Sunday, December 19, 2010


.. is the most important meal of the day!


We have all heard this but how many of us start the day off with a truely healthy nutritious breakfast?  Myself, I usually have a quick bowl of cereal washed down with a cuppa tea or a bacon and egg McMuffin washed down with Coke Zero and a hash brown a couple of hours after my morning cuppa!

A quick scope of scopus (a scientific database) gives a scary picture of what this means for my health.

Women who skip breakfast (based a college student survey followed up for five years) were more likely to have absent or irregular periods and to suffer from constipation, and also had a poorer perception of their own health (Fujiwara & Nakata 2010).  Now I only read the abstract but I could surmise that this may be an affect of a lack of fibre - which is what I perceive as the main dietary benefit of breakfast.
Another aspect to the importance of breakfast is the timing of food consumption - both in kick-starting the metabolic processes in the body and also the importance of cicadian rhythms.  The amount of sleep we get is also linked to obesity.  There is a nice review (Laposky et al 2008) titled "Sleep and circadian rhythms: key components in the regulation of energy metobolism." which provides a good overview of research on this topic.
As a non-expert I would say that breakfast is important because:
  •  it's already been 8+ hours since you last ate - your body would be in some kind conservation mode after that long without food - longer will make it even worse.
  • it will kick-start your metabolism and have it working in balance with your sleep/wake cycle
  • you can make sure your metabolism is healthy and balanced setting you up for the rest of the day
  • an opportunity to ingest a healthy balanced meal and get important nutrients like fibre, without cravings influencing you
  • can prevent over-eating or bad choices made due to extreme hunger and cravings that happen if you dont' eat breakfast
  • any meal at home is one you have more control over ingredient wise
So I think it is a pretty easy leap to say that breakfast is vital to a healthy lifestyle.  I am sure some people can remain thin and 'healthy' without it, but not my definition of healthy in which my body is metabolically efficient.

What makes a healthy breakfast?

While it is pretty easy to spot a healthy meal from a perspective of being low in fat and sugar and additives, what makes a healthy breakfast?  What is a good balance of nutrition with which to kick start our metabolism and set ourselves with a balanced system to prevent cravings?
Firstly, I would think that fibre is hugely important in the mornings.  Fibre lines our gut to protect the microvilli that absorb nutrients, it also provides a chemical barrier so that the nutruients (particularly the sugars) reach those microvilli evenly rather then in bursts. I dont' 'know' this however, it seems intuitive to me from the various things I have learnt over the years - please double check these 'facts'!
Secondly, a complex carbohydrates for energy are a must!  Some fruit and cereal should provide a good source of energy to get through till lunch.  This is also a great way to get fibre as most complex carbs come with fibre!
Thirdly, protein would also be essential to providing the nutrition required for the early half of the day - often the most productive physically!  Protein is also great for long-term satiation - so we feel full longer.  Where to get protein?  Egg or diary is pretty good for a breakfast protein given most of us couldn't stomach a steak at that hour!

So what are some breakfast options?

No cooking required!

Muesli, fruit, and yogurt

170g Forme yogurt
40g muesli (Select crunchy)
1 Lge Strawberry
1/2 banana

This is my fave breakfast, only I don't always have fruit on hand!  It can also be a pain having to finish a big tub of yogurt as I hate the thought of old yogurt!

egg on toast

more to come....

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