How does your breakfast effect your health?
You wake up. You’re hungry. You open the cupboard and see two cereals, Captain Crunch and Raisin Bran. What you do next may not only effect your day, but your life.
What you eat for breakfast is vitally important to your health. It influences many things; what nutrients you get, how healthy you are, your ability to fight disease, how much energy you have, your cravings, your ability to focus, your mood and how much and what else you eat for the rest of the day.
Skipping breakfast is not a good idea. For one thing, people who skip breakfast tend to weigh MORE than those who don’t. This sounds contradictory. It would seem that not eating breakfast calories would help people to lose weight, actually the reverse is true. (Read Why Diets Don’t Work to find out why.)
By skipping breakfast you are also making it harder to get all the nutrients your body needs throughout the day, like water soluble vitamins that only stay in your system for a few hours, and fiber. Ever tried to get all the fiber you need in one or two meals? Not a good idea.
For those who want to start the day off right and eat breakfast, things can still go wrong if they choose unwisely. Selecting foods that are high in starch or sugar is a bad idea for several reasons. First, these foods don’t fill us up, so we tend to eat more. That leads to far too many calories. A serving size for some cereals for my family is more like 2 or 3 bowls, not the 1/2 cup listed on the label. That is a lot of extra calories just to get full.
Secondly, these foods tend to quickly raise blood sugar levels. When this happens, insulin is pumped into the blood stream. Insulin’s job is to get nutrients, especially sugar, into cells where it can be used. If the cells don’t need it, this extra sugar is easily converted to fat.
Perhaps the biggest problem with eating a sugary, white flour breakfast is that when the insulin has done its job, blood sugar levels drop and we feel hungry again even though we just ate a little while ago. Low blood sugar not only makes us feel lethargic, it leads to cravings for you guessed it – more sugar. So we eat more sugary, fatty snacks in between meals. This not only increases calories, it raises blood sugar levels and we start the process all over again.
Another issue with some so called breakfast foods is that they are nutritionally poor, despite what food manufacturers want you to think. These foods are nothing but sugar, white flour (which acts a lot like sugar when you digest it) and a portion of a ground up vitamin pill.
Just because someone puts vitamins in something doesn’t make the food good for you. If you make foods from nutritious ingredients in the first place, they don’t need to be “enriched” with anything. This goes for drinks, toaster pastries, cereals, breads, everything! The same goes for the addition of “whole grain.” Why would you have to add something that should be in there in the first place?
These foods are also nutritionally poor because they don’t contain anything from plants. White flour doesn’t count anymore because they have stripped the wheat from its protein, fiber and 90% of the nutrients it originally had, and left it as nothing more than starch. Plants like fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain thousands of chemicals that repair cell damage, fight cancer, and neutralize free radicals. Wow!
What should I eat?
So next time you start the day with a pastry and an artificially flavored fruit drink, DON’T. Choose foods that fill you up the first time, don’t mess with your blood sugar, and don’t need to be “enriched.” Choose foods with naturally occurring fiber, whole grain and protein. Foods like bananas, a wheat or whole grain cereal (like Raisin Bran, Mini Wheats, or a low fat granola), eggs, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Add a glass of 100% fruit juice for nutrients and to satisfy your sweet-tooth. You’ll eat fewer calories, eat fewer snacks, get better nutrition, and feel full until lunch.