A Healthier Year…………Porridge and More!

by Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor

“Health is wealth” is an old saying that our forefathers would say. I remember my father remarking about this when I was a little girl, after the chores were done on the farm and he finally came in for supper late at night. On the farm where he worked from dawn and beyond sunset, he seemed content. I remember not getting quite a few of the toys I would ask for, but yet receiving more than enough.

Not getting everything we materially want is great. The more affluent our society is, the sicker it becomes. Look at all the health problems around us. We forget that health is wealth, not money. If we have our health, there are many possibilities for us. If our health is poor, there is little we can do.

Health starts with air, water, and food. We need fresh air. All the more reason to look for ways each of us can cut down on air pollution by the way we live. Walk more, drive less. Use less heating and air conditioning, don’t use burning fireplaces, etc.

Water needs to be conserved to ensure that we do have some to live for now and the future. We also need clean water unladen of too many synthetic chemicals, including chlorine. Invest in a water filter for your home. Quit using plastic water bottles. Buy water only in glass or carry your own filtered water in a glass bottle or stainless steel bottle or thermos. Water that is stored in plastic contains less oxygen and synthetic hormones (including estrogen) and other chemicals leach into the water from the plastic, even BPH-free plastic. Use filtered water in cooking, as well.

Food needs to be pure and mostly of vegetal quality. Today I am going to write about the  benefits of porridge for breakfast and even any time of the day.

In China, in the homes and the restaurants, you will usually see rice porridge offered for breakfast, known as zhou in Mandarin. Japan also has a long history of rice porridge for breakfast, known as o-kayu. Japanese may eat it to use up old rice anytime and have always served it fresh cooked to sick people to help their recovery.

Rice porridge is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine in dietary therapy, as well as in Japanese dietetics.  Wet-cooked porridge is the best breakfast for a wide range of medical conditions. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment principles, rice porridge is good for: 1) Weak digestion 2) Chronic dehydration 3) Excess inflammation or heat pathology. 4)  Very young children, older people, convalescing people 5) Those who ate or drank too much the night before 6) People who worry too much or are too stressed.

Weakened digestion can be the cause of many diseases, including hypertension and diabetes, chronic digestive diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Chronic dehydration conditions that are not recognized by allopathic medicine doctors, underlies many serious health conditions, and consistent use of cooked, wet breakfasts can induce real improvement in the relief of symptoms and can treat the underlying cause of many medical conditions. This kind of dehydration is not relieved by drinking more water and fluids, and I see it as a very common condition in my daily clinical practice in many individuals. It is very popular and faddish right now to avoid carbs and grains, but what people need to recognize is that it is really SUGAR and poorly combined foods that cause metabolic problems for so many people. According to TCM, grains are “Earth” foods, the center of the Five Phases theory used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. When used correctly, grains are central to diet and digestion, the foundation of good health.

Making good rice porridge
Put 8-12 cups of water in a in a stainless steel or ceramic cooking pot.
Add 1/8 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and/or a strip of kombu seaweed. Salt provides a mineral contribution, a balance for us as all life originates in the sea. Salt resonates with the kidneys and is good for them but in excess, it harms them.
Put in 1 cup uncooked short-grain white or brown rice in large, empty pot. (Make sure your grains are organically grown and that the white rice has not been bleached and does not have talc added to it. If possible, soak this anywhere from 8-24 hours. Overnight is also good enough. If you forgot to soak it, it’s okay, make it anyway.
Bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the grains to settle and stick to the bottom of the pot.
The consistency when done should look like a milk water between discernible rice grains, very soft-cooked.
Add an umeboshi plum to each serving bowl of porridge, for more flavor and more medicinal effect. Umeboshi alkalinizes the blood, many people have an over acidic condition of their blood, which is attractive to many disease-causing agents.
Add finely chopped green onions.
You may add miso after cooked, stir it in well, to enhance the prebiotic and probiotic effect to improve digestibility, add flavor, and add more nutrition.
One cup of dry rice will make porridge for 4-6 people.
Eat with some side dishes, such as steamed vegetables and tofu.

If you want your porridge all cooked by the time you get up to eat breakfast in the morning, buy a Zojirushi rice cooker and warmer made in Japan which has a porridge function and set the time that you want to eat it. It will be done and ready for you! This rice cooker has many functions for brown, white, and partially milled rice. You can use it for other grains, as well. So simple! So handy!  White rice is the easiest grain to digest, so if you are having stomach problems with gas, bloating, cramps, etc., use white rice.

