A green veg and tofu scramble, a plate of avocado and salmon, or a coconut and almond shake are probably not your average weekday breakfasts. But, if you want to stay slim, energised and smart, these are what we should be eating. Research shows that eating breakfast can boost your metabolism, keep your blood sugar steady and give you energy throughout the day. One study showed that obesity and insulin resistance rates were 35-50 per cent lower among people who ate breakfast every day, compared to those who didn’t. But if you really want to experience the benefits of breakfast, you need to include the right fuel!
What’s wrong with your breakfast?
You might think your muesli and toast is a healthy option, but science suggests. For many of us, breakfast means cereal, toast, or maybe a quick cappuccino and pastry. But these could damage your health and expand your waistline. They’re high in carbohydrate and low in protein, highly processed and full of sugar. Many cereals are laden with so much sugar they might as well be sold alongside chocolate and cake. Crunchy nut cornflakes for instance is 33% sugar. We know eating too much sugar is bad for us. Excess sugar and carbohydrates are linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and other chronic conditions. A carbohydrate based breakfast can trigger a glucose hit followed by an energy slump. This explains why eating cereal or a pastry and juice for breakfast often leaves you feeling hungry and tired by 11am. And it’s not just sugar that disrupts!! Need a caffeine fix first thing? Then be aware that it disrupts your blood sugar in a similar way to eating refined carbohydrates. It also interferes with the absorption of key nutrients such as Iron and Calcium. So a coffee and muffin for breakfast may add up to a whopping 700 calories, but are unlikely to give you enough energy to get through the morning. Plus, for exercise lovers these kind of breakfasts are bad news: not only do they contain insufficient protein to support healthy muscle mass, they cause insulin levels to spike and start a cascade of biochemical reactions that switch on genes that lead to persistent inflammation. This can lead to more insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control, sapping your energy and making you more prone to weight gain.
What makes a healthy breakfast?
We’ve been conditioned to believe we should only eat certain types of foods in the morning. But ‘unconventional’ breakfast foods are often healthier and higher in protein, fibre and essential fats. Japanese breakfasts may include miso soup, fermented soy, eggs or grilled fish. While Scandinavians may include bread at breakfasts, they typically accompany it with meats, fish, cheese and vegetables, that are rich in nutrients and essential fatty acids. Other cultures eat fermented foods and drinks, such as kefir and yoghurt, that are beneficial to digestive health and immune function.
Nutritionists and health experts are experimenting with alternative breakfasts, shifting from cereals and carbs to protein such as lean meat or fish with plenty of alkalising vegetables. An example of which might be- a grapefruit followed by a green smoothie then scrambled eggs with veg- which would provide protein and carbs to aid exercise recovery and keep you energised till lunch.
Get your greens
It’s essential you eat protein at breakfast, to stoke your metabolism and burn calories, while controlling your appetite. Good choices include eggs, lean meat, fish, plain yoghurt, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds or protein powders. To accompany your protein, think vegetables, especially leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli which are packed with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals- an example would be an omelette with spinach. Vegetables are alkalising, which helps balance the acidity of protein foods. This is also important if you’re exercising hard, as it can counter the build up of lactic acid that leads to muscle soreness after a workout. Essential fats are also needed for optimal insulin function, healthy cell membranes and blood sugar control. A healthy breakfast option should therefore include healthy fat such as omega-3 essential fats – think wild salmon, mackerel, eggs, seeds and nuts. Also, include ingredients rich in monounsaturated fats, such as olives, olive oil, avocado and nuts.
Putting it together
Easy, healthy ways to start your day include: Salmon, eggs, lean meat and high quality sausages, with vegetables. You could cook an extra salmon fillet, chicken breast or hard boil some eggs in the evening ready for the morning. Drizzling over a little olive oil or some avocado oil is a great way to get in some healthy fat, or add coconut oil to a smoothie. Slices of avocado, cucumber, tomato and alfafa sprouts take no time to prepare,. or whizz up an alkalising protein shake.
Six brilliant breakfasts
Quick and hot: Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes – saute a couple of chopped tomatoes in a little coconut oil, then add a large handful of spinach leaves and two beaten eggs. Stir briefly to cook.
Breakfast to go: Alkalising protein shake – blend together a handful of kale or spinach leaves with chopped fresh or frozen pineapple, coconut water and scoop of protein powder.
Something sweet: Place frozen mixed berries is a baking dish. Grind up whole almonds in a food processor to form fine meal. Place in a bowl and pour over some melted coconut oil and a little apple juice. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the berries and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve with natural yoghurt.
Anti-inflammatory: Salmon and greens – prepare some smoked salmon, half an avocado with sprouted beans and a freshly pressed green juice (apple, kale, lemon, ginger and cucumber).
Hormone balance: Tofu Scramble – Crumble 125g firm tofu into a bowl. Saute half a red onion in a little coconut oil, then add some chopped red pepper, chopped tomato, and a pinch of turmeric. Stir in the tofu and season to taste. Serve with baby spinach leaves and a slice of rye brand.
Muscle builder: Blend a scoop of vanilla protein powder with an egg, coconut water and one teaspoon each of coconut oil and ground flaxseed, for a creamy high-protein shake.
Original article written by Christine Bailey for Health & Fitness Magazine