Tastes Nutritious

blog to discuss everyday questions about nutrition

Is eating breakfast good for you?

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Breakfast

I strongly believe it is.

Although this topic has been discussed for years, the lack of consistency of reports and newspaper articles has been frustrating for many. Take for example a study published in the American Heart Association Journal, Circulation, in July 2013. This study followed the eating habits of almost 27,000 men between 1992 and 2008 and concluded that “eating breakfast was associated with significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk”. In fact, in this study, the men that skipped breakfast had 27% higher risk of dying from a heart attack or other coronary heart disease. However another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 2013 concluded that “the belief in link between eating breakfast in the morning and cardiovascular benefits exceeds the strength of scientific evidence”.

So how do we know if eating breakfast in the morning is good for us?

The calories in/calories out principle suggests that not eating breakfast in the morning ‘saves’ you calories which you, with really good willpower, do not replace back during the day. Eating less calories in total may lead to weight loss especially if you do a lot of exercise. You can further argue that these ‘saved’ calories prevent you from becoming overweight and protect you from the weight related health risks. However I believe that this principle when applied to eating breakfast is flawed.

When you wake up in the morning your body is in a fasting state after not eating for about 10 hours and needs the energy from breakfast to fuel the morning activities. In the morning your carbohydrate energy levels are low, muscles are in a slight muscle-wasting state and fat is metabolized slowly. Eating breakfast stops your body eating its own muscle to keep going and instead burns the calories that you have just eaten. This preserves your body mass which in turn keeps your metabolic rate higher throughout the day. Furthermore eating breakfast in the morning has been associated with lower cravings later in the day which helps you to be in control of what you are eating.

In addition, the Well Being Journal points out that eating breakfast in the morning helps you to control the cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone and its production is increased when fasting and further rises in the morning to help you to wake up. Not eating breakfast leads to cortisol levels being high, which puts strain on your body which in turn can lead to insulin resistance, further muscle wasting and blood pressure problems.

However to get the benefits of eating breakfast it is critical to eat the right breakfast. Like any other meal in the day a healthy breakfast should consist of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Carbohydrates can come from for example a piece of whole wheat toast, steel cut or traditional rolled oats and legumes but stay away from pastries and most cereals as they contain too much sugar. The protein can come from eggs, milk, yogurt or tofu and fats from nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds or avocado. The most important thing to keep in mind is to limit fast digesting carbs to 100 calories or so. Eating too much carbohydrate in the morning will create a surge in insulin levels and stop your muscles from absorbing the calories that you have just consumed. Instead of being burned they will go to fat and this will impact the way your body deals with calories that come throughout the day.

What are examples of a healthy breakfast? 

  • 1 slice of toast with black olive tapenade, avocado and poached egg
  • mushroom, pepper, tomato and spinach 2 egg scramble or an omelette with salad on the side and a small piece of bread
  • 1/4 cup of steel cut oats with cinnamon and berries
  • milk smoothie with banana
  • Greek yogurt with rolled oats and a little bit of honey

If this is all too healthy for you and you really feel like eating that croissant, then eat some coarse vegetables with it so that the rate of digestion is reduced.

Breakfast ideas 2

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