While there are many competing opinions about what should make up a healthy breakfast, most experts agree that a well-balanced breakfast is a positive way to jumpstart the body and mind to carry us through the many tasks we’ll face in a day.
Most would agree, also, that certain things should be avoided. Unfortunately, the truth is that many of the most common breakfast foods are teeming with them.
Starting the day with a lot of sugar can set up the brain and body to crash later in the morning, which could trigger a chain of similar reactions all day long. We’re not just talking about the sugar people may sprinkle on cereal or pour into coffee.
Highly processed foods tend to also be higher in sugar, and metabolized more quickly by the body. The sugar in these foods is sometimes disguised by many different names. This article from the Harvard School of Public Health includes a helpful list of different names for sugar.
A 2005 study in Physiology & Behavior showed that school children who ate oatmeal for breakfast, compared to those who ate “ready to eat” cereal or no breakfast at all, performed better on cognitive tasks – particularly showing enhanced spatial memory and short-term memory. Researchers credited this to the higher fiber and protein content; and to oatmeal being a slower and more sustained energy source.
Constantly eating too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which is a cause of diabetes. This can leave you feeling fatigued, hungrier, foggy brain, and can lead to high blood pressure. As well, a February 2014 study published in Internal Medicine found a significant relationship between added sugar and an increased risk of dying of cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Chemical additives and preservatives
Packaged foods that are designed to have a long shelf life, get that way with the addition of chemicals to keep them from spoiling, and to make them easier to manufacture and distribute, or even to attract children with pretty colors. Yet if they do all that, what are they doing inside our bodies?
One group of researchers studied the growing trend in Brazil of households moving away from consuming mainly whole, unprocessed foods, to consuming mainly “ultra-processed” foods. Their concern is not only the health effects of the processed foods, but how these foods displace the healthier options and negatively impact overall eating behaviors.
To keep oil from spoiling, food manufacturers discovered they could add hydrogen to vegetable oil. Unfortunately, this makes the oil more difficult to digest, and increases the bad type of LDL cholesterol in your body, with disastrous effects. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the people who ate the most trans-fats had a 25% higher mortality rate from all causes.
In their spotlight on trans-fats, Harvard School of Public Health present a history of their use, the research into their harmful effects, and a review of the positive steps that have been taken to label and ban them.
To lower your trans-fat intake, their experts suggest that unless they are labeled as trans-fat-free, you should assume that all commercially prepared baked foods (including breads, pastries and other breakfast foods), snack foods, processed foods, fast foods, and deep-fried foods do contain trans-fats, and avoid eating these.
The secret to fueling your body for a good run out of the starting gate each morning is to make your breakfast using whole food ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible. If you can, choose certified organic products or buy from local producers who can tell you about their farming and/or production practices.
The food aisles are complicated, and many billions of dollars are spent every year trying to convince us that the products on the shelves are natural, wholesome, healthy and delicious, but not all are really what they portray themselves to be, so buyer beware!
Be a smart consumer and stand up for your health. Choose the whole truth and whole foods. Start with breakfast and then gradually change over your whole diet. Imagine how your body will thank you! Here is a healthy breakfast idea from Rockwell Nutrition to help get you started:
¼ cup / 2 oz raspberries
½ cup / 4 oz blueberries
½ cup plain whole milk or 2% milkfat yogurt (or dairy alternative)
1 tsp of local, raw honey (optional)
- Place about half the raspberries and half the blueberries with honey in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Mix in 1/3 teaspoon of HLC High Potency Probiotic by Pharmax for good intestinal health.
- Divide the remaining raspberries and blueberries between two bowls and spoon the fruit puree over the top.
- Add a large spoonful of yogurt to each bowl.
Tip: any leftovers can be eaten later as a snack or made into a smoothie or Yogurt Pop (can use frozen berries if fresh are not in season).