I’ve lost count of how many bowls of Bircher Muesli I’ve had in the last couple of years, but judging by the number of pictures in my food diary, the number is staggering. There’s something about Bircher that’s positively addicting. I converted my sister and my parents over my Christmas holidays, and have met a few other addicts thanks to Flickr and my food diary. One person recently wrote to say “I just discovered it when I was on vacation in Hawaii and have been completely obsessed since.”
So what exactly is it about Bircher that makes it so appealing? There’s a definite “feel good” factor to eating Bircher in the morning, and perhaps we owe that somewhat to its history as a “healing” food.
Long before there were juicers and nut grinders, there was Maximillian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor who used raw food to treat patients at his sanitarium in Zurich. Bircher believed that a healthy life depended on one’s harmony with nature . He also believed in breakfast and in 1900 invented the now famous muesli cereal.
Bircher’s original muesli recipe is vastly different from the sugar-coated toasted variety we typically find in the grocery store today. Instead, Bircher combined soaked oats, fruit and nuts with grated apple and lemon juice to create a naturally sweet breakfast cereal designed to energize and heal the body.
Feel Good Ingredients
Oats have long been credited as a “heart-healthy” food because its high levels of fiber, manganese, selenium and magnesium have been shown to help lower blood LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). Also, the carbohydrates in oats are absorbed by the body more slowly than many other grains, so you feel fuller longer.
Nuts and seeds are full of protein, fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. They’re also considered a “heart healthy” food and in 2003, the FDA approved the following health claim for 7 kinds of nuts: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Dried fruit such as raisins and prunes not only sweeten Bircher muesli, but they also provide some well-deserved nutrients and minerals. Raisins in particular have been the object of phytonutrient research primarily for their unique phenol content. Meanwhile, prunes are a good source of fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and copper. But why stop there; you can use any dried fruit to add flavor and sweetness to your muesli. Apricots are especially good, and are full of dietary fiber and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin A, C, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, silicon, and potassium.
Apples are well known for their health giving properties (“an apple a day…”). They’re a good source of vitamin C and fiber, and are chock full of flavanoids and antioxidants. In fact, early this year, the journal “Nature” reported that natural nutrients found in apples can fight cancer. In fact, study authors say, one apple packs more cancer-fighting antioxidant capability than a 1,500-milligram megadose of vitamin C.
The Many Faces of Bircher
There are many ways to prepare a bowl of Bircher. Some soak the oats in water, while other, more decadent types, use milk or cream. You can vary the fruit and nuts to suit your preference, and a finished bowl of Bircher can be augmented by the addition of yogurt, honey, fresh fruit or toasted nuts and seeds.
The following Bircher muesli creation is my go-to recipe, but feel free to experiment with different permutations of fruit, nuts and toppings.
Monica’s Bircher Muesli
100 grams jumbo oats
15 grams flax seeds
20 grams almonds
15 grams raisins
5 prunes, chopped or whole
1 wedge of lemon, juiced
1 apple, grated
1/8 tsp cinnamon
- The night before you plan to breakfast, soak the oats, flax seeds, almonds, raisins and prunes in just enough water (or milk) to cover.
- In the morning, mix the above with the lemon juice, apple and cinnamon.
- Serve with toppings such as fresh fruit, yogurt, or honey.
Serves 2. Per serving: 398 Calories; 11g Protein; 12g Total Fat; 68g Total Carbohydrates; 0mg Cholesterol; 7mg Sodium; 12g Fiber.