to deposits in my arteries so the stress of the walk up the hill was making my heart work too hard. My doctor recommended I not push myself too hard, that I stop and breathe as I had been. He also put me on meds to help lower my cholesterol and told me implement a new way of eating. He asked me to eliminate all animal products from my diet. The only animal products allowed would be from the sea so I could get my omegas. Lowering sodium, eliminating processed foods, white sugar and white flour were additional stipulations to this new way of eating. This was going to be a challenge. I decided that I would start posting some of the ways I overcome the challenge and still eat tasty food. Heart healthy does not have to mean bland and uninteresting. I plan on proving that!! On these pages and on my blog I will post about heart health and will post the dishes I come up with. Hopefully this can help others eat healthy too.