Better Breakfast, Better You
Everyone has heard at some point or another that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. September is National Better Breakfast Month, so let’s have a look at the healthy guidelines we should follow when eating breakfast and the impact it has on our bodies.
Why is breakfast so important?
Nutritionists everywhere advise that you should eat your breakfast within two hours of waking up. Here’s the reason. The longest time your body goes without food during the day is between your dinner and the meal you have the next morning. Your first meal affects your blood sugar for the remainder of the day. Every time you eat, glucose levels rise, which causes your pancreas to produce insulin, converting the glucose to energy in your cells. Having a healthy breakfast allows your blood sugar to increase a little bit as your body absorbs it slowly over time. This way, your glucose and insulin levels are balanced, having a beneficial effect on your metabolism and overall health.
On the other hand, when you skip breakfast, that extended period of fasting causes bigger dips and spikes in your glucose levels, according to Eric Rimm, Sc. D., a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Your body will produce higher levels of “hunger” hormones, which encourages you to overindulge the next time you eat. When this happens, you are more likely to reach for poor choices that are fatty and/or higher in sugar. Over time, this can put you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Benefits of Breakfast
Improved Cognitive Function
Glucose is an essential carbohydrate needed for your brain to function properly. Studies have linked healthy breakfast consumption to improved memory and concentration levels. Just as your muscles need energy from a healthy meal, your brain needs energy to keep you alert and productive. Scientists at the University of Milan found that those who start their day with a good-for-you breakfast saw improvements in attention-span, creativity, processing speed, memory, learning, and problem-solving skills.
Some studies have shown that eating breakfast can improve your mood and lower stress levels, making us happier all around!
Helps Maintain a Healthy Diet
Because having breakfast first thing in the morning boosts your metabolism, it curbs your hunger and prevents overindulging later in the day. Those who keep their breakfasts fiber-rich also feel satisfied longer, and consume less calories for the remainder of the day.
It’s also been shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to eat a healthier diet overall. A healthy breakfast keeps you on track to meet your daily nutrient requirements and typically leads to making healthier food choices for lunch and dinner. Skipping your first meal means you may not meet them, and therefore lack the proper amount of recommended nutrition.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Skipping breakfast not only puts you at a higher risk for diabetes, it also has been linked to weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure due to overeating at lunch and dinner, poor choices, and excessive snacking.
Better Breakfast Choices
So what does all this mean? Put down the doughnut and think about the essential nutrients your body needs to stay strong. Be sure to include whole grains, lean proteins, and fruits and vegetables when making your choices. See below for great suggestions to get you started on a better breakfast every morning!
- Steel cut oatmeal or rolled oats, made with milk and served with berries
- Grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich
- Whole grain toast and fresh avocado and tomato
- Egg white omelet with fresh vegetables and avocado
- Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and a glass of orange juice on the side
- Healthy smoothie
- Melon with ham and whole grain toast
- Egg white omelet with spinach and cheese
- Whole grain toast and an apple
- Fruit and nut parfait
- Whole grain bagel with peanut butter and pear slices
On the go and don’t have time to prepare a breakfast? Pair these easy-to-transport foods together to get your lean protein source, complex carbohydrate, and fruit:
- Apples, grapes, oranges and bananas
- Fat-free yogurt
- Small bag of whole grain cereal
- Homemade (no-bake) granola bars or healthy breakfast