As the day’s first source of energy and nutrition to recharge the body and brain, most would agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I am often asked if this is true and my answer is: absolutely YES! So with that in mind, here’s some insight into one of life’s most misunderstood meals and what it should consist of.
Looking back to the time of our pre-historic ancestors, breakfast was not normally eaten until it was caught, collected and ready for consumption. In other words, there was always physical, movement and mental effort before breakfast. In my opinion, that describes the best time and scenario to chow down on the first meal of the day. In today’s lifestyle, however, most of us grab a quick breakfast of processed foods and coffee early in the morning while rushing out the door on the way to a sedentary job. This does not add up to what humans are meant to live or eat like and definitely not the best way to achieve an optimal breakfast experience.
If breakfast is our first line of defense for the day, I suggest it is time to rethink breakfast.
Dr. Michael Breus, Psychologist and Sleep Specialist, may put it best: “Upon waking, several different body systems increase in order to facilitate the awakening of the body and mind.”
To break it down, here’s what happens: the heart rate quickly increases as does blood-pressure and cardiac output, breathing patterns change, fluid circulation increases, the brain produces different brain waves, and all organs increase their activity to “awake” values. The brain is flooded with hormones to decrease your sleep level and make you wake up and perceive stimuli. These sudden changes are quite stressful to the body and mind.
Heart and vascular disease, such as arteriosclerosis and myocardial attacks, are still the #1 killer in the western world. Statistics from the World Health Organization show that over 16 million people die of cardiovascular disease every year. Heart disease claims 7,200,000 of that number and strokes run a close second with 5,500,000 victims.
The remainder belongs to other cardiovascular related causes such as ischemic heart disease and others.
Several studies have shown that people at risk are more likely to suffer cardiac complications during the second quarter of the day (6:00 am-12:00 noon).
Since this is around the time that most people wake up, breakfast becomes the ideal opportunity to arm oneself against the odds of experiencing a problem in that second quarter of the day.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Therapist S. Turksma in the Netherlands says, “People at risk often have lower amounts of Vitamin C, E, Potassium and Magnesium in their system during the second quarter of the day and would be smart to consume a nutritious breakfast to replenish those vitamins and minerals.” Vegetables, walnuts, seeds, fish, fruits and organic eggs are all good sources of vitamins, minerals and large amounts of other phytonutrients. If you like grapes, it is good to know that the seeds of organic red grapes are powerful friends in the nutritional fight against heart disease so instead of seedless, choose the seeded red grape and eat the seed.
So, where to begin?
Choose a breakfast loaded with nutritional and anti-inflammatory foods, as inflammation is the root of most diseases.
I learned years ago that disease often starts at the cellular level and not the systemic or organ level. This means the body needs to be fed for cellular benefit and not emotional benefit. If it is difficult to eat veggies for breakfast, try a smoothie that contains high amounts of veggies but does not taste like them.
For example: The pineapple (especially the stem) and the apple are both fruits with great anti-inflammatory qualities. When mixed with organic apple juice, water, heart-healthy raw baby spinach leaves and avocado in the right quantities, the drink will taste like apple.
People with active lifestyles can also add protein to their breakfast. Add, for example, protein powder to a smoothie. According to Protein Faceoff, an article published by Muscle and Fitness magazine, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) determines how many amino acids in protein actually make it to the muscles.
When choosing to incorporate protein in one’s conventional breakfast, it is best to select an easily digestible source of protein with a high PDCAAS like organic soy, yogurt or egg whites for breakfast. An egg white omelet filled with veggies is a great morning meal. Starting the day off right during the most vulnerable cardiac time of the day is priceless.
There are plenty of recipes for nutritious shakes available online and in book form. For heart-health, look for fruits, veggies and nuts that are also high in Vitamin C and E, and look for mineral content of magnesium and potassium. To add anti-inflammatory benefits, use fruits such as, strawberries, papaya, guava, plums and pineapple, or veggies like; spinach, beets, cabbage, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
Heart Healthy and Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie for two:
1 ripe avocado
2 cups fresh pineapple pieces (with stem)
1 medium apple (with skin)
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup apple juice (organic)
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
Make sure to have a strong blender that can liquefy frozen and tough textured foods. Put the ingredients in the blender until the mixture is smooth. Add water if shake is too thick or too sweet.
If kept in the refrigerator, the smoothies can be stored overnight for easy early morning access. For optimal nutrition, drink the smoothie within 30 minutes to enjoy freshness and active enzymatic values.