Rethinking the Healthy Breakfast

Most of us grew up hearing commercials spout the confusing phrase “part of this balanced breakfast,” while showing us what they wanted us to believe was a healthy breakfast. Do you remember what that meal typically looked like? Usually, the well-arranged spread consisted of cereal, toast and a glass of juice. Based on what you now know about nutrition as a health-conscious adult, is that really a balanced breakfast. And yet, what is your concept of a healthy breakfast now? For many, it still consists of sugar-rich foods without much of anything else. You might not think about fruit or oatmeal being sugary but, the sad reality is that they are.

This can create several problems, both in the short- and long-term. What are the health effects of this style of eating? What should a healthy breakfast really look like?


What Sugar Does

Sugar has a number of effects on your body. For the purposes of this discussion we’re going to focus specifically on the insulin reaction.

Every time you eat, regardless of the nutritional profile of your food, your blood sugar rises. This is good. In fact, it’s vital. That glucose that you get from your food is absolutely necessary for healthy brain function, muscles contraction, immune responses and a host of other biological systems. In order to make sure that that glucose goes where it needs to go and gets absorbed properly, your body releases a hormone called insulin.

When you eat a food that is extremely high in simple sugars, though, your blood glucose levels spike sharply. As a result, your insulin levels similarly sky-rocket to try to achieve the balance that your body is always working towards. In the short-term view, this causes those pesky crashes that leave you feeling tired, cranky and craving more sugar.

In the long-term, though, these spikes can have much more serious effects. If you routinely eat lots of simple sugars, meal after meal, your insulin levels are going to stay elevated. The change that this brings about in your system can be compared to a harsh, annoying sound. At first, the sound is jarring and gets a fast reaction out of you. If the noise continues for a long time, though, you start to tune it out. The same thing happens with insulin in your body. When the hormone is first released, your body reactions. However, your body can become resistant to the message that insulin is sending. If this happens, you will find yourself with a greatly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


A Better Way

So that’s the bad news; You’ve been mislead. Here’s the good news: Bacon.

Now that I’ve got your attention with the promise of salty, fatty breakfast meats, let’s explore this further. Specifically, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia tested the benefits of a high-protein meals against low- or no-protein breakfasts.

The subjects were given one of three meals on different days, all of which had less than 300 calories, with similar fat and fiber contents. The meals were: pancakes with three grams of protein, a sausage and egg breakfast skillet with 30 grams of protein, or a sausage and egg breakfast skillet with 39 grams protein. For 4 hours after each meal, the subjects’ insulin and glucose levels were monitored.

Not surprisingly, the high-protein meals produced the smalls glucose-insulin reaction.

Ultimately, these findings lead to some interesting conclusions about breakfast choices. Not on are foods like sausage and bacon, traditionally seen as unhealthy, now healthful options, they could be an investment in your health. In other studies, high-protein diets have been shown to leave you feeling full longer with high energy levels.

It’s also worth noting that this study used so-called “convenience meals,” also known as “grab-and-go meals.” Since many people skip this type of high-protein breakfast because they just don’t have the time to cook in the morning, these findings suggest that premade meals might be a good option in a pinch. That being said, though, also select foods that have the least amount of additives and preservatives. Still, the best option would be to cook it yourself.


What tricks have you found to get yourself a healthy, high-protein breakfast? Please share them in the comments!




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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.