Other porridges besides rice

Millet porridge
Millet makes excellent porridge also. In northern China, it is eaten more than rice porridge. Millet is non-glutinous, classified as sweet and salty, neutral or slightly cooling with affinity for the spleen-pancreas, stomach, kidney and lung. Millet is especially good for people with diabetes and lung problems. It is helpful in inflammatory conditions. Millet is the most hydrating grain, and pairs best with nuts, seeds, and fruit, more than any other grain.

One cup dry millet makes porridge for 4-6 people.
Wash the millet prior to cooking by flooding it in a pot with cold water, then gently tipping the water over the side 3 or 4 times until the water looks clear. After washing, use a strainer to remove remaining standing water.
Cook in the same method as previously described for rice porridge.
As with rice, serve with seeds, an organic egg, organic and unfermented tamari or shoyu.

Buckwheat porridge

Use whole buckwheat groats (kernels) and follow the recipe given for rice porridge. Add seeds, nuts, eggs, tofu, etc. Buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. It is classified as sweet and warming with spleen-pancreas, heart, and large intestine affinities.

Polenta or corn grit porridge.

This is a Western-style porridge made with polenta or corn grits. Use ORGANIC CORN ONLY; GMO foods raise internal heat through challenging the kidneys, the organ system that adapts to change (too much modified corn is not designed for human consumption anyway.) No GMO foods should be consumed! GMOs are another money-making scheme for Monsanto, Inc. who would like to convince you that they are harmless. Think! We already have far too many diseases because we are consuming foods and drugs that nature never intended for us to consume. Follow the recipe given for the rice porridge, except traditional grits need an hour or more of cooking; instant grits lack flavor. Corn is sweet and neutral, with spleen-pancreas, stomach and kidney affinities.

Quinoa, Amaranth, and Teff porridges.
These make excellent porridges and are loaded with protein as well as other nutrients. They are gluten-free, rich in protein, fiber and minerals, easy to cook and delicious. Wash the quinoa to remove saponins.

Wheat porridge
Wheat has a very long history as breakfast porridge. The grains would be cracked, toasted or ground, then boiled until soft. Beer began as wheat or barley porridge that may have inadvertently fermented. Wheat contains gluten, a set of proteins that a minority of individuals can’t tolerate (celiac disease) and that can gradually cause inflammation problems in a much larger proportion of the population. But don’t let trends convince you that you can’t eat wheat if you don’t have celiac disease. If you have IBS, wheat is more difficult to digest, use other grains. Wheat porridge helps build and hold blood, useful for blood deficiency with fatigue or lethargy. Once benefit has been attained, return to rotating grains to avoid problems from overeating only one kind of grain. Ancient hybrids of wheat like spelt, kamut, emmer, freekeh are significantly easier to digest that the modern varieties. They do contain gluten and individuals with celiac disease cannot eat them, but individuals with wheat or gluten sensitivity often can. Wheat is sweet and warming and has spleen-pancreas, heart and kidney affinities.

Oatmeal or oat porridge

One of the most well-known porridges to Americans. In Chinese medicine dietetics, oats are classified as sticky, as are glutinous grains, but they don’t contain gluten (be sure they are not processed in wheat factories, then they might, but in nature, they do not contain gluten).  Oats are sweet, slightly warming, with spleen-pancreas and stomach affinity. The bulk fiber of oats promotes peristalsis while the stickiness balances with some restraining quality. Oats are moistening like rice and millet. Steel cut oats are harder to digest than rolled. Cook oatmeal long enough to allow the grains to absorb as much water as they will. Add sliced almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, apricot or fig and spices such as cinnamon. Do not add any sweetener. Oat porridges are not good for people with phlegm problems, such as chronic cough, COPD, nasal congestion or sinus congestion, because they are too damp and phlegm-producing. Use other grains.

So, to improve your health, include wet-cooked porridges in the morning menu. It is one of the simplest, least expensive, and most powerful things we can do to take care of ourselves. And, one more thing, always buy organically grown, and if at all possible, grown in the USA grain. Organic and local–important for your health. Enjoy that hot porridge!

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