Does Your Breakfast Need a Makeover?
Do you ever wake up in the morning and pour yourself a big bowl of cereal thinking you’re being satiated, only to feel hungry two hours later? I used to experience this all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved eating cereal for breakfast. It’s fast and easy, not to mention quite tasty. I did not, however, love how it made me feel ultimately. When, inevitably, hunger struck again too soon, I’d have a snack, which helped a little, but then this pattern repeated for lunch, culminating in a huge drop in energy along with sugar cravings in the afternoon.
Did you know most cereals consist of processed carbohydrates, which our bodies are not designed to consume? Processing food changes its chemical and biological structure and depletes nutrients and taste. To improve flavor, chemicals are added. Supplemental synthetic vitamins in cereals make up for lack of nutrients, but our bodies don’t absorb synthetic vitamins particularly well. I recently read about an experiment carried out in a food lab. An analysis was done to determine the nutritional value of cereals and the paper boxes they were packaged in. The boxes (made from wood pulp) actually contained more useful nutrients than the cereal!¹
Puffed wheat, oats, and rice are especially toxic and have been know to cause rapid death in test animals. The little flakes and shapes in cereals, created by adding heat and pressure to the grains, are difficult to digest. Processing destroys the enzyme needed break down the food in your body, and consuming puffed grains can affect your blood sugar level even more than refined sugar and white flour!²
Processed carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly by the body, leading to an unnaturally rapid increase in blood sugar. This puts the body in a state of shock, and it pumps out lots of insulin quickly, leading to hypoglycemia about an hour or so later and causing hunger. This state of shock can cause mood swings, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
So, what should we eat instead? I think our culture’s idea of breakfast needs a makeover. Cereal, toast, bagels, pastries, pancakes, waffles, etc. all are typically loaded with sugar. They are mainly comprised of carbohydrates, which get converted to sugar in the body. We need healthy fats and protein in order to feel truly satiated, especially in the morning when we are essentially “breaking a fast” from the night before. Focusing on adding healthy protein and fat such as eggs cooked in butter, bacon, sausage, whole fat dairy (if tolerated), and even ground beef or chicken to the morning meal can help up the satiety level immensely. Carbohydrates don’t necessarily need to be skipped in the morning, but your body will thank you if you focus on consuming unprocessed nutrient rich carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits.
Consuming protein is important because our bodies need it to create hormones, which regulate our metabolism and almost every function in our bodies. In addition, proteins make up enzymes (molecules that manage biochemical processes in the body), antibodies (proteins that help fight infection), and hemoglobin (proteins in the form of red blood cells that carry oxygen).
Fat consumption, in addition to making food taste wonderful, provides a source of slow burning fuel so we aren’t starving two hours later. It helps slow the absorption of food for proper energy regulation. Fat provides building blocks for our cell membranes and hormones and serves as a protective lining for our organs. In order to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K (fat-soluble vitamins) we need to consume plenty of healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, etc. Avoid highly processed trans-fats, which our bodies are not designed to consume.
Unprocessed carbohydrates provide fuel for our brains and a quick source of energy for our muscles. They provide a source of fiber, which helps with regular elimination of waste materials. Carbohydrates help regulate protein and fat metabolism, and along with proteins and fats, they help fight infections, promote growth of body tissues such as bones and skin, and lubricate joints. Healthy carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and properly prepared whole grains (if tolerated).
Here are some breakfast recipes, some of which are healthier versions of typical American breakfast foods. If prepared in advance, these options can be just as fast as pouring yourself a bowl of cereal.
¹Put Your Heart in Your Mouth by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, pg. 60
²Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, pg. 25