So it’s sort of time for me to come clean about something, and that something has directly lead to the development of this smoothie recipe, so here goes.
Back in May I woke up in the middle of the night one night with incredibly severe knee pain in my right knee. I was laying in bed and thought maybe I was sleeping in a funny position and tried to roll over, but I couldn’t lift my leg. I had to lift my leg with my hands to move it at all. Pain shot from my knee up my thigh to my hip, blinding me, it was so bad. I was near tears, and tried getting out of bed to walk it off. I walked back and forth in my bedroom, kicking my foot out randomly, attempting to pop my kneecap back in place (I thought maybe it had popped out), but nothing helped. Eventually, I got back into bed and didn’t sleep for the rest of the night because the pain was so terrible.
The next morning, I called my doctor first thing and got an appointment around lunchtime. I went to work, my knee bothering me on the drive in, on the trek up the stairs, etc. I really thought something bad had happened to my knee. So I go to the doctor, and she’s doing her doctor thing, checking for swelling in my knee (there was), checking movement (she made me squat and was impressed with my form ?), etc. Then she moves on to the normal stuff, checking my blood pressure, listening to my heart…
She heard something through the stethoscope that sent her into a panic. She began asking me all kinds of questions – do I ever have heart palpitations? I don’t think so? Do I take birth control? Yes… Have I ever fainted? No… Have I ever had a blood clot?
….a blood clot??
She says she is hearing “too many beats” with my heart, and they aren’t registering on that finger clip thing (pulse ox?), she can only hear them through the stethoscope. So she sends me to another room where they quickly slap some electrodes on me and take an EKG where they find all these extra heart beats. The whole time she’s asking me how I feel and I’m just like, “I feel fine, but uh, my knee hurts…?”
She essentially freaks out and sends me to the hospital for blood tests (one to rule out a blood clot, another standard round of bloodwork minus cholesterol as I hadn’t fasted) and an x-ray (for my knee). All the symptoms presented “could” point to a blood clot, and though it’s the worst case scenario and maybe the two events aren’t even related, she must do her due diligence and rule it out. She left the room for a minute and I started crying. A blood clot? I am 37. Stop it. Old people get blood clots. And wtf is going on with my heart?
So I pulled myself together, contacted my friend at work and tell her to please tell some people I wouldn’t be making a meeting I’d had scheduled for 1pm and that they should proceed without me, and contacted my manager to let him know I wouldn’t be back for the afternoon. And off to the hospital I went.
The whole time this is going on, of course I can’t stop my brain from buzzing. This is it, it’s finally caught up to me. If I don’t have a blood clot, then something is wrong with my heart and I’m gonna have to eat buckets of lettuce for the rest of my life. But that will totally be okay, because I will kick ass harder in the gym, and I will make myself healthy, and I will have more time with my family.
Later that day, I was sitting on my couch when I received the phone call that I did NOT have a blood clot (THANK YOU JESUS ?). A little while after that, I received the phone call that said my x-ray revealed “arthritic damage” in my knee. I was ordered to be seen by a cardiologist the next day (for a formal EKG and determination of whatever was going on with my heart), and to follow-up with an orthopedist for my knee problem.
When I woke up the next morning, magically, somehow, my knee pain was completely gone. It was like it had never happened. I mean, I couldn’t even make it happen again. It had disappeared as quickly as it had shown up.
Suspecting my cardiologist may want to do a blood test for cholesterol, I made sure I didn’t eat before my appointment. They hooked me up for another EKG and determined that what they were finding were PVC heartbeats – premature ventricular contractions. PVCs are like little pre-heartbeats, kind of like a flutter. If a normal heartbeat goes ba-BUM ba-BUM ba-BUM, my heart beats like baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM. Some people say they feel them, but I don’t. My cardiologist assured me that most of the time, PVCs are benign; but that sometimes, they can point to something else going on with the heart. So, he ordered several more tests for the coming weeks, as well as a cholesterol blood test to be done that day.
Later that day, I was once again sitting on my couch when I received the phone call with my cholesterol blood test results.
(As a side note, I will just tell you that I almost feel like this is what I was dreading the most. I have always had “perfect” blood pressure, but I have wondered about my cholesterol levels. It can be a silent killer!, according to the interwebz and various documentaries I’ve seen. I had actually scheduled a physical for the day after my birthday this year, with the specific intention of getting bloodwork to see what my cholesterol levels were, figuring it was probably high time that I change my diet (RIP SFB?), but I came down with strep throat and ended up cancelling it.)
