Do you feel tired and irritable every morning? If so, perhaps you are not giving your body the breakfast it deserves. A good breakfast plays an important role in keeping both the mind and body in optimum condition, yet it is also the most frequently skipped or skimpy meal of the day.
Dian Mills, a consultant nutritionist at the Centre for Nutritional Medicine in London, explains that we often forget that by the time we wake up, “our bodies have been deprived of nourishment for around 12 hours, even earlier if you eat supper early. The first meal you eat should be packed with all the nutrients your body needs to get you through the day.”
Missing breakfast evokes the same sensations as dieting. You feel listless, dizzy, shaky, irritable, dithery and unable to concentrate properly. This is because all the body’s tissues and organs, including the brain, require glucose sugar to function efficiently. When deprived of food, our blood sugar level falls below optimum. Unfortunately, even those of us who do have breakfast often don’t choose the right kind of foods to give our blood sugar level that much needed boost.
Foods release their sugars at different speeds after they are eaten. The most energy-sustaining are those that provide a slow and steady supply of glucose between meals. The speed of sugar release is represented by its glycaemic index – its GI. The higher a food’s GI, the quicker the glucose hits the bloodstream. Ideally, breakfast should be based on slow-release low GI foods, such as rye bread and wholegrain cereals like oats and millet. Small quantities of instant energisers, such as dried fruits and freshly squeezed juices to get you going first thing in the morning, can be combined with these.
The Swiss physician Maximillian Bircher-Benner intuitively knew what worked best for breakfast when he formulated his now world-famous muesli over 100 years ago. The original recipe involved soaking unprocessed oats in raw milk, then stirring in freshly grated apple and sprinkling in a few raisins and chopped hazelnuts. Modern versions are often brimming with dried fruit and most even contain added sugar.
While carbohydrates are an important energy source, breakfast should also include some protein and essential fatty acids. Nuts, yoghurt and eggs are all healthy sources of protein. Fried bacon and sausages are, unfortunately, not.
If you can’t face a big breakfast, go for something light, such as fresh fruit and natural yoghurt, but boost its nutritional value with a sprinkling of ground seeds or nuts. What’s important is to get a good supply of the nutrients needed to give you the best start to the day.