Breaking the fast
This article was originally published in September 2016
By Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator
A good breakfast can help us stay focused and energized throughout the morning and help us to eat healthier throughout the day. Eating breakfast improves memory, cognition and kids’ performance in school. And new research in the field of happiness finds that regular breakfast eaters report being happier than those who skip breakfast.
When we wake up in the morning, our bodies are in a fasting state and our blood sugar is at its lowest level of the day. What we eat for breakfast sets up our metabolism for the entire day, impacting our blood sugar, hormone levels and appetite.
Breakfast carbohydrates lift our blood sugar back to normal levels; fiber and protein help stabilize blood sugar throughout the morning. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and sugar prevents our blood sugar from rising too high. Like Goldilocks, we want to get it “just right” to set us up for the day.
Choosing healthy breakfast foods
Many iconic breakfast foods are endorsed in the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), including oatmeal, yogurt, coffee and even eggs.
All oats are whole grains, even quick-cooking and instant oats. Fiber is a “nutrient of concern” that we all need to eat more of (according to the DGA) so eating more whole grains helps meet this common nutritional deficiency.
TIPS: Overnight soaking reduces cooking time; mixing with other grains (buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth) adds nutritional variety. Try our recipes for overnight oatmeal.
Cut back on added sugars by choosing plain yogurt and sweeten as desired with fruit, honey, maple syrup or jam. Flavored yogurts can contain up to 6 teaspoons of added sugar.
TIPS: Greek yogurts have twice as much protein and calcium; look for yogurts with “live active cultures” to ensure you are getting a good dose of probiotics.
Regular coffee consumption helps prevent diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic diseases.
TIPS: Avoid drinking on an empty stomach, as caffeine stimulates the digestive system; try cold brew coffee for a smoother-tasting, low-acid option.
According to the new DGA, “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” so enjoy that omelet or scramble, and don’t throw away the yolk.
TIPS: Select pasture-raised eggs for the best nutritional profile. They have more vitamins A, D, E, and omega-3 fats.