This month I have been researching breakfasts. Despite what we have all been told, breakfast might not be for everyone; it seems some people are actually better off not eating it, and skipping breakfast might well be better for you than eating an unhealthy breakfast (for example cereal laden with sugar). For children, breakfast is always a good idea but sugar-laden cereals are ‘never’ a good idea. So what should we eat for breakfast? And what should we avoid?
From both my own experience and all the reading I have done this week the best breakfast food of all seems to be eggs. Eating protein at breakfast makes sense, as protein takes longer to digest and so keeps us feeling fuller for longer which means less snacking. As well as being an excellent source of protein, eggs contain antioxidants that are good for our eye health, choline, which is good for brain health, and though they do contain cholesterol, it’s not the ‘bad’ type and eggs are actually protective of our heart, according to recent studies.
Number two on the best things to eat for breakfast list is porridge. Oats make a good breakfast for many reasons, one being that they are rich in beta-glucan fiber, which lowers cholesterol and boosts the immune system. They also contains antioxidants, and you can buy several brands who grow oats in Ireland so are both a sustaining and a sustainable way to start your day. However for me porridge needs a lot added to it to make me feel full. I add a spoonful of coconut oil mixed in just before serving which boosts the healthy fat content and gives a lovely creamy taste; some chia seeds or ground flax or hemp seeds on top for extra fiber, and some blueberries (from the freezer is fine) for a bit of colour. Or if you are bored of porridge try oat bread — we make one in Organico now and you can buy Loughbeg Farm oatbread (which inspired us!) in many shops around West Cork.
Greek Yoghurt is another filling and healthy breakfast. Greek yoghurt is made by straining full fat live yoghurt to allow the whey to run off, which concentrates the protein and healthy fats which again leads to reduced feelings of hunger, and may aid with weight loss. Look for a ‘live’ and organic Greek yoghurt for the beneficial probiotics. For a healthy quick breakfast add berries, chia seeds, or chopped fruit to increase the fibre content.
Chia seeds are another option for a healthy breakfast. Chia seeds are extremely nutritious and are one of the best sources of fiber around. What’s more, a portion of the fiber in chia seeds is viscous, which absorbs water, increasing the volume of food moving through your digestive tract and helping you to feel full and satisfied. In a small study, people with diabetes who ate chia seeds for 12 weeks experienced reduced hunger, along with improvements in blood sugar and blood pressure. Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants, which protect your cells from unstable molecules called free radicals that are produced during metabolism. You can add chia seeds to porridge, granola, muesli, or you can make a chia seed pudding and eat it for breakfast! If you want inspiration look up our blog (put chia seed pudding organico into google and it will come up). We serve these little puddings in Organico Cafe both as deserts and as part of our breakfast menu.
As you probably know, Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. Green tea provides only 35–70 mg of caffeine per cup, which is about half the amount in coffee and it may be especially helpful against diabetes as well as being calming. A review of 17 studies found that green tea drinkers had reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. It also contains an amino acid called Theanine, which has a calming effect on our nervous system. If you want to start your day with a cup of good quality green tea why not try one of the loose green teas we stock in Organico — loose teas are always a much higher quality than tea bags. We also carry strainers if you need one.
Another very popular and healthy breakfast is a protein based green smoothie; if you have a blender sitting on your counter top like I do, then you have no excuse really! Green smoothies are a fantastic way of getting extra veggies into your day — if you want a recipe simply type ‘green smoothie organico’ into Google and our recipe should come up.
Finally, here are some foods which research says are best avoided in the morning. Top of the list would go nearly anything calling itself a breakfast ‘cereal’. On healthfood shop shelves you will find healthy cereals, but I would avoid all the major brands as you might as well be eating a bowlful of sugar.
Another common breakfast choice is fruit juice, but more and more we are coming to realise that fruit juice is best reserved for a treat. Without the fibre in the fruit, the juice just makes your blood sugar levels shoot up and which can leave you feeling shaky and hungry not long afterwards.
Pastries, especially those made for convenience shops, are also best avoided if you are watching your weight or your health. High in harmful fats and high in sugar, but low in protein, these ‘foods’ contain no nutrition and will make you feel hungry very soon after you eat them.
And finally, avoid low fat sweetened yogurts and granola bars. Non-fat sweetened yogurt is very high in sugar, and may contain more of it than ice cream. It also lacks the natural dairy fat that contains all the vitamin D and increases fullness. Granola bars usually contain several types of sugar that negatively affect blood sugar and insulin levels. They also lack protein and fiber.
A good breakfast has the potential to set you up for a day of great energy levels, stable blood sugar and control over your appetite and weight. On the other hand, making a poor choice at breakfast can leave you hungry and struggling to get through the rest of the day. It can also increase your risk of developing health problems in the future. If you’re going to eat breakfast, make it one that contains protein, healthy fat and fibre from unprocessed, whole foods. Have a good day folks!