We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but not many of us understand the reason why. Blood sugar levels are at their lowest first thing in the morning and unless you restore them by breaking your overnight fast, you’re likely to experience food cravings, energy lows and difficulty concentrating.
Breakfast and Blood Sugar Levels
The best type of breakfast is one that can keep your blood sugar levels balanced for the longest possible time. The breakfast staple of toast and jam or a croissant and coffee is likely to raise your blood sugar levels high for a short while before sending them plummeting again soon after.
This is because your body reacts by producing too much insulin to try and bring the blood sugar levels under control and the result is an extreme drop in blood sugar levels. These troughs and spikes in blood sugar levels are what lead to cravings for chocolate and caffeine – anything to perk you up quickly, but it’s actually a vicious cycle. And, on top of that, any excess glucose is quickly turned into fat.
To prevent this cycle of quick release and burnout it’s best to choose foods that have a low sugar content and also to combine complex carbohydrates like oats and All-Bran, which are slow-releasing, with protein and good fats (i.e. seed and nut oils rather than saturated animal fat). The best way to check the sugar content of foods is to see how they rate on the Glycemic Index.
What is the Glycemic Index?
According to The University of Sydney’s Glycemic Index website:
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.
You can check the GI of common foods by clicking on the link to this Glycemic Index Food Chart. The general rule is to aim for foods with a GI of below 55. The higher the number the higher the sugar content of the food.
My Favourite Breakfast
Over the Summer I’ve been enjoying breakfasting on fresh strawberries, blueberries, plain probiotic yoghurt and a couple of heaped desert spoons of Linwoods’ milled flaxseed, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and goji berries.
Not only is it delicious but it’s also a balanced, nutritious way to start the day and extremely quick to prepare. I’m not one of those people who can wake up and eat a hearty breakfast, I need at least an hour to sip my tea and come to terms with being awake, but this breakfast is light enough to eat while still half asleep.
In many ways it’s a perfect meal. Strawberries and blueberries have a low GI content, and yoghurt contains protein as well probiotics which are good for maintaining a healthy gut. But the most important part of the meal is the ground flaxseed, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and goji berries.
Two heaped dessert spoonfuls provide:
6.2g of Protein
3.3g of Omega 3 (an Essential Fatty Acid)
14% of the Daily Recommended Allowance (RDA) of Zinc and 11% Iron
5.9g of Dietary Fibre per serving
It is also rich in Vitamin D, Vitamin E and B Vitamins.
Combining protein, with Essential Fatty Acids, fibre and low-GI carbohydrates means that this breakfast keeps me feeling fuller for longer and maintains my blood sugar levels on an even keel throughout the morning.
And the best part is that I get to feel very virtuous and healthy while eating something absolutely delicious.
What’s your favourite breakfast? I’d love to know. Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.