/By Mounika Bodala, Academic and medical writer, South Africa/
Breakfast – the word itself is telling us: BREAK the FAST and gulp something. Breakfast, the vital meal of the day, starts your day energizing and activating your entire body organs by supplying the essential nutrients. It helps to kick start your day and prepares the body for whatever work it has to carry on. But due to the modernized lifestyle and work pressure, most of the people do not find time for their breakfast. They think they can make up the missed nutrition during lunch or dinner. So they just simply skip it without bothering about the consequences. But the effect of skipping the breakfast is not pronounced immediately and rather it is a delayed one. Your health deteriorates slowly. Remember your mother saying, “Do not skip the breakfast. It’s not good for your health”. Yes, it’s been scientifically studied and proved that skipping breakfast is not good for your health and it actually increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which is a major world-wide health problem. And it is also not an effective way for managing your weight.
Scientific studies have always enlightened and helped us to decide what the truth is and what the myth behind a concept is.
Skipping breakfast increases the risk of heart attack:
Never be in a misconception that by skipping the breakfast you are actually reducing the intake of calories and fats and therefore there is no chance of obesity or elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels. On the contrary, a group of researchers (Gita Shafiee et al, 2013) have shown that children who skip breakfast have higher blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), higher levels of triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDL) and lower levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) than compared to the children who eat breakfast. For a healthy body and heart, the levels of triglycerides and LDL should be less than 150 mg/dL and 100 mg/dL respectively. Otherwise they tend to deposit inside the blood vessels. This fat deposition blocks the blood vessels and doctors call it as atherosclerosis which is the main culprit for heart pain and attack. The levels of HDL should be greater than 60 mg/dL as HDL helps to remove the deposited LDL and triglycerides and thereby decreases the occurrence of atherosclerosis and heart attacks. So skipping your breakfast can actually increase the risk of heart attack by increasing the LDL levels and decreasing the HDL levels.
Skipping breakfast doesn’t help in weight management:
Most of the people think that skipping breakfast may help to lose their weight as they are cutting down their intake of calories. Again it is a misconception. Let us see how. A study by Gita Shafiee et al (2013) has shown that children who skip breakfast have higher BMI than children who eat breakfast. Another study by a group of researchers (Cho S et al, 2003) has shown that people who eat ready to eat cereals or cooked cereals or breads for their breakfast have lower BMI than compared to people who either skip breakfast or eat meat and eggs. So it is important not only to eat breakfast but also to choose and eat the right type of breakfast for a proper weight management.
Which breakfast to eat?
Well, now you know how important breakfast is and the results of skipping the breakfast. Now comes the question: how do I know what type of breakfast is best for my health? Well, again a group of researchers (Deshmukh-Taskar P et al, 2012) conducted a study and has shown that people who eat ready to eat cereals are less likely to have obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated LDL, elevated insulin and reduced HDL than compared to people who eat other types of breakfast or who skip breakfast. Cho S et al (2003) have proved that eating ready to eat cereals or cooked cereals or breads for breakfast helps in the proper weight management rather than skipping breakfast or eating meat and eggs.
You can choose a wide variety of healthy cereals, oatmeal and muesli from the market. They are loaded with wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and soluble fiber. Vitamins and minerals help in the smooth functioning of the biological processes in your body. Antioxidants not only boost your immune system but also remove the excess free radicals generated during the metabolic processes. Free radicals are unstable as they are in short of electrons and they rampage through our body. Antioxidants quench the free radicals by supplying the missing electrons. Soluble fiber helps in the slow digestion of the food which helps in stabilizing the blood glucose levels. You can add to your cereals a wide variety of nuts such as peanuts, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, cashews, almonds, apricots and etc as they are rich in vitamin E, HDL and minerals such as magnesium and selenium. But as nuts are rich in calories, you have to consume them moderately. Based on the season and your taste, you can add hot or cold milk (rich in proteins, calcium, vitamins) and seasonal fruits (rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins) to amplify the taste and nutrition of your breakfast. So a breakfast cereal with milk, nuts and fruits provides a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Points to note while buying breakfast cereals:
- Honey or cinnamon coated cereals are good for health than sugar coated ones. If you like sugar coating then opt for brown sugar coated ones instead of white sugar coated ones.
- Opt for bran flakes as they are made of bran. Bran is the outer layer of the cereals and it is loaded with fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and proteins.
- Opt for whole grain cereals instead of refined cereals as the outer bran layer is removed from the later while milling.
- Check the nutrition facts label and buy your breakfast cereals which are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in trans fats, saturated fats, sodium, and sugar.
- If the nutrition facts label is not listed on a packet, do not hesitate to avoid it.
- Avoid the products which contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other artificial sweeteners. HFCS is a mixture of glucose and fructose which contains 76% of sugar content. Few research studies have shown that HFCS can cause metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), brain insulin resistance, cognitive dysfunction, obesity and type 2 diabetes (Shaheen E Lakhan et al, 2013; Danaei G et al, 2011; Tappy L et al, 2010; Bray GA et al, 2013).
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