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Nutrition > Diets and dietary habits
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The health benefits of breakfast

Breakfast schmeckfast, some of you may say. If you're one of the many breakfast poopoo-ers out there, you probably repeat your reasons why you skip out on a morning meal. Do you say "I don't have time!" or "I'm just not hungry that early"? Two words in response to those two quite common excuses: wake up!

When you shake your head "no" to an AM nosh, you also send a negative message to your body. Here's what you're telling it:

  • Nah, I'd rather remain in a mental fog while my brain starves for energy it needs to raise my blood sugar levels that have dipped low while I slept.
  • No thanks, I'd rather my muscles continue sleeping even though I have to muscle through a full day of work and responsibilities.
  • I'll pass on the kind of nutrients that can help me deal with the day's stress.
  • Nope, I actually prefer a slow metabolism. Oh, and throw in some mean cravings for sugar that will send me to the snack machine by midmorning.

Your body needs breakfast, whether you want it or not. Think about it this way: You've been asleep for about 8 hours, during which your body has been on a fast. At the same time, your body has also kept quite busy. You may have been horizontal, but your body worked quietly and diligently to repair the damage you'd done to it earlier in the day, rebuilding tissue and storing away energy in your muscles for tomorrow.

By feeding your body after you've gotten out of bed, you will have more energy and be more alert and able to concentrate, solve problems, handle stressful moments, and to get the physical activity you need to stay fit.

You're also more likely to get your fill of the necessary vitamins and minerals for the day. Folks who eat healthy breakfasts regularly consume less fat and cholesterol on average. Breakfasters also tend to better control their weight and not give into bad-snack temptation. They also reduce their risk of developing insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes, and have lower cholesterol, which can reduce heart disease risk.

So, what are the components of this must-have meal? A healthy breakfast should provide you with plenty of protein, fibre, and just enough fat to keep you feeling full for a few hours.

To meet those needs, fill your breakfast plate (or bowl) with:

  • Lean protein: Protein provides that feeling of fullness that can sustain you until lunchtime without giving in to empty-calorie snacks or sugary sweets. You may think "meat" when you see the word protein, but you don't have to be a carnivore first thing in the morning if you don't want to. In addition to traditional but more fattening breakfast meats, like sausage and Canadian bacon, protein can be had in eggs and in low-fat dairy items like milk, nuts and seeds, and peanut butter.
  • Low-fat dairy: Even that half cup of low-fat milk poured over a bowl of granola will supply about 25% of your daily calcium. But don't let your mind stall out at "milk on my cereal" when pressed for dairy options! You could also melt a slice of your favourite low-fat cheese atop a whole grain bagel and crown it with an antioxidant-rich tomato wedge. Reduced-fat cottage cheese or yogurt makes great grab-and-go options, or you can boost their flavour with a handful of blueberries or sunflower seeds.
  • Whole grains: You could meet your whole grain quota with a bowl of oatmeal or cereal. Toast two slices of whole grain bread, roll an egg and a slice of low-fat cheese into a whole grain tortilla, or stuff a whole grain pita full of scrambled tofu. In a rush? Toss a few whole grain crackers and a few chunks of low-fat cheese into a baggie and go.
  • Fruits and/or vegetables: Fruits seem a more natural match to breakfast appetites - bananas chopped into cold cereal, berries atop yogurt, apples chunked into oatmeal for crunchy texture, a cold glass of orange or mango juice. But there's nothing out there saying you can't fill a pita with stir-fried or steamed veggies and call it breakfast!

A special note about eggs: Eggs developed a bad reputation because of their cholesterol content. But they are a super easy way to start your day off with a protein punch. What to do? As long as you limit the amount of cholesterol you get from other foods, one egg per day is fine. As part of an overall low-fat diet, some evidence suggests eggs eaten at breakfast may even support healthy weight loss because they fill you up and keep you full for the same number of calories as, say, a bagel. If you are still concerned about cholesterol, then use egg whites, which contain no cholesterol.





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