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Sunday, July 27, 2014
The Seven Best Foods to Have for Breakfast
When you wake in the morning your blood sugar levels are low and this leads to a lethargic feeling, mental confusion and irritability. We reach for quick fixes such as caffeine to feel more alert and sugary foods to sweeten our mood. Many people skip breakfast altogether, because they are running late or think it will help them lose weight. A reduced appetite first thing in the morning also causes many people to incorrectly believe their body doesn’t need any food. However, studies have shown that missing this key meal actually leads to increased eating during the day, poorer food choices later on and increased likelihood of weight gain and obesity.
Breakfast cereal manufacturers would like you to believe sugar-laden chocolate-coated cereals are the best way for you, or your kids, to start the day. Meanwhile fast-food chains are actively trying to increase their share in the breakfast market with cleverly promoted but unhealthy breakfast options.
Skipping breakfast or making poor food choices cause crashes in energy, reduced mental performance, low mood and slow down metabolism leading to weight gain. Choosing the wrong foods for breakfast can drastically impact how you feel mentally, physically and even emotionally for the rest of the day.
What makes a good breakfast?
Breakfast has to fill many roles, including: meeting our nutritional needs; providing energy; tasting good and ideally quick to prepare! Food high in refined carbohydrates, like processed cereals or pancakes, will give an immediate hit of energy but this quickly fades as blood sugar levels drop. This is due to the insulin released to cope with the sugar influx (which will also make you hungrier later in the day and promote fat storage). Caffeine has a similar effect with an energy rush, followed by a drop as it also affects blood sugar. Low blood sugar levels impede your concentration and mood dramatically and lead to impulsive food choices, made worse by the limited healthy options found in offices and coffee shops.
A good breakfast should include a balance of foods which provide energy, nutrients, protein, fiber and fat to get you going for the day. Below are some ideal breakfast choices which can be combined to make tasty meals which keep you feeling full and focused for the day ahead.
1) Green Smoothies
One of the quickest and easiest breakfasts to make, just chuck a few ingredients in a blender, and they are extremely nutritious. Smoothies are mixtures of different fruits and vegetables blended with a liquid to produce a thick drink. There are endless possible combinations, and a simple and tasty way to incorporate more raw fruit and vegetables into your diet. Making a smoothie is different to juicing;the smoothie retains the fibrous parts of the plants, which means you are kept fuller for longer.
The choice of ingredients depends on personal preference but a mixture of: green leaves(for essential nutrients); ripe fruit (for texture, taste, energy and nutrients); and a liquid (for consistency) is ideal. Extra goodies such as seeds, super-foods and oats can also be added to add variation and increase nutritional content. Another alternative is to make the texture thicker, by adding less liquid, and serve in a bowl, topped with yoghurt, berries, seeds and more. Packed full of nutrition, easy to prepare and with endless variations possible, green smoothies are an excellent way to start the day.
2) Steel Cut Oats
Breakfast cereals are a traditional way to begin the day in many countries and they can be a healthy way to consume carbohydrates, fiber, and nutrients. However, there is a vast difference between traditional wholesome wholegrain cereals, and modern sugar crammed boxes of fortified-flakes which come with a free toy!
Oats are an old-world cereal crop and the oat itself is actually a seed. After harvesting the outer husk is removed and the oat is cut into small pieces. Cutting the oat means it will cook quicker without increasing sugar content – unlike rolled oats which have a higher glycemic index (GI) due to sugars released in the steam-rolling process. Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oats, are the key ingredient in traditional porridge and oatcakes.
Oats contain a form of soluble fiber which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates (keeping blood sugar levels steady) and reduces cholesterol. They also contain significant amounts of magnesium which has been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.Porridge is made by simply cooking up oats with water or milk (to create a thicker texture). Adding nuts, fruit, yoghurt and a natural sweetener such as honey can elevate this popular dish which warms up winter mornings.
3) Sprouted Grain Bread
This is bread made from grains which have been allowed to germinate, or sprout. Combinations of wheat and other grains (millet, oat, barley etc.) are kept in a warm wet environment until they have started to grow. Once sprouted they are dried, ground into flour and made into bread.
There are numerous health benefits associated with sprouting, using a living grain to make your bread. Sprouted bread contains: less gluten; more protein; a lot less fat; less carbohydrate than either brown or white bread. The reduced carbohydrate content makes the bread lower GI than normal breads and the sprouting process starts to breakdown the grain releasing key nutrients and making it easier to digest. A reduction in phytic acid, normally found in bread, also increases the amount of vitamins you are able to absorb. Warmed or toasted this bread can add high quality nutrients, taste and texture to your breakfast.
4) Greek yoghurt
Yoghurt is full of protein and healthy bacteria making it an ideal breakfast choice. Greek yoghurt is strained, or sieved, to remove liquid which gives it a thicker creamier texture and removes almost half the sugar. The high protein content helps you feel full for longer and the creamy taste of indulgence satisfies emotional needs for luxurious food. Since the straining process also removes lactose, people with mild intolerance often find Greek yoghurt unproblematic. Mixed with fruit and topping with nuts provides a balanced and tasty way to start the day with only minimal preparation required.
5) Quinoa porridge
The Inca considered this quinoa seed sacred, and due to its alkaline nature it has been quickly increasing in popularity with health conscious consumers. It is gluten free and high in protein including many essential amino acids – the high protein content means it will keep you feeling full for several hours and the low GI means you won’t get an energy crash after eating it. It contains riboflavin which support brain function and saponins which lower cholesterol and protect against various cancers.
Simply boil the quinoa in some water then add a few ingredients for taste. Fresh fruit, sweet spices, nut or coconut milks all add extra goodness and flavor to this versatile food.
A classic breakfast food, fruit is easy to digest, provides quick energy and loads of key nutrients and anti-oxidants. Known to protect us from cancers and other diseases fruit is naturally sweet, tasty and full of goodness. Drinking fruit juice is NOT the same as eating fruit. Without the plant fibers the GI of fruit juice is quite high, and can lead to an energy dip a short time after drinking it.
Combining fresh fruit with a protein and fat (for example a fruit salad with yoghurt and seeds) will keep you feeling satisfied and energized for longer. Fruit is also a very convenient snack food and can be eaten on the run. Keeping a selection of fruit with you, or at your workplace, can also prevent emergency eating if your energy levels drop.
7) Nut and rice milks
Alternatives to cow’s milk are becoming more popular due to increases in lactose intolerance, concerns about antibiotics and hormones fed to cows and the negative effects of pasteurization and homogenization. Nut and rice milks are also highly nutritious and some, like hazelnut, are naturally sweet.
Nuts and seeds are naturally high in Omega-3 fats, which are good for your mood and brain function. When made into milks, by first soaking then grinding and adding liquid, they keep these beneficial fats. Almond milk, for example, has less calories than cow’s milk, has no saturated fat and contains high amounts of vitamin B12 and minerals such as zinc. When choosing nut milks, be aware of additives such as sweeteners and thickeners, it can be cheaper and healthier to make your own at home.
Planning your breakfast
Planning is crucial for a successful breakfast, without planning the low blood sugar we experience first thing in the morning leads to bad decisions which satisfying emotional cravings rather than fueling our body. Personal investigation is needed to determine which foods make you, and your body,feel happy and energized. Choosing foods which provide energy, nutrients and you genuinely enjoy eating makes healthier choices much easier to stick to. Why not take some time to figure out how best to start your day.