Let’s talk breakfast. Do you partake? Do you grab a protein bar and eat it in the car on the way to work while you put your mascara on in the rearview mirror? Do you drink your breakfast “latte-style” from the Starbucks en route to your way-too-early morning meetings? Or do you skip it entirely?
If I could impart just one piece of advice (besides sleep more, stress less!), it would be to eat a balanced breakfast. And I don’t mean scarf down a balanced breakfast in five minutes. I mean really take time for it – breathe, sit and enjoy, chew thoroughly, digest, and then get on with your day.
We hear it all the time: breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah-di-blah-blah. It’s also the most rushed time of the day, and the easiest meal to skip. But hear me out – it really is important and has so many benefits for our blood sugar, brain, and even weight. It is worth getting up half an hour earlier to make time for!
The Effect of Breakfast on Blood Sugar Regulation
Ever feel shaky in the morning when you delay breakfast for too long? That’s your body saying “Feed me! My cells need energy!” You’ve been fasting all night and when you wake up, your fuel tank is on low. Eating breakfast not only fills your tank, but it keeps your blood sugar more stable throughout the day. And having an even keel blood sugar level may help with weight loss and prevent conditions such as diabetes.
Eating breakfast can also set you up for more nutritious eating habits throughout the rest of the day. What happens when you’ve gone too long without satisfying your hunger? You get hangry (hungry+angry)! That’s when cravings set in – the body is looking for a quick source of fuel, something to get the blood sugar back up. The body knows it can get that quick rise in blood sugar from a candy bar because candy and other sources of refined sugars break down quickly in the bloodstream. To learn more about the importance of stable blood sugar, check out this blog post.
Eating breakfast has a “second-meal effect,” meaning that eating breakfast helps the body to better respond to the rise in postprandial blood glucose (increase in blood sugar after eating) for subsequent meals (1). Say what? In other words, when you eat breakfast, it primes your body to maintain more stable blood sugar levels after you eat the meal that follows it (also known as lunch!). Pretty cool, huh?
How about eating breakfast for more energy? I don’t know about you, but if I don’t eat breakfast right after waking up, I become shaky and cannot function. Food is energy – eating causes a temporary rise in blood sugar, and sugar is needed by the body’s cells for energy.
The Effect of Breakfast on Memory and Cognition
Eating breakfast helps your brain! Research shows that breakfast may help improve attention, memory, learning, reasoning, and the rate at which we process information (2). The brain needs glucose to function. And moderate increases in blood glucose can improve learning and memory.
In a study at Tufts University, middle school children were assessed via various cognitive tasks after three conditions: after eating oatmeal for breakfast, after eating ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast, or after not eating breakfast at all. In cases where the children ate, regardless of which breakfast it was, they performed significantly better than when they did not eat. In cases where they ate oatmeal (which had more fiber and protein than ready-to-eat cereal), they performed better on short-term memory tasks and auditory attention tasks (3). So any breakfast is better than no breakfast, but quality breakfasts are better yet.
The Effect of Breakfast on Weight
Does it help with weight loss? Well, consider this: when we fast, our body goes into starvation mode. Our body thinks that food is scarce and thus does what it can to hang onto calories. Metabolism slows down, calories are saved instead of burned, and the body holds onto fat in case it needs it (4). This is why diets that restrict calories do not work long-term! When we eat breakfast, the body says to itself, “Ok, there’s food on hand. I can start burning calories.” Food for thought. Pun intended.
What Should We Eat For Breakfast?
Breakfast, just like every meal, should be a balance of complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit and whole grains), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fresh-water fish, ghee), and quality protein (legumes, quality protein powders, grass-fed meats, eggs, fresh-water fish). In my opinion, this is the best time to get in some protein that your body can utilize from the get-go.
One of my favorite breakfast ingredients is oats. I love oat pancakes, oatmeal topped with spices and fruit, and overnight oats, which is a very simple meal you can make the night before!
Quick and Easy Overnight Oats
- ½ banana
- ½ cup rolled oats*
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tbsp chia seeds
- 1 cup nut milk
- ½ cup fruit, fresh or frozen (I like berries)
- Optional toppings: nut butter, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, drizzle of raw honey
- In a mixing bowl, mash the banana up until most lumps are removed.
- Mix in oats, cinnamon, chia seeds. Add milk and mix.
- Add fruit to the bottom of a small mason jar.
- Top the fruit with the oat mixture. Store in refrigerator overnight.
- In the morning, top with nut butter, nuts, coconut, or whatever you please! Eat cold or gently warm on the stove.
Use this recipe as a template to create variations of overnight oats. Try adding cacao for chocolate overnight oats!
*If you are sensitive to gluten, choose gluten-free oats.
What do you eat for breakfast? Let me know in the comments below!