The bacon and eggs with butter-smothered white toast that you remember from childhood is clearly not a good start by today’s nutrition standards. And while the doughnut and coffee you grab on the way to work may have fewer calories and less fat than the artery clogging breakfasts of old, nutritionally it's of little value.
To start your day right, you need a new breakfast model, one that fits your busy lifestyle and provides the energy you need to sustain that life.
Breakfast is the best time to get the whole grains and fiber your body needs. Dietary fiber comes in two varieties. Both are good for you:
- Insoluble fiber draws water into the intestines, making stools bulkier, softer and easier to pass. People who eat lots of fiber enjoy a reduced risk of constipation, hemorrhoids and hernias. On the other hand, a diet low in fiber is associated with higher rates of intestinal polyps and colon cancers.
- Soluble fiber keeps your blood sugar from rising too fast after a meal. It also helps reduce blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. A study of 11,864 American adults found that blood cholesterol levels are lowest in adults who eat cereal and highest in people who skip breakfast.
Fiber also protects the heart and is associated with a lower risk of diabetes and stroke. One study showed that for each 10-gram increase in your daily fiber intake, the risk of heart disease dropped by 19%.
Here are some great breakfast options and their fiber content:
|High in insoluble fiber
|Bran Chex cereal
||cooked, 1 cup
|Raisin Bran cereal
|High in soluble fiber
||1/3 cup raw
||1 medium (with skin)
There are three things to look for in a good cereal:
- It's made with whole grains
- It has at least 6 grams of fiber per serving
- It doesn't taste like cardboard
Most high-fiber cereals are made with wheat bran, which is rich in insoluble fiber. Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, though many oat cereals contain only a trace of oat bran fiber, the part that really counts.
Choose a cereal that has no fat (or very little). This means many so-called healthy granola cereals are out. Choose a cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
- Whole grain cereals provide selenium, the mineral linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer
- By adding bananas, berries or apple slices to your cereal, you're also adding additional vitamins and minerals to your diet
Note: It may take a while for your gut to get used to a high-fiber breakfast cereal. If intestinal gas is a problem, start with ½ sized portions.
Breads and spreads: An occasional treat
Bread and toast are American traditions. If you eat them, keep these tips on mind:
- Eat bread for breakfast only occasionally
- Choose whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, which have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't raise your blood sugar as much as regular white breads
- Bran muffins can be high in fat, and most provide only a few grams of fiber
- Bagels, like white bread, have a high glycemic index and little fiber
If you use breakfast spreads, here's some advice:
- Avoid eating butter on a regular basis; it's high in saturated fat
- Stick margarine may be worse because it contains trans fats
- Honey and jam have no fat, but they 're too sugary for daily use in large amounts
- Soft margarine from a tub is acceptable (The new margarines, such as Benecol and Take Control, are better)
Fruit and juice: Tank up
The best diets include at least two to four portions of fruit a day. Breakfast is a prime time to meet your fruit goals. Pick the fruits you like best; there are no bad choices. Juice counts toward the goal. Citrus and other juices add vitamin C and other nutrients to your diet.
Eggs: Watch the cholesterol
An egg contains about 213 mg of cholesterol and 5 grams of fat. The American Heart Association recommends a daily consumption of just 300 mg or less of cholesterol (and just 200 mg or less for people with high blood cholesterols).
A Harvard study concluded that eating an average of one egg per day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of heart attack or stroke in otherwise healthy people.
- Eggs are fine on Sundays or for a special brunch now and then, but an egg breakfast comes in a distant second to high-fiber cereal to start your day
- Egg substitutes, which are lower in cholesterol, can be used to make scrambled "eggs," omelets and baked goods
- Until reputable scientists tell us otherwise, an egg is an egg is an egg, even if it's a so-called "designer" egg (omega-3, organic, free-range or vegetarian)
Milk: Reduce the fat
If you drink whole milk, switch to 2% milk. If you drink 2%, move down to 1% or nonfat milk. They all provide some of the calcium and vitamin D you need. If you're lactose intolerant, pour soymilk on your cereal. Skip breakfast to lose weight? Don't!
Many people assume that skipping meals will help them lose weight. It's not true, particularly if the missed meal is breakfast. A study of more than 16,000 American adults found that those who ate breakfast were leaner than those who skipped breakfast. People who ate cereal for breakfast were leaner than those who ate meat or eggs. Other studies have confirmed that people who eat breakfast regularly are much less likely to be obese compared to those who skip it.