With Breakfast Week taking place between 25th – 31st January 2015, award winning dietician and nutritionist Azmina Govindji explains the benefits of eating a healthy, balanced breakfast and advises on the best breakfasts to suit different lifestyles and needs.
Azmina on breakfast: “A healthy, balanced breakfast can help set you up for the day, giving you energy, important nutrients and it can help to regulate blood sugar levels. All of which can help you to feel healthier and happier. If you want to try and avoid the temptation of a sugary snack mid-morning or that tummy rumble in the office, then having a good breakfast can really help give you the best start to your day.”
Breakfast – fuel for the day
When you wake up you have gone for at least eight hours without food or water, this means your blood sugar levels will be low. Having something to eat within two hours of waking can top up your energy stores and blood sugar levels, which can help make you feel more alert, energetic and in a better mood[i],[ii],[iii].
A healthy weight
Research suggests that breakfast eaters are more likely to be slimmer because they tend to eat less during the day and are less likely to reach for high calorie snacks[iv].
Many of the foods we eat at breakfast can be good sources of nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins, as well as protein and fibre, which are all important for good health. People in the UK, particularly women and children, don’t tend to get enough iron, calcium and fibre. Calcium helps to build healthy bones, iron can help keep your blood healthy and fibre keeps your digestive system working efficiently.
So what breakfast is best?
There are options to suit all tastes and lifestyles when it comes to breakfast. It’s good to mix it up a bit depending on what you fancy, what you have in the cupboard and how you are feeling. But if you identify with any of the categories below, then these breakfast ideas can help kick start your day:
No time for breakfast at home? Then grab and go. Pick up a smoothie, try one with oats for added energy or try a yogurt with some granola to enjoy at work or on the train. Or munch through a wholemeal sandwich filled with banana. The protein in the milk will help to keep you feeling full and the banana and wholemeal bread gives you slow release energy. You really should eat something so you can get your blood sugar up, ready for the day ahead.
If the only time you get away from your desk is to visit the coffee machine, give your brain cells a nudge by feeding them some morning fuel. Before you set off for work, tuck into a wholesome bowl of wholegrain cereal and keep some dried fruit in your desk drawer to munch on during the morning. The starch in the cereal can keep your blood sugar levels steady, and can boost your serotonin levels, helping you to feel good. Some dried apricots will give you a healthy dose of iron, known to reduce tiredness.
Rushing around with no time for breakfast? Give your mental energy a top-up with a bran-based cereal powered by B vitamins. These energy boosters help to release the energy from food and keep your nerves healthy – a must for busy mums. Reach for a bowl of bran based cereal with semi-skimmed milk. If possible, the best way is to eat breakfast with your child so they grow up knowing breakfast is an important part of everyone’s routine.
Active / sporty adults and children
Protein is the buzz word when it comes to sports. You need protein to build and repair muscles. The good news is that dairy foods, which can be eaten at breakfast, are rich in a special amino acid (the building blocks of protein) called leucine, which is a master at muscle mass. So, try yoghurt or milk combined with a nutty granola which will help keep your energy levels up, whilst helping to keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady. Wait a couple of hours before exercising, so your body digests all the goodness before you hit the gym.
Dieters/people trying to lose weight
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that skipping breakfast means fewer calories so you lose weight. Research[v],[vi] shows that breakfast eaters are better able to keep to a healthy weight. Dieters tend to go short on B vitamins, so make sure you get your daily dose from cereal or wholemeal bread. Not eating enough can also mean your immune system is below par, so try to get a daily supply of anti-oxidants by eating lots of fruit and vegetables. A small bowl of muesli with semi-skimmed milk and some berries is ideal.
New Year blues-buster (mood booster)
Skipping meals such as breakfast can mean your blood sugar drops, which can make you feel low. Help combat the January blues by having a good breakfast with lots of B vitamins. Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins help produce brain chemicals that affect your mood. Low levels of the B’s may be linked to depression. Get yours from fortified breakfast cereals – most cereal packets will tell you how much vitamin B they’ve added – choose the one with the most and team it up with semi-skimmed milk. Wholegrain bread and eggs give you B vitamins, so a poached egg on toast can also do the trick.
Help protect yourself from catching a sniffle by boosting your immunity with a berry good breakfast (forgive me)! Try some fresh mango for vitamin A and a handful of berries for vitamin C, which will give your immune system a helping hand. Mix them into porridge, or with your favourite breakfast cereal and milk.
Eating gives you calories, which is another word for energy, so eat breakfast! As for what’s in it, choose a fruity start to the day, because vitamin C is known to help reduce tiredness and fatigue. Add fresh fruit to your porridge or cereal or try a glass of fruit juice with your brekkie. Iron can also help fight tiredness and you can get iron from foods such as baked beans, fortified cereals and dried apricots.
 Breakfast Skipping and Health Compromising Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults, Helsinki University, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation July 2003
2 The Cognitive Effects of Breakfast Study, Mindlab Laboratory, Sussex Innovation Centre, Brighton (March 2012)
3 Cognitive Drug Research, in conjunction with HGCA (2004)
5 A three-month trial at San Raffaele Rome Open University where two groups of women had identical diets but one group ate 70% of their calories at breakfast, morning snack and lunch; and the second group had 55% and the rest of their calories in the afternoon and evening. Both groups lost weight but the morning eaters lost more weight than the afternoon group. Reported in the Daily Mail in June 2014http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2653256/Why-big-breakfast-helps-lose-weight.html#ixzz38IlSJctx