Saturday, May 17, 2014

The beauty of breakfast

Many commercial cereals are high in sugar
but oatmeal or natural muesli with natural
yoghurt and fresh fruit is filling and healthy
Do you eat breakfast regularly? If you do, chances are you are already taking good steps towards improving your health. If not, maybe its time to start!  I'll tell you why.

There is good evidence that people who don't eat breakfast regularly are more likely to be overweight or obese. In one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, data was analysed regarding eating patterns from 500 patients. Skipping breakfast was associated with a significantly higher risk of obesity. People who skipped breakfast 75% percent of days were 4.5 times more likely to be obese than those who regularly consumed breakfast. 

This is not an isolated finding, but why is it so? It is thought that people who skip breakfast tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal when their hunger kicks in or nibble on high calorie snacks to stave off hunger. In the study mentioned above it was found that people who skipped breakfast had an overall higher caloric intake for the rest of the day - they got hungry later, ate more to try and catch up and ended up gaining weight. I have been a patchy and reluctant breakfast eater most of my adult life and I'm sure this was one of the compounding factors in my obesity.

Grainy toast with eggs and vegetables, peanut butter and
banana or ricotta and strawberries is a great balanced meal
So, you may be asking yourself:  "if breakfast skippers eat more calories overall and I never have time for breakfast, can't I just keep on skipping breakfast and remember to eat less the rest of the day?"  Well, it seems its not that simple either. It actually does seem to make a difference when you eat, not just how much. In a study at Tel Aviv University published in the journal Obesity, 93 obese women were put on a dietary program for 12 weeks all consuming 1,400 calories per day. However, one group of women consumed most of their calories in a big breakfast with light meals after that, and the other group had most of their calories at dinner.  

Admittedly, the sample size is small, but the results are striking.  By the end of the study, participants in the "big breakfast" group had lost an average of 17.8 pounds each and three inches off their waist line, compared to a 7.3 pound and 1.4 inch loss for participants in the "big dinner" group. According to Prof. Jakubowicz, those in the big breakfast group were found to have significantly lower levels of the hunger-regulating hormone ghrelin, an indication that they were more satiated and had less desire for snacking later in the day than their counterparts in the big dinner group.

And if you're diabetic or pre-diabetic, breakfast is even more important than just for your waistline. A study at the University of Colorado showed that women who skipped breakfast had an impaired metabolic response to their lunch - with a higher glucose level, insulin spike and higher levels of insulin resistance than those who ate breakfast. Over time, skipping breakfast can make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, or worsen existing diabetic control.

My breakfast at a cafe this week - half the plate is vegetables
and fruit, with some low GI carbs (beans), protein (eggs) and
good fats (avocado). And it tasted great! 
So, have I convinced you yet?  It is certainly worth your time and effort to fit a nutritious breakfast  into your day. But what to eat?

My breakfast in Malaysia - vegetables, fruit, curry, eggs & rice
The way I see it, breakfast is like any other meal and should be made up of a balance of lots of fruit and vegetables, some lean protein, some  lowGI complex carbohydrates and some good fats. Most commercial breakfast cereals are laden with sugar (read more about that in this article) and heavily processed, so with the exception of natural muesli, oatmeal or rolled oats they are best avoided. Consider making your own muesli by adding fruits, nuts and seeds to a whole grain base (more information on how to do that here). Or topping grainy toast with fruits and vegetables. And eggs are a wonderful breakfast food to enjoy a few times a week. 

Also remember that most of the rest of the world eats food for breakfast that we in the west would not normally consider "breakfast food" - I had amazing meals of curries, soups , fish and fruits in Malaysia and Singapore for breakfast - think outside the square!

In case you are wondering if I follow my own advice, you'll be pleased to know I have seen the folly of my ways and now eat breakfast every single day and I'm sure it is part of my successful weight loss. Most days I eat a bowl of berries (fruit) with Greek yoghurt (protein) and top it with a handful of muesli (low GI carbs) with nuts and seeds (good fats). Some days I eat eggs (protein) with vegetables (spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms) and fruit (low GI) and maybe some avocado (good fat).  In hotels I tend to order an omelette with spinach, salad and salmon (see a pattern here?). But I always eat something. I may have to get up a few minutes earlier to make it happen, but its routine now and to be the honest, having to stop for 5 minutes to eat it mentally helps my day as well. I certainly can't do without it now!

Under the mixture of grains, fruits, nuts and
seeds is unsweetened yoghurt and a pile
of fresh berries. My usual start to the day!
I have heard people complain that they are just not hungry when they wake up. That certainly is the case for some people, and for most its just training yourself. This is a lifestyle change, remember? Get up, have a glass of water and start moving around to get your body awake and ready. It may be worth looking at how big your dinner is. Too big a dinner or eating too late the night before and you may wake up just not hungry. Make your dinner lighter, watch your alcohol intake and see if that helps. But you will be metabolically better off if you make that first meal of the day a proper nutritionally balanced one, whether you eat it at 6am or 11am.

No matter how busy you are, make the time for a nutritious breakfast. Your body will thank you for it. 

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

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