So the nurse calls me and says, “The doctor says your cholesterol results are acceptable.” And I went, “Oh! Whew! Oh my gosh, great news, thank you!!!” And we hung up.
And then…. doubt.
Acceptable? Why “acceptable”, why not “good”?
So I called her back and asked her for the specific numbers. The breakdown:
- Overall cholesterol: 205
- Triglycerides: 104
- HDL (“good” cholesterol): 64
- LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 119
According to a chart I found published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, my overall cholesterol should be under 200, so I fell into the “borderline high” category. Triglycerides should be under 150, so I was good. HDL should be higher than 60, so I was good (yay!). And LDL should really be less than 100, but okay to be less than 129, so I was good there too.
Even though those results were “acceptable”, and by all means, I should feel blessed, considering my love for cheese and red meat, I felt like I had some work to do. I wanted to focus on raising my “good” cholesterol and lowering my “bad” cholesterol, because even though they were good enough that I don’t need medicine, I don’t ever want to get to the point where I do need medicine. So let’s nip this shit in the bud RIGHT NOW.
The number one factor in your cholesterol levels is your diet, closely followed by the amount of exercise you do. Now listen. You’re talking to the girl that has a blog and an Instagram account focused on food. And not just any food, SLUTTY food. Food that is not good for you! Food that is bad for you. On the one hand, I am eternally grateful that my eating habits so far have not lead to an early heart attack, BUT, I AM getting older, and I believe it is time for me to start being more mindful of the food I’m putting into my mouth.
So, off to the interwebz I go, looking for foods that raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. The number one food that lowers bad cholesterol is: OATS! Ok, I like oats. We can figure out how to incorporate these into my diet. It means I need to shuck the grain free thing, or at least count it in the 20 of my 80/20 grain free rule. Also: whole grains! Beans! And some of my favorite fruits! Awesome, I’ve got this. One of the top foods that raise your good cholesterol is: AVOCADOS! Sweet! I love avocados. If I put half an avocado on a slice of Ezekiel toast every morning for breakfast, then I will be simultaneously raising my good cholesterol AND lowering my bad cholesterol!
So naturally the NEXT place I go to is Pinterest, looking for oatmeal recipes. I actually kind of hate oatmeal itself, but don’t hate oats. Oatmeal is mushy and sticky and sooo filling, so I thought about finding oatmeal smoothie recipes that I could drink with my cholesterol-kicking powerhouse avocado toast. I found several banana oatmeal smoothie recipes with similar ingredients, that were all very delicious, but somehow over the last two months, in the fog and rush of early morning sleepiness, I ended up combining my favorite things from each smoothie recipe into its very own SFB version. And now, voila, we have my favorite banana oatmeal smoothie recipe.
And so, over the last two months, I have:
- Been eating avocado toast + banana oatmeal smoothie almost every morning;
- Passed my ECG with flying colors;
- Passed my stress test with flying colors;
- Found out, as a result of wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, that the reason I sometimes feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous during the day is because my PVCs are occurring at a higher frequency (NOT low blood sugar or dehydration like I always attributed it to);
- Found out that there actually wasn’t “arthritic damage” in my knee; but that I AM predisposed to knee problems due to a history playing basketball in my youth, and therefore am forbidden from running (especially on a treadmill), jumping, and lunging (aw, shucks!).
Last week I had a checkup with my cardiologist to go over the results of all the tests, and he says if anything popped up in any of the other tests, that he would be concerned and look deeper into what could be going on. He assured me that one of the top indicators of these PVCs being benign is the fact that they literally disappeared during the stress test (exercise). If they were still present or got worse during the stress test, it would be a high indicator of a deeper problem. But he feels confident in saying to me that these are benign and currently nothing to worry about. HOWEVER. I will see him again in 6 months for a follow-up, and probably get another ECG after that, just to make sure something isn’t developing. It’s something we keep an eye on, even though right now they are benign. What a relief!!
If you’ve read this far, I reckon you deserve a treat. So here it is, my favorite, very filling, very nutritious, banana oatmeal smoothie. ? Stay healthy, y’all.
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup rolled / old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice), optional
1 tablespoon syrup (you can use maple, or I use coconut palm syrup)
1-2 tablespoons nut butter (I like almond butter or cashew butter)
1 banana, sliced and frozen
1. Pour almond milk into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Let the oats soak in the almond milk for a little bit to soften them up and make them easier to blend. I usually let them sit for about 10-15 minutes while I’m doing other stuff in the kitchen. Then, flip your blender onto “puree” and blend until nice and smooth. Pro tip: freeze your smoothie cup for 10-15 minutes and it will keep your smoothie extra cold for your ride to work. ?