March 11, 2013

Break the Fast–A Look at the Benefits of Breakfast

Nan Jensen,
Extension Agent Family and Consumer Sciences

Mornings are often a rush and many people bypass breakfast to save time. But running on empty can leave you feeling tired and fatigued. By recharging the brain and body, you'll be more efficient in just about everything you do. There are many reasons why you need to break for breakfast.

Kids Need That Morning Meal
Research shows that children learn better after a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast may help children do better in school by improving memory, alertness, concentration, problem-solving ability, test scores, school attendance, and mood. Adults may get a brain boost as well. If you and your kids seem unable to make time for breakfast, consider enrolling your children in a school breakfast program.

A Good Investment in Your Day
Kids and adults who eat breakfast get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc, and iron in their diets compared to breakfast-skippers. Foods like whole-grain hot and ready-to eat cereals, fruit and fruit juice are popular breakfast picks that provide those valuable nutrients.

Break the Fast to Manage Your Weight
Often people skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. Research suggests that adult breakfast skippers are at greater risk for obesity and weight gain, while breakfast eaters tend to have healthier weights. Breakfast skippers tend to make up for it and eat more than usual at the next meal or munch on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. High fiber foods like oatmeal and protein packed foods like milk, yogurt and eggs also may help you feel full so you can avoid “the binges”.

Breakfast Revs Up Your “Engine”
Eating a nutritious breakfast may help the body better regulate insulin levels. According to the research popular breakfast foods such as whole-grain cereals and breads, dairy products, and fruit may help reduce risk for metabolic syndrome. This condition is linked to being overweight and increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Good for the Gut
Both the insoluble fiber in whole grain breakfast cereals and breads as well as the “good” bacteria in yogurt products and some cereals help promote good digestive health. The fiber keeps you regular and the friendly bacteria in fermented products helps keep the gut healthy by crowding out harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea, gas, constipation or bloating. They may also inactivate potentially harmful substances with cancer-causing potential such as nitrites. Buy only yogurts that contain probiotics or those that say "live and active cultures" on the label.

Quick Breakfast Ideas
  • Try oatmeal and toss in raisins or dried cranberries, apples and chopped walnuts.
  • Layer low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit and low sugar cereal.
  • Blend up a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, yogurt, frozen berries and a banana.
  • Top a whole grain toaster waffle with low-fat yogurt and slices of fresh fruit.
  • Stuff a whole-wheat pita with a sliced, hard-cooked egg and shredded cheese.
  • Spread a tortilla with peanut butter, add a whole banana and roll it up.
  • Top a toasted whole-grain English muffin with lean ham and Swiss cheese.

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