Starting Your Day The Right Way
In the not-so-distant past, breakfast for many of us consisted of a quick bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. If you were motivated, you might have boiled some water and thrown in a packet of sugar-filled instant oatmeal. Those days are behind us now. If not, they should be! Starting off the day with mostly carbs and sugar isn’t highly recommended. Read my post on sugar to find out why. For years, I’ve heard that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” I wondered if that was true, so was chagrined to discover in Huffington Post that the origins of that post come from a health magazine article. It was published in 1917, and the editor of the magazine? None other than Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the man who invented corn flakes with his brother! That was enough said. Well, regardless of the origins of that phrase, I still love breakfast. So, I want to come up with some ideas for getting started with a healthy, tasty meal that give a good nutritional balance.
Who Better to Ask Than the Experts?
People who work in the field of health and nutrition every day seem like a good start for my quest. Conveniently, Greatist.com published this perfect article: What the World’s Top Health Experts Eat for Breakfast (http://greatist.com/eat/expert-healthy-breakfasts). Breakfasts from these 23 health rock stars ranged from a variety of protein-infused smoothies to (my personal favorite) from Tony Horton, best known for his P90X fitness program. His breakfast of choice includes some of my favorite ingredients. These are tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, whole grain bread, eggs, and avocado. I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow! What I do notice is that most of the people in this list seem to include ingredients that fall into these three categories:
- Protein: Eggs, nuts, protein powder, smoked salmon, nut butter, cheese, almond or soy milk, yogurt, black beans, tofu
- Whole Grain/Fiber: Whole-grain bread, oats (steel cut or regular), millet, chia seeds
- Vegetables or Fruit: Tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, onion, cucumber, avocados, berries of all types, apples, bananas, grapes
Surprisingly, only one actually adds a tiny bit of sugar to her breakfast. Erica Giovinazzo, a registered dietician and Crossfit coach and nutritionist notes in the same article, “Because we’re fasting overnight while we sleep, our body naturally releases sugar into our bloodstream, and so our blood sugar is always slightly higher in the morning. There’s no need then to add fuel to fire with even more sugar!”
So why these ingredients?
Protein for Staying Power
Protein sticks with you for much longer than almost any type of food. This report in The Atlantic(on an admittedly small size study) measured the impact of different breakfast regimes. It was done on 20 women who were either considered overweight or obese. The study gave one group cereal for breakfast. The second ate eggs and beef for breakfast, and the third had no breakfast at all. The study found that those who ate protein for breakfast ingested slightly more calories. Nonetheless this group, more than the others:
- Expressed feeling full for the whole day.
- Had decreased levels of the hormone ghrelin, which is associated with hunger stimulation.
- Had increased levels of hormones that make you feel full.
- Snacked less in the evening on fat-filled foods.
Whole Grains and Other Sources of Fiber for Digestive Health and Lower Glucose
The Harvard School of Public Health has a whole page on their web site devoted to the topic of fiber. In it, it explains how fiber, which comes in two forms offers health benefits. In the soluble form, which can be found in oatmeal (and many other items in the above list), the fiber dissolves in water. This form helps lower glucose levels and cholesterol in the blood. Insoluble fiber, which can be found in whole grains and seeds (and again, in many of the other items in the list), does not dissolve in water. It helps keep things moving through your digestive tract.
Fruits and Vegetables for Digestive Health and Nutrients
As the above page on fiber notes, fruits and vegetables—specifically not fruit juices—offer a great source of fiber. In general, I think it’s a no-brainer that fruits and vegetables pack a solid punch of vitamins and minerals. This Huffington Post article outlines just a few of the nutrients, minerals, and other health benefits delivered by some of our best-known fruits and vegetables. Plus, fruits and vegetables typically have a lot of water in them, which helps you stay hydrated and allows you to feel full without consuming too many calories. So I know what I’m eating for breakfast tomorrow, thanks to Tony Horton. But I might also add a side of one of the tasty fruit salad recipes from saladmenu.com, like my Sweet Chia Fruit Salad. Happy breaking of your fast (after all, that’s what breakfast means).