Health Benefits of Eating Breakfast
By Sayuri Barritt, RD, 11/11/22
Breakfast is super important for you!
Many people tend to skip breakfast for various reasons including:
no appetite upon awakening
lack of time in the morning
practicing intermittent fasting
Regardless of the various conflicting research out there, this is always true: eating food requires energy for digestion and absorption, known as the thermic effect of food. This thermic effect burns calories and therefore affects your metabolism, especially when the breakfast provides adequate protein and other key micronutrients such as B vitamins and fiber.
How does breakfast benefit your health and weight loss journey?
Eating breakfast itself does not necessarily leads to weight loss, but eating a healthy breakfast sets the stage for your eating behaviors the rest of the day in a positive way.
Here are some of the reasons:
Your blood sugar level is very low in the morning after overnight fasting. Skipping breakfast can leave you feeling hungry until lunch time, which can result in undesired food choices and excess calorie intake later in the day. By eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast regularly, it helps you start your morning feeling energized and active, which in turn increases your metabolism.
Eating a balanced breakfast with plenty of protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates can keep you full longer, preventing excess calorie intake. Also, it provides the body with key nutrients that support metabolism including carbohydrates, B vitamins, and magnesium.
Approximately two thirds of the glucose from food is used by your brain for vital functions, including cognition, learning, focus, and memory. Thus, adequate carb (glucose) intake from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables at breakfast is the key to successfully starting your day at work, school, or play.
What are ideal foods to include at breakfast for increased metabolism?
As mentioned above, your blood sugar is very low in the morning. When you eat foods that are high in sugar such as sugary pastries, you may experience rapid blood sugar spikes. This triggers your pancreas to excessively secrete the hormone, insulin, to reduce the elevated blood sugar level. This leads to blood sugar rollercoasters throughout the day, which spur you to eat more sugary foods in an attempt to stabilize your blood sugar.
So, which breakfast food options are the best healthiest choice?
Here are some options to consider:
Select "brown" grain products over "white" alternatives - grain products made with whole grains such as oats, whole wheat bread, and brown rice contain energy-boosting nutrients including B vitamins and magnesium.
Pair carbohydrates with protein and/or healthy fats - carbohydrate-rich foods increase your blood sugar level the most. By eating them together with protein or healthy fats, it slows the absorption of glucose (from carbohydrates) into the blood stream, keeping your blood sugar steady without you experiencing the blood sugar ups and downs (rollercoasters).
Be sure to include more protein - protein has the highest TEF, known as thermic effect of food. The body burns more calories digesting and absorbing protein than carbohydrates and fats. Therefore, the more protein you eat (VS carbs and fats), the more calories you burn. Aim for 15-20g protein per meal, so it helps regulate your appetite and promotes muscle mass/ building.
How can you build a healthy balanced breakfast?
To build a healthy breakfast, it is important to think about nutritional balance. By incorporating the three macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) into every breakfast, it will help regulate your appetite, energy level, and mood throughout the day.
You can create a healthy breakfast using the following common, healthy ingredients:
Carbs: whole wheat bread, oats, fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes
Protein: eggs, chicken, plain Greek yogurt, various milks, protein powders, beans, legumes
Fats: avocado, plant oils, nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butter,
Spices: cinnamon, basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, cumin, paprika, and chili peppers
Here are seven health-promoting breakfast ideas!
Are you interested in eating breakfast now? If so, we would like to challenge you to eating a healthy breakfast regularly. You can eat your own go-to breakfast, or try any of the suggested meals below. **If you notice any positive health results from this challenge, please share them in the comments section below.
Steel Cut Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Berries: cook a 1/2 cup of dry oats, serve in a bowl, top with a 1/2 cup berries, 1 tbsp of flaxseeds, and 1 cup of low-fat (or unsweetened plant-based) milk. Sprinkle on some cinnamon and a tsp of honey.
Colorful Veggie Toast: spread 1 tbsp hummus and tzatziki sauce on whole wheat toast, top with spinach, sliced tomatoes and avocado. Optional: add a fried egg on top.
Plain Greek Yogurt Parfait: layer the following ingredients in a glass - plain Greek yogurt --> high-fiber cereal --> blueberries and banana --> chia seeds --> repeat.
Lox and Avocado on English Muffin: spread 1 tbsp cream cheese on 1/2 of a whole wheat English muffin, topped with sliced tomatoes, avocado, and lox. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice.
Veggie Hash with Chicken Sausage: grate zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, and your other favorite vegetables. Sautee a 1/2 cup of ground chicken sausage and 1 cup of vegetables in a hot pan until well cooked. Season with garlic powder, sage, salt, and black pepper. Optional: top with a fried egg for additional protein.
High Protein Pumpkin Pancakes: mix a 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup of oats, 1/2 cup of plant-based milk, and 2 egg whites in a bowl. Add a 1/2 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of cinnamon, and 1 tsp of vanilla essence.
Pre-Made Veggie Egg Bites: Mix eggs, chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, spinach, and mozzarella cheese into a bowl. Season with basil, oregano, salt and black pepper. Pour the mix into a muffin pan and bake until cooked. Enjoy them with whole wheat toast or tortilla(s).
Let us know how the breakfast challenge goes. Please share your favorite, go-to breakfast ideas in the comment section below!