You’ve heard it a thousand times before but it’s true; breakfast is the most important meal of the day and needs to be wholesome and filling. Breakfast sets you up for the entire day, and can really affect your mood and productivity, so be sure put some time into preparing and eating it in a relaxed way, rather than rushing out the door with an unhealthy cereal bar in your mouth. You will enjoy the experience more this way and breakfast will become a regular meal. It’s vital for mental and physical health not just in times of stress but always.
Mindful eating: Taking some calming breaths before eating helps to digest a meal.
No refined sugar and less caffeine: A nutritious breakfast must be rich in nutrients and devoid of any refined or sugary foods. Refined sugar and caffeine may make you feel better temporarily, but your body soon ‘crashes’ from the high, leaving you exhausted or irritable. They can also deplete vital nutrients from your system. Skipping breakfast or just having a coffee or sugary pastry can lead to weight problems and irritability. When serotonin (the happy hormone) levels are low in the brain, cravings for carbohydrates such as cakes, sweets, chocolate and alcohol can result, as the body uses insulin to trigger serotonin release. Eliminate these sugary substances from your diet if you can over time or you may be faced with brain exhaustion, which will be a complete ‘crash down’. The sudden raised levels of blood sugar you get from eating refined carbohydrates also leads to sudden slumps, which may then lead to fatigue and poor concentration.
Don’t skip: Most people simply make up for a skipped meal by eating more at other meals and that can’t be good. Eating breakfast means you are more likely to get your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Skipping breakfast means you are less likely to make up the lost nutrients at other meals of the day, plus you have a greater tendency to fill up on nutrient-poor sweet or savoury snacks, leaving fruit and vegetables out of the picture. Breakfast positively affects cognitive function and academic performance. It not only contributes to physical health, but it also supports emotional stability and mental alertness. Breakfast also helps promote regular meal patterns and consistent energy intake. Skipping meals rarely helps with weight loss. Breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal – usually because people say they’re too busy in the morning or they’re just not hungry. A simple remedy is to have something quick and light but satisfying. If you just can’t face food first thing in the morning, try easing into it. Sip on a homemade green smoothie throughout the morning or have your oat porridge, natural yoghurt or egg first, then eat your fruit an hour or so later. A nutritious breakfast is important for everyone, no matter their age, but it is especially critical for children and teenagers.
The first two decades of life are ones of remarkable growth and change, and proper nutrition is essential to fuel this transformation from child to adult.
The breakfast of champions: The ideal breakfast should have lots of fibre and whole grains, some protein and healthy fat, and as little added sugar as possible – in other words, a good balance of healthy carbohydrates, protein and essential fats. Keep your breakfast choices simple so you don’t need to worry or stress about it. Here are two breakfast foods that will keep you focused and fuelled with sustainable energy throughout the day: eggs and oats.
Egg It: Eggs contain important brain fats called phospholipids. Phospholipids enhance your mood, mind and mental performance. There’s no evidence that eating eggs promotes high blood-cholesterol levels or increases the risk of heart disease. Personally, I prefer boiling, poaching or scrambling eggs or making an omelette. My favourite is mashing peeled boiled eggs with ripe avocado, chives and olive oil and served with spelt toast. I call it the ‘Eggcado’ which is very popular at Select Stores. (Avoid frying eggs- this requires oils to reach high temperatures, turning them into trans fats, which are not good for heart health.) Eggs can help to build muscles and they are rich in protein, cholesterol and vitamins A, D and E. Yolks are rich in vitamin D so eat the whole egg to get the whole nutritional package. Organic and free-range chickens spend more time outdoors than any other chickens on the market, and this outdoor sun exposure boosts the vitamin D content of their eggs, making them the best choice for both nutrition and sustainability.
Oat Up: Oats are economical, versatile and nutritious. I prefer preparing hot porridge with natural yoghurt and fresh berries. Or soaking oats overnight in apple juice and natural yoghurt to create a bircher muesli topped with flaxseed and banana. Or even baking oats in the oven the day before with nuts and seeds and maple syrup to make a scrumptious granola with chia seeds. Oats stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent sugar crashes, as they are full of slow-releasing carbohydrates that give you plenty of energy until lunchtime. They contain a lot of soluble fibre that is rich in beta-glucans. This particular type of fibre has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and help prevent high blood pressure. Oats are also rich in the minerals calcium and magnesium, which, as well as strengthening bones, are very important for nerve function, and contain a reasonable amount of B vitamins, which again are very good for your nerves and emotional well-being. Oats improve circulation and prevent inflammation through an abundance of antioxidants. They boost the immune system to eliminate bad bacteria and fight disease. Oats are also a good source of selenium, manganese and zinc – three minerals that support your body’s antioxidant and immune defenses. These minerals also help absorb and process omega-3 fats in the body properly.
Do yourself a favour; get up fifteen minutes earlier tomorrow to enjoy the whole early morning experience of the best meal of the day and you’ll be glad you did. In no time it will become a stress-free daily ritual, for which the benefits are tenfold.