Beep! Beep! Beep! The sound of an alarm clock going off at 6 am is a sound many of us are all too familiar with. Now once we’re able to muster the energy and motivation to get up for that day of work, there’s a long list of things that need to be done before one is ready to walk out the door. We know the usual items we must check off the list from taking a shower and changing clothes to preparing the kids and walking the dog. During these crazy mornings there is so much to get done in so little time and often the most important meal of the day, breakfast, gets left behind. A sip of orange juice or a pop tart to prepare you for an 8 hour shift isn’t going to cut it nutritionally, so in Health Journal X we’re going to discuss why breakfast is so important and how to make it a little easier and a little healthier.
Benefits of eating a good breakfast:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a saying we have all heard before, but that doesn’t mean we all know exactly why. Some of you may be saying, “I’ve never eaten breakfast and I perform just fine and my energy levels are great,” but eating a good breakfast might affect things you didn’t know about. Below, we have listed a few ways a good breakfast can make a difference and why it is the most important meal of the day for all of us.
- Energy: A good and nutritionally healthy breakfast is a great way to jumpstart your day and get that energy boost you may be looking for. A good breakfast helps regulate your blood sugar levels by breaking your overnight fast and provides your body with the fuel it needs for a productive day of work. That’s why it’s called “breakfast”
- Diet Quality Improvement: Research has shown that people who skip breakfast are more likely to miss out on meeting the recommended intake for important nutrients like folic acid and calcium. A person who starts off their day with some fruit is more likely to meet the recommended intake for these important nutrients since they have a head start on the day.
- Breakfast increases the ability to learn and focus: Whether you are a college student or have children that are in school, it has been shown that eating breakfast provides increased concentration in the classroom. Students who eat breakfast perform better in math, matching, memory and creativity activities. It has been shown that children who start their day with a meal have fewer behavioral issues, report to be in a better mood and miss school less. This has shown to be particularly evident in teenage boys.
- Weight Loss and Weight Management: The impact that breakfast has on one’s ability to manage or lose weight is up for debate since data falls on both sides of the argument. To start, the National Weight Control Registry has found that a common denominator among those who were able to manage their weight long-term was that they were breakfast eaters. It is not clear how this happens, but a popular belief is those individuals who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat during their lunch or dinner meals. So eating a good breakfast helps keep your meals even and balanced throughout the day. However, a Cornell University study has also shown that skipping breakfast does not necessarily translate into weight gain. The authors found that even if breakfast is skipped you won’t necessarily overeat enough to make up for the calories you missed out on for breakfast. So with this thought process you would be eating less food overall and therefore might also be able to lose weight. But what does all this mean? No matter which way you tend to lean, breakfast is still nutritionally important as we mentioned above, and should become a staple of our mornings.
What to eat?
Now that we know how important breakfast is and how it affects our day, one might be thinking about what to eat tomorrow. Knowing that you should eat breakfast is sometimes the easy part, knowing what to eat can be a lot more difficult. Below we will list some healthy and simple breakfast foods that can jumpstart our days and provide us the boost we need.
- Eggs: This breakfast staple is undeniably healthy and delicious and eggs are known to increase feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake during your next meal. Eggs also provide key nutrients and are the best source of choline which helps promote liver and brain health, and egg yolks contain lutein zeaxanthin which helps prevent eye disorders. Another positive with eggs is their diversity, and with the ability to be hard-boiled they also provide a great on-the-go option.
- Greek Yogurt: This is another one of those breakfast staples we often hear about. Greek yogurt is made by straining whey and other liquid from milk curds, which produces a creamier yogurt that is higher in protein. Some of the benefits of this added protein include feeling fuller and less hungry throughout the day as well as having a higher thermic level than fat or carbs provide.
- Oatmeal: For all the cereal lovers out there, oatmeal is a great/healthy substitution. Oats are rich in antioxidants, and also may benefit heart health and possibly decrease blood pressure. One thing oats won’t provide is much protein since one cup of oats is only about 6 grams, so if you’re looking to add a little protein consider making your oatmeal with milk or adding an egg.
- Berries: Some fruit contains a lot of sugar, but berries tend to be lower on the sugar scale and provide a higher level of fiber. Berries are not only delicious and packed with antioxidants but a whole cup of berries, depending on which ones you choose, only range between 50-85 calories. This is also a very complimentary breakfast option since berries are easy to include in your oatmeal or yogurt for that added fiber or antioxidants that help prevent disease.
What NOT to eat:
Now that we’ve discussed why breakfast is so important and what some healthy options look like, it’s time to discuss those not so healthy options we maybe turn to in a rush.
- Cereals: Walking down the cereal aisle there are many options, many of which claim to be whole grain or contain nutrients like Vitamin A, but overall it’s best to skip this easy and often delicious breakfast option. Cereals contain mostly refined grains, and sugar is often towards the top of the ingredient list. Even those nutritious cereals that contain granola or other seemingly healthy ingredients are loaded with sugar that contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Buttered Toast: Another common in a rush breakfast choice is buttered toast, which is considered an unhealthy option for two reasons. First, the flour in most bread is refined, offering few nutrients and second, because it is high in refined carbs and low in fiber, it can spike your blood sugar very quickly. These elevated blood sugar levels lead to rebound hunger and cause you to eat even more during your second or third meal of the day.
- Sweetened Non-Fat Yogurt: We talked about the health benefits of Greek yogurt up above and those still remain true, but when it comes to the sweetened yogurt it’s best to turn away. Many of the non-fat sweetened yogurt options contain about as much sugar as your bowl of ice cream from the night before. Also, removing the fat from the yogurt may sound like a beneficial health option but it works in a counterintuitive way. Leaving the fat in the yogurt allows us to feel fuller longer since it takes our body more time to digest then normal carbs and it triggers our feelings of fullness. Removing the fat from the yogurt and adding sugar, turns a healthy breakfast option into something served best as an occasional treat.