Crunchy way to start your day
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that breakfast has many benefits, including playing a huge part in weight management.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” goes the old adage. While no meal should be chosen haphazardly, research continues to show that sinking your teeth into a nutritious repast before you head out the door can make a real difference to your health.
So it’s a shame so many Canadians fail to take the time for their morning crunch. To start your day ahead of the game, here’s the skinny on the importance of making time for breakfast, and why the old standby–cereal–is still a top-notch choice.
Eat Early, Lose Weight
In a large study of more than 20,000 participants, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that subjects who gobbled up a morning meal were less likely to be overweight.
This is not the first study to show an inverse relationship between breakfast consumption and weight gain. Why? Because a hearty breakfast helps to prevent overeating later in the day–ergo, aim to get about 20 percent of your day’s calories from breakfast.
Of those calories, it’s advisable that a good chunk be devoted to whole grain cereals, as scientists have shown that devoted breakfast-cereal eaters have a tendency to carry around a healthier body mass. Much of this can be attributed to the high fibre content of whole grain cereals, which can quell appetite and prevent vending machine raids.
Eat Early, Eat Better
Let’s face it, getting enough of all those vitamins and minerals that nutrition experts tell us we need every day can be a real challenge. Not to mention the lofty 25 and 38 grams of daily fibre the Institute of Medicine advocates for women and men respectively.
Skip breakfast and your chances of reaching these levels are even slimmer, as many archetypal breakfast foods such as fruit, milk, and oats are very nutrient-dense. That’s why studies demonstrate breakfast eaters typically have higher intakes of fibre, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Cereal’s nutritional might is likely why those with generous intakes of whole grain versions have a lower rate of heart failure and diabetes.
Eat Early, Think Clearer
It’s well understood that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. It’s not much of a stretch to say that your own memory and concentration will get a boost as well. During sleep, blood glucose (the primary brain fuel) levels fall, so by the time you reach for the snooze button, it’s in need of a top-up.
A healthy breakfast that includes the carbohydrates in cereal can bring levels back to normal, making you more productive at work and at the gym. Now, can you remember that?
Bowlfuls of whole grains, nuts, and dried fruit are “grrreat” and can reduce your risk of diabetes, unwanted jiggle, and heart disease. Here’s what to look for the next time you gambol through the cereal aisle.
The Whole Enchilada
If you want to reap the rewards of consuming cereal, it needs to be whole grain. Look for the first ingredient to include whole wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, or brown rice.
You’re So Sweet
To avoid the downfalls of excessive sugar intake (such as weight gain and diabetes), choose a cereal with 8 g or less of added sugar per serving.
The Roughage Treatment
A diet high in fibre can battle cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and love handles. Opt for brands with 3 g or more of grit per serving.
Fat That’s Not Phat
Scan the nutrition panel to make sure the number beside trans fat is a big, fat zero.
Raisins, berries, and other dried sweetness can pack a lot of body-friendly nutrients, but there’s a caveat: many fruits added to cereals are coated in irksome sugars. Peek at the ingredient list to find out if the dried fruit added is just that or if it comes with baggage. If so, consider purchasing cereals sans the fruit and simply add your own, such as dried blueberries and cranberries.
Many mass-produced cereals have a long list of ingredients only recognizable by those with a doctorate in biochemistry. Hunt down versions with shorter ingredient lists consisting mostly of whole–and familiar–innards. Organic is ideal.
Consider a Classic
Plump with vitamins, minerals, and a soluble fibre called beta-glucan that can reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, a steamy bowl of unsweetened oatmeal remains a first-rate, daybreak choice.