Breakfast originally started off as a term to cover the time when you broke any fast but gradually moved to describe the first meal of the day.
There are some who blanch at eating anything that early, and some who can’t face the world without a full plate of fried stuff.
But it’s an important meal. As you might not have eaten for 10–12 hours before waking up, it’s an opportunity for your body to replenish food and energy to put a bit of zing in your day.
So why is breakfast so important and how can we do it better?
First up, energy. The body’s main source of energy is glucose, some of which your body stores as glycogen. Going without food for hours runs the body’s store of glucose down. During periods of fasting the liver breaks down the glycogen to release as glucose to keep your blood sugars levels stable, which is important for the brain, which relies almost entirely on glucose for energy.
Eating breakfast restores your glycogen levels to boost your metabolism for the rest day. It may seem like skipping breakfast is a good idea at the time, but you have basically just set yourself up for a couple of hours of struggle until your next meal.
If you have made a point of having breakfast, and those chocolate covered, processed breakfast cereals are calling you, think again.
A good breakfast should be high in key minerals, vitamins and nutrients. A poor breakfast is just going to make your body play ‘catch up’ for the rest of the day to meet its required daily intake.
And it seems no-one is sure entirely why, but missing breakfast has been linked to weight problems. The two leading theories are that eating breakfast prevents large fluctuations in blood glucose levels, which helps to control the appetite, and breakfast fills you up before you get really hungry and make poor food decisions.
It’s well known that protein keeps hunger at bay and a protein-packed breakfast is a good way to start your daily intake.
Bacon and eggs are a delicious excuse to get that ball rolling, but only in moderation sadly. A better choice would be meals that include yoghurt, milk, cheese and nuts or nut products.
It’s the same with carbs. While ‘bad’ carbs are delicious – hash browns, waffles, pancakes – you will probably suffer a carb crash during the day. Better to stick to wholemeal toast, whole grain cereal or a low-sugar and low-fat muesli bar.
But back to eggs, which nobody can seem to make their mind up about. Are they packed with essential minerals, protein and trace elements? You bet they are. Do they cop a lot of negative attention for their dense nutritive value (i.e. fats)? That happens as well.
Like most foods, moderation is the key word and as the cholesterol in eggs is largely concentrated into the yolk, if it really worries you, then only use the white.
Also check your juice. A morning OJ can be very high in added sugar and low on actual oranges.
Generally, if you are drinking an ‘orange flavoured’ or ‘orange fruit juice drink’ oranges have barely graced the product. Squeeze your own – you can never match that taste with a commercial product.
Avoid muffins. Once upon a time they were made with wholemeal flour and packed with fruit and nuts. Now they are just a large cupcake, they even often have icing. If it looks like cake and tastes like cake, it’s cake.
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