There is a lot of confusing information out there about what meal is the best one to start your day. The root of the word breakfast means literally to break your fast. Typically a person hasn’t eaten in about 12 hours when they consume breakfast so this meal can be an important way to wake up the metabolism. What you eat however can heavily influence how you burn calories and what you will crave.
Dried grain based breakfast cereals became popular right before the start of the 1900’s with the invention of wheat flakes by the John Harvey Kellogg. He invented the cereal as a vegetarian alternative to eggs and meat at the Health Reform Institute he was working at. The center was a strict vegetarian site that specialized in using natural remedies for health and mental wellness. His brother turned wheat flakes into cornflakes and that product was used to form the Kellogg Company in 1906. Soon after Post and General Mills entered the market and cereal for breakfast became an instant time saver. Beginning after World War II the cereal market began to target children by adding sugar and using animals and toys in their marketing. According to a 2012 survey posted on statisticbrain.com the annual cereal sales is now $7.7 Billion (with 816,000,000 pounds of sugar used in those products).
Breakfast fare prior to the cereal revolution was higher in fiber and protein. Americans ate slow cooking whole grain porridge or eggs and meat. These high fiber and higher protein meals are once again making a comeback as rates of diabetes surge. Most cereal breakfasts are simple carbohydrates. They don’t have the fiber, protein or healthy fats needed to satiate hunger. The few brands that have added flax or chia seeds process those cereals into little flakes, circles or granules at high temperatures destroying the omega-3 fatty acids.
Aiming for a higher protein meal may stave off hunger.
There a several studies from last year that tout eating a high protein diet in general or a high protein breakfast specifically, can curb the appetite. One study, from Biofortis Clinical Research, compared fasting, a 300Kcal breakfast of pancakes with syrup, and a 300Kcal sausage and egg breakfast for women ages 18-55. They observed that those in the study who ate sausage and eggs for breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch than the women who ate pancakes or had skipped breakfast.
Metabolic benefits of protein and fat
A study in the journal Obesity in October last year compared two diets over a three month period on obese patients with type 2 Diabetes. The patients were in two groups. Group one ate a big breakfast rich in fat and protein providing one third of that person’s daily caloric needs. Group two ate a small breakfast rich in carbohydrates providing only one sixth of a person’s daily caloric needs. Although weight loss was equivalent, those who ate the big breakfast had reductions in signs of inflammation (HbA1c) and systolic blood pressure; those patients were able to reduce their diabetes medication. Those who ate the smaller breakfast had increases in their diabetes medication doses.
The occasional intermittent fast can be good for you, but there is also evidence showing that eating a good breakfast also has its benefits. If you are a cereal eater you can add raw walnuts or almonds to increase the protein and healthy fat content. Soaking your steal cut oats the night before (and discarding the soaking water) makes those oats much quicker to cook and much more bioavailable. If you like eggs try my favorite way of having them, over easy on top of a bed of lightly sautéed kale. It’s not only what you eat that can make or break your health however. Remember that being active makes a different too. 70 – 75% of health risks are related to a sedentary lifestyle.
Traditional breakfasts from around the world:
- England, Ireland and Scotland – beans, eggs, sausages, stewed vegetables, toast
- Egypt – bean, chickpea and lentil stew with a side of pickled vegetables
- Denmark and Germany –dark rye sourdough bread with meat and cheeses
- Iceland –oat porridge, made with milk and topped with fruit and nuts.
- Japan – miso soup, pickled vegetables, seaweed, cured fish
Turkey – fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, whole grain bread and a boiled egg