Whether you love it or can't stomach it; put thought into it or just gulp it down without thinking about it, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We've heard that said many times before, but the simple truth is that it's true. A healthy, sustainable & nutritious breakfast can turn your life around. It will set you up for the day in a way nothing else can. It will replenish energy, nutrients, and hydration, boost your immune system, improve your concentration and focus as well as reducing your risk of several serious health conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, brain degeneration and more. So, will a couple of slices of white toast and jam be enough? The answer is most definitely, no.
Skipping breakfast typically gets your body off to a bad start. You can expect to feel a bit fuzzy-headed, forgetful, and lack the ability to fully concentrate. It can also set you up for a terrible case of the munchies later in the day. People who skip breakfast are much more likely to make poor quality food choices, generally choosing foods with high refined carbohydrates and very little nutritional goodness. Skipping breakfast means you are denying your body essential nutrients.
In recent years, intermittent fasting has become quite trendy. When this is done consciously and with nutritional consideration into the food hours of the day, it can provide benefit by resting the digestive system and supporting health outcomes, this is particularly true for post-menopausal women. For some people this restricted eating does work well, but it doesn’t suit everyone and it has to be done properly.
The best breakfast is one that combines a balance of low-GI carbohydrates, fibre and protein. This nutritious combination slowly releases energy throughout your body during the day, keeping you feeling full for longer, and keeping your brain switched on. Breakfast tastes are very individual but you can build your own breakfast with all the necessary elements in a way that suits your tastes, needs and time available in the morning. If you currently don't think you have enough time in the morning for breakfast, then make time! They are plenty of breakfast options which you can prepare on the weekend or the night before, so that you can save time in the mornings mid-week.
Start with a fibre-rich, low GI carbohydrate:
Oats - high in complex carbohydrate, low GI and packed with fibre, vitamins & minerals, oats are an excellent start to the day and a great base for various breakfast options.
Muesli - make your own muesli with whole oats and a mix of raw and unroasted seeds and nuts; add some coconut, puffed quinoa or millet and buckwheat groats too for texture and complex nutrition. Alternatively make your own bircher-style of muesli with oats and grated apple, spices and raw nuts and seeds. There are several recipes out there for both muesli and bircher-style muesli so search around. Look for ones that are low in sugar and honey. If you prefer a toasted style of muesli, you can often cut the quantities of oil and honey to a quarter or less and use some fresh apple juice instead.
Wholegrain sourdough or gluten-free bread - A slice of heavy, dense, sourdough wholegrain bread can make the base of a good breakfast. Check the ingredients on the label to make sure wholegrain flour is at the top of the list, instead of refined flour or 'wheat flour'. Multigrain bread doesn't necessarily use whole grains, and some 'brown bread' is really just white bread with some brown food colouring. As a general rule, the more grains you can visually see, the denser and heavier the loaf, then the better the quality of whole grains used. There are some great gluten-free bread options now too. Again choose a heavy loaf with lots of seeds for optimal nutrition.
Cereal - if you do decide to go for a commercially made cereal, then look for one that is high in fibre and low in sugar. These can be harder to find than you may realise.
Roasted vegetables – a baked kumara or piece of roast pumpkin can serve as a great basis for a breakfast salad. A fibre-rich, low GI carbohydrate doesn’t have to be grain-based. Beans like kidney beans or black beans, as well as lentils also fit this category well.
Add a source of protein:
Eggs - one of nature's super foods. Eggs are loaded with vitamins and minerals, good fatty acids and most importantly, lots of protein. The body absorbs the proteins from eggs more easily than other protein sources, so starting your day with eggs gets you off to a great start.
Unsweetened acidophilus or Greek yoghurt - this is an excellent protein source with quality probiotic cultures and nutrients. If you need a little sweetness, add 1 tsp of honey or fresh fruit, rather than adding sugar. Many sweetened yoghurts available at the supermarket have lots of sugar added to them.
Smoked salmon - naturally high in quality omega-3 fatty acids, smoked salmon feeds the brain with high quality protein and fats. Omega-3 has been shown to boost memory and mood, reducing depression and lowering your risk of mental illness and dementia.
Beans - kidney beans, black beans, cannellini, lima beans, chickpeas and so on are packed with fibre, nutrients and protein. Choose beans that are packed in brine, rather than tomato sauce as these can be very high in sugar and salt.
Cottage cheese or ricotta - high in protein & calcium, while being lower in fat than butter or margarine makes cottage cheese or ricotta a preferred option for a quality spread on whole grain toast.
Hummus - this delicious spread is super easy to make at home (and much cheaper!) The chickpeas are packed with fibre and protein, while tahini is a high source of calcium and good quality fatty acids. This is another good option to thickly spread on whole grain toast.
Throw in some raw nuts & seeds:
Mother Nature has provided us with a delicious variety of different nuts and seeds. When eaten raw and unroasted, these small morsels are packed with high quality nutrients, fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkling freshly ground linseeds, chia seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc onto your breakfast will give you a huge energy boost, as well as support hormonal balance and digestive health. Tip: be generous with your sprinkling! Think tablespoons, not teaspoons!
Top your breakfast off with some super foods:
Avocado - an ultimate superfood loaded with high quality nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and potassium. Avocado helps your body absorb other nutrients more effectively and has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer.
Blueberries - a delicious treat that punches above its weight when it comes to nutritional value and goodness. Blueberries are naturally high in a variety of nutrients including many antioxidants, some of which have been linked to slowing the aging process and protecting your brain from degenerative diseases. All berries are good sources of antioxidants but blueberries are one of the highest sources. When fresh is unavailable, frozen berries are a good option.
Greens – dark green leaves are superfoods! Naturally dense in complex nutrients, bitters to set up our taste buds, and digestive enzymes to break down our food effectively, a handful of greens is a great addition to your breakfast.
Tomatoes & Kiwifruit - both fruits are naturally high in vitamin C and packed with antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals that will get your day off to a great start.
For more information on how your diet can influence your everyday health, fertility, hormones and wellbeing, contact Wellington naturopath, Kimberly Taylor at her natural fertility and women's health clinic, Zest Natural Health.