Neither cereals, nor eggs, nor milk, the foods that should be part of any good breakfast worth its salt are characterized by two things: they have a low glycemic index and are rich in fiber.
Break the fast (if we want to)
When one thinks of breakfast, what usually comes to mind is a cup of milk or coffee, some Frosties cereals, some cookies, some muffins and even, sometimes, a piece of sponge cake. All together or separately. That is, we have spent half our life eating a series of foods for breakfast that not only do not benefit our health, but also greatly harm it. In addition, we have also believed for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that eating it can help us lose weight. Actually, it is not.
“Breakfast is the way we break our overnight fast and, for many people, breaking the fast does not have to happen first thing in the morning,” says doctor and researcher Monique Tello on the blog of the School of Medicine and Harvard Public Health. It is also not true that we need to eat sugar first thing in the morning so that our brain can function at full capacity, nor that eating first thing in the morning serves to accelerate our metabolism, according to the researcher.
So what should we really eat? What are the ‘sacred’ foods for a perfect breakfast in case we really want to make this meal? And on the other hand, is there really the perfect breakfast?
Cereals (for real)
Basically, what this primary care physician proposes based on scientific evidence is that we incorporate foods with a low glycemic index into our meals, be it breakfast or dinner. “The glycemic load gives us an idea of how much our blood sugar will increase with a certain food and, for breakfast, the lower the better.”
Thus, instead of betting on the classic sugary cereals, what Tello recommends is to eat real cereals. This is: whole wheat oat flakes or rye flakes. Why? Because they do not contain sugar, and contain the whole grain. Whole grain cereals have been linked to a lower risk of mortality from all causes, including coronary heart disease and cancer, according to some reviews of studies.
Nuts and other dried fruits
Strange as it may sound, Dr. Tello also recommends adding nuts to breakfast. Be it walnuts, pistachios or almonds. Despite the fact that these are foods that have a very high caloric content, their consumption is not related to obesity or being overweight. In fact, some studies have shown that nuts are a protective factor against both of these problems.
Nuts are also foods rich in polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic or linolenic acid, in monounsaturated fatty acids, which increase HDL levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and have a high fiber content, which is why they benefit satiety.
In Spain we are animals of habit. We have spent years eating foods that are harmful to our health and we are not able to change our diet “because this has been done all our lives and nothing has happened.” In fact, a few years ago there was a controversy on social networks because a mother gave her son chickpeas for breakfast. Actually, he was doing the right thing: offering him healthy food for his development. “My son does not know what a cookie is, he is happy eating chickpeas,” he tweeted.
Tello recommends adding legumes to breakfast because they are an excellent source of plant-based protein. In addition, both chickpeas and beans are also rich in calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus or magnesium. In addition, they are also especially rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, so they favor intestinal transit and have a high satiating power.
Yogurt is another of the foods that the collaborator of the School of Health considers important for breakfast. This product has been considered for years as one of the healthiest dairy products that we can go to. However, some scientific papers published in recent years have shown that yogurts have been perverted by the dairy industry. Most of them have an excessive sugar content, so their consumption is no longer beneficial for health.
Thus, the yogurts that dietitians-nutritionists recommend are natural (not sweetened, not 0%, or skimmed, simply natural) and Greek yogurts. This last variety has a greater amount of fat and is richer in protein, so it will also have a greater satiating power than the natural ones.
Fruit is probably one of the foods least consumed during breakfast and, nevertheless, one of the ‘sacred cows’ that should make up our diet, as Tello confirms. Its benefits have been demonstrated over decades of research. Instead, its exclusion from our usual diet has great damage to our health. “It is estimated that in 2017 some 3.9 million people died due to inadequate fruit consumption,” says the World Health Organization, which recommends consuming more than 400 grams a day.
According to the WHO, incorporating fruit into the daily diet can reduce the risk of some non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer. “There is also some evidence that when eaten as part of a healthy diet low in fat, sugar and salt (or sodium), fruits and vegetables can also help prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of obesity, a independent risk factor for noncommunicable diseases”.