Breakfast: The Meal of Champions

July 7, 2017

We have all heard our parents and grandparents say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but is it really? There are many “old wives tales” that the older generation seems to cling to; is this another one or is it actually based on science? Let’s take a look;

If dinner is consumed at 7pm, and you wake up at 6.30, that’s nearly 12 hours of no food. As we sleep, chemicals in our body are at work digesting food from the previous night. Our blood sugar (the energy we need to power our muscles and brains) is normally low when we wake up. By morning, we are ready to “break the fast”, to replenish our bodies of these low stores. If we miss the day’s first meal, we may start tapping our energy reserves — including what’s stored in our muscle.

While we sleep because our bodies are a lot less active and our metabolic rate slows down. Eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism and gives your body the energy and nutrients it requires to face the day. Think of it as putting petrol in a car at the beginning of a journey; the car won’t start unless it has fuel. The whole system gets stressed as skipping breakfast throws off the normal circadian rhythm of fasting and feeding.

When you eat breakfast you tell your body there is plenty of calories to be had for the day. Conversely, when you skip breakfast you tell your body to preserve rather than burn calories, making us feel tired. Studies have even found that some who skipped breakfast, ate slightly fewer calories in the day, yet tend to be more overweight than those who eat breakfast. Other studies of children and adolescents have shown that those who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight.

Additionally, if you start with a healthy, satisfying meal in the morning you’re less apt to nibble on less nutritious, unhealthy snacks during the day, which we often do out of hunger. In fact, one study found that eating breakfast actually reduced sugar cravings later in the day. Missing breakfast also increases the likelihood of overeating later in the day.

One study documented a 27% increase in coronary heart disease amongst those North American men who regularly failed to eat a meal at the start of the day.

Eating breakfast is also essential for mental alertness; studies of healthy 9 to 11-year-old children have shown that those who skipped breakfast and were given a variety of tests demonstrated poorer performance on a learning task, shorter attention span and slower memory recall. Similarly, another study in school-aged children found breakfast consumption to be associated with enhanced short-term memory, better spatial memory and improved processing of visual stimuli. Fueling up in the morning can be especially important for children and adolescents, whose metabolic needs are greater than adults.

Breakfast is also an important window to get 1 third of your daily nutrients requirements in; such as those found in fruits and vegetables, calcium found in dairy and fibre found in wholegrains.

One study even found that those that consumed breakfast every day had a higher level of weekly physical activity.

Some health professionals even argue that breakfast is the worst time to skip a meal; even eating a small amount within an hour or so is beneficial.

Convinced? I hope so… but you may be wondering “So it doesn’t really matter what I eat in the morning, as long as I do” – wrong! One study found that eating high-fat breakfasts too often has recently been demonstrated to increase the risk of atherosclerosis.

So what comprises a good, “healthy” breakfast? A combination of the following:

  • Wholegrain carbohydrates: such as oats, wholegrain/low GI/sourdough or rye bread, wholegrain cereal
  • Lean protein: boiled egg, ricotta, cottage cheese
  • Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butter, flaxseed oil
  • Fruit/vegetables: get creative by adding veggies to your smoothies, if you have enough fruit you wont even taste them!

Some breakfast ideas:

  • Oats with milk and cup up banana or a handful of berries, a dollop of nut butter and sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Get creative with alternative grain porridges such as quinoa, millet, barley or buckwheat porridge (see recipe below)
  • Plain yoghurt, homemade granola and fruit salad. Note: most store-bought granolas have a lot of added sugar, so best to make your own.
  • Wholegrain, sourdough or rye toast, boiled/scrambled/poached egg and avocado, can add spinach, tomato, asparagus
  • Wholegrain, sourdough or rye toast and cottage cheese/ricotta/thick greek yoghurt, peanut butter and fruit
  • Baked beans on wholegrain, sourdough or rye toast with avocado
  • A 2-3 egg omelette (or just egg white) filled with mushrooms, peppers, baby marrow, onion, asparagus, cherry tomato and/or spinach with wholegrain, sourdough or rye toast

Or try a smoothie:

  • Milk (or non-dairy milk, if you prefer e.g. almond, rice, soy, coconut)
  • A scoop of protein powder (choose one that is suitable for your digestion) e.g. whey protein isolate, pea, brown rice (OPTIONAL)
  • A handful of nuts, seeds or tablespoon of flaxseed oil or nut butter
  • A choice of fresh or frozen fruits e.g. strawberries, blueberries, bananas, mango, kiwi fruit, melons, avocado etc. or vegetables e.g. spinach, cucumber, cauliflower, baby marrow,
  • Optional – there are a number of boosters that you may choose to add to boost the nutritional value of your smoothie e.g. cinnamon, macca powder, raw cacao, hemp seeds, etc.