Dr. Kristen Mitteness
Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal.
Updated: Dec 23, 2018
If we take apart the word “breakfast”, we get “break” and “fast”. That is exactly what we are doing with our first meal of the day. Breaking the fast. I often like to refer to it as the first meal because we have a tendency of pigeon holing certain foods as breakfast foods. In reality, things like cereal, pancakes, French toast, bagels and toast should be shuffled into the treat category instead.
Breakfast, or your first meal, is extremely important because it sets up your hormonal and insulin response for the rest of the day. This is critical for both mental and physical performance. Normally, when we wake up our cortisol, one of our stress hormones, is high and our insulin, or blood sugar, is low. If breakfast is properly implemented, it will slowly decrease our cortisol levels and steadily increase our insulin levels without crashing either.
When we eat the above-mentioned standard “breakfast foods” a few not-so-awesome things happen. Processed grains and sugar are simple carbohydrates. They are great as a quick energy source, but that’s about it. Their nutrient value is minimal. They increase your insulin levels hard and fast. Unfortunately, this results in a blood sugar crash within a few hours resulting in the need for coffee and more processed grains and sugars by mid-morning to get you “up” again. Then, if you are like most of us with some sort of sensitivity or allergy to these highly processed grains, your cortisol levels, along with your adrenaline levels will be increased because your body recognizes it as an insult or injury. This is one of the reasons we feel so damn good immediately after we eat these things. But, we’ll end up feeling drained a few hours later. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between chemical, physical or emotional stressors. Hormonally and neurologically, you will respond the same to the chemical storm that we often call breakfast and being chased by a bear.
To properly decrease our cortisol levels and increase our insulin levels, we should break the fast with a nutrient dense, protein and fat filled meal. Choose high quality meats or eggs, colorful vegetables and cook it all in your favorite oil or butter. Fat is necessary for telling your brain that you are full and stabilizing your insulin levels, protein helps decrease your cortisol levels and stops your body from breaking down you muscle during your overnight fast and vegetables are nature’s multivitamin, supplying you with both micro and macro nutrients. This meal should be eaten within two hours of waking up to prevent any late night binging.
If you don’t have time to make breakfast every morning, a premade egg bake is about as easy as it gets. I often make a one pan meal called "hash". And if you're sick of eggs, there are lots of other options. Left overs from dinner are usually and excellent choice as it often includes protein, fat and vegetables.
Taking the time to eat a high quality breakfast will help to ensure you feel well both physically and mentally and can take on whatever the day brings. You’re worth it.