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Breakfast: It’s Time to Make Time

Cheryl Forberg RD

A graduate of California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco, Cheryl has worked in top restaurants in France and San Francisco. She now has an urban farm in Napa, California.

“I don’t like cereal.”

“I’m allergic to eggs.”

“I’m not hungry when I wake up.”

“I don’t have time.”

There are plenty of reasons that people skip breakfast. But there are even more reasons why they shouldn’t.

Aside from increasing mental and physical performance, a breakfast of champions can help you to achieve and maintain optimal weight and energy levels. Furthermore, what you put in your mouth (or don’t) in the morning can also be indicative of your future health! Here’s how the first meal of the day can affect your lifelong health:

1. Energy. Who doesn’t want to have more energy? Whether you love working out, have an active lifestyle, or both, skipping breakfast can undermine your best efforts. Our bodies need fuel to power us through busy days and intense workouts. It all starts with breakfast. It’s no surprise that studies show that breakfast eaters have more endurance and strength than breakfast skippers.

2. Weight Control. Some people think that skipping meals, starting with breakfast, is a great way to lose weight. That’s simply not the case. Breakfast-skipping actually has the opposite effect. Holding off until noon for that first meal usually results in uber-hunger. This can lead to an out-of-control appetite when you do eat because you’re so famished. That can result in both eating too fast and consuming too many calories. It also contributes to distorted hunger signals (e.g., you can’t tell when you’re full). Believe it or not, smaller, more frequent meals can make weight control much more likely. And researchers now believe that eating breakfast may reduce hunger later in the day too. It may also be responsible for the tendency to choose less dense (lower-calorie) foods at later meals.

3. Brain power. A veggie omelette + whole grain toast = recipe for a productive morning? Yes, researchers believe that increased clarity and concentration are due in part to replenishing glucose, the brain’s main energy source. Sure, glucose is sugar, but it’s not quite that simple. It has something to do with a concept called the “glycemic index,” or GI. According to Dr. E. Leigh Gibson of Roehampton University in London, most studies suggest that quite a small amount—about 25 grams of carbohydrate (equivalent to a slice of whole grain toast with a tablespoon of sugar-free jam)—can improve performance, especially of memory. However, much more carbohydrate—especially if they’re high-GI foods (such as a cup of sugary cereal or a goopy cinnamon roll)—may actually impair memory. Her explanation for this is that “a high carb dose provokes a big increase in cortisol, which is a stress hormone. If one is doing a challenging task, an increase in cortisol is known to impair memory.” So the quality of your carbs is just as important as the quantity. Complex carbs such as whole grain breads or cereals play a key role in a healthy and balanced breakfast.

4. Blood sugar control. Regular meal timing, starting with breakfast, is important for even blood sugar and to balance the peaks and valleys of our blood sugar throughout the day. Not only does even blood sugar help prevent diabetes, it provides more energy and better long-term health (including decreased risk of heart disease).

Women Cooking eggs for breakfast

A breakfast of champions can help you to achieve and maintain optimal weight and energy levels.

While blood sugar levels are highly regulated, with only minor fluctuations, our food choices (and timing) definitely have an impact on this balance. Sugary drinks or high-GI (glycemic index—see note below) meals can cause more of a spike in blood sugar levels. According to Dr. Gibson, “If you fast all day, your blood sugar would only show a slight decrease over the course of the day. This is because of action of counter-regulatory hormones such as glucagon, cortisol and adrenaline, which can influence blood glucose production, storage and uptake. So one way to think of hunger is as a neuro-hormonal signal to the brain that the body is having to work at maintaining blood glucose. At the same time, outside of the brain, most tissues start to receive an increased supply of free fatty acids, as stored fat is broken down, which, unlike the brain, they can use for energy.”

“If you fast all day, your blood sugar would only show a slight decrease over the course of the day. This is because of action of counter-regulatory hormones such as glucagon, cortisol and adrenaline, which can influence blood glucose production, storage and uptake. So one way to think of hunger is as a neuro-hormonal signal to the brain that the body is having to work at maintaining blood glucose. At the same time, outside of the brain, most tissues start to receive an increased supply of free fatty acids, as stored fat is broken down, which, unlike the brain, they can use for energy.”

This is an elegant and complex system whose mysteries are still being unraveled. What we do know for sure is that blood sugar control is a very good thing.



Glycemic Index

Glycemic index (GI) tells you how rapidly a carbohydrate turns into glucose. This value doesn’t tell you, however, how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. The glycemic index has been studied to see if it can help control blood sugar for people with diabetes. Though many products have begun to tout their GI on food labels, there is some controversy about how these values are measured and interpreted.

GI Range

Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56 – 69
High GI = 70 or more

What’s more important is the Glycemic load (GL)—this tool uses the glycemic index and takes the amount of available carbohydrates into account. Available carbohydrates are those that provide energy, i.e., starch and sugar, but not fiber. The glycemic load measures the effect of the glycemic index of a food times its available carbohydrate content in grams in a standard serving. More information about these tools can be found at www.glycemicindex.com.

GL Range

Low GL = 10 or less
Medium GL = 11- 19
High GL = 20 or more

Breakfast:

Cornflakes

Serving Size: 1/2 c
Glycemic Index: 119
Glycemic load: 13

Banana

Serving Size: 1 medium
Glycemic Index: 77
Glycemic Load: 19

Doughnut, cake

Serving Size: 4 in
Glycemic Index: 76
Glycemic Load: 26

Plain bagel

Serving Size: 3 oz; 1 med
Glycemic Index: 72
Glycemic Load: 36

Sugar

Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Glycemic Index: 68
Glycemic Load: 9

Pineapple, diced

Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Glycemic Index: 66
Glycemic Load: 6

Raisins

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Glycemic Index: 64
Glycemic Load: 10

Honey

Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Glycemic Index: 55
Glycemic Load: 9

Apple with peel

Serving Size: 1 medium
Glycemic Index: 54
Glycemic Load: 9

Orange

Serving Size: 1 medium
Glycemic Index: 42
Glycemic Load: 6

Orange Juice

Serving Size: 4 oz.
Glycemic Index: 53
Glycemic Load: 6

Fat-free Milk

Serving Size: 1 cup
Glycemic Index: 32
Glycemic Load: 4


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  • E.Korenic

    ………………fruit is the key to starting out the day on a positive note

  • john Rutter

    i belive breakfast is the most important meal of th day