Busting Breakfast Myths

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July 21, 2014


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This post is available in: Spanish

Chances are you were in a rush this morning and grabbed a quick breakfast fix or a swig of coffee and nothing else. As noontime nears, your stomach is growling for food since you skipped the traditional first meal of the day.

Such a scenario is quite real in our hectic lives, and it is generating new debate over old myths about breakfast.

Is it really the most important meal of the day? Are eggs good or bad for you? Are cereals a good choice for your kids? And what about all those cholesterol-causing or fattening goodies, including bacon and dairy products, associated with the morning meal?

It’s hard to sort out facts from semi-fiction in all the clutter about breakfast.

“A lot of people are skipping breakfast and just having a cup of coffee or a quick cereal bar and that’s not really good for you,” said registered dietitian Natalie Castro, chief wellness dietitian for Baptist Health. “And then, hours later at lunch, they are completely starving and can’t think straight enough to make a healthy choice. That’s when you’re in a starvation mode.”

Being in such a “starvation mode” is the biggest obstacle to avoid when trying to stay or get healthy, and skipping breakfast fuels the risky condition for those with weight issues, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The important factor to remember is to regulate your body’s blood sugar and metabolic rate by keeping to a schedule of regular and healthy meals, Castro said.

Breakfast and Weight Loss
Claim
: Skipping breakfast is bad for you, because it increases one’s appetite throughout the rest of the day, making people overeat to compensate.

Fact: New research finds that this weight-loss wisdom primarily comes from misconstrued studies. Essentially there has been no established cause and effect between skipping breakfast and obesity or weight gain. But that finding does not address the issue of blood sugar, cholesterol and other factors that are affected by skipping breakfast.

Only a few, carefully controlled trials have tested the claim, says a new report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found no basis for concluding that people who eat breakfast end up consuming more daily calories than those who skip it.

Nonetheless, dozens of large, highly publicized observational studies have found links between breakfast habits and obesity.  Ms. Castro emphasizes that a healthy balanced meal within two to three hours after waking up is the best option, helping regulate blood sugar and avoid that “starvation mode” at noontime.

Most Important Meal of the Day
Claim: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it can get your day started on the right footing, nutritionally speaking.

Fact: There is no solid right or wrong with this claim. Most nutritionists agree that having a healthy breakfast is better than not having one.  But there are conditions and several factors. A well-rounded diet consists of more than one healthy meal, and each meal should contain foods low in sugar and fat, and consist of fruits, vegetables, some dairy products, whole grains and lean meats for optimal health.

If your breakfast consists of a couple of doughnuts and coffee, you’re better off skipping it altogether. If it contains eggs, fruit and a slice or two of whole wheat bread, that’s much better, Ms. Castro says.  The point that she and other dietitians like to make is that proper nutrition goes beyond breakfast. It’s a day-long commitment that includes staying away from fatty snacks, high-sugar soft drinks and sticking to your well-rounded nutritional plan.

Eggs are Bad for You
Claim
: Stay away from eggs because they raise your cholesterol, especially the yolk.

Fact: You can enjoy eggs in moderation as part of a healthy diet. The prevailing school of thought throughout the 1980s and 1990s that said eggs trigger higher cholesterol has been fairly well debunked.

As it turns out, it’s not the egg itself that raises the bad cholesterol (LDL) in your bloodstream.

It’s mostly saturated fats and trans fats that we consume in certain fried and baked foods. Of course, caution should be exercised in how the eggs are cooked. For example, poached eggs or hard-boiled eggs are ideal. A single egg can deliver 6 grams of protein and 74 calories.  ”There’s a lot of confusing information out there,” Ms. Castro says. “The media sometimes takes a little bit of healthy information and says you can eat all the eggs you can. But one egg a day is fine. Two eggs more can become a problem.”

Are Cereals a Good Choice?
Claim: Breakfast cereals are a good choice for children.
Fact: A healthy breakfast is important for your child’s school performance and overall health. But many cereals contain the same amount of sugar – 3 to 5 teaspoons – found in sweet treats, such as cake or cookies.

Parents should look at the Nutrition Facts label found on the back or side of the food package – under “Total Carbohydrate” to determine sugar content. To figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are in the cereal, divide the grams of sugar by four.

Adults should also read cereal labels for sugar content, even those that claim they are “heart- healthy”. Cereals high in fiber and low in sugar are preferable, Ms. Castro says.

“People are very big into cereal. But cereals are still very processed,” she says. “Look for whole grains and something with high fiber.  You should focus on whole foods for breakfast like with any meal. An egg, slice of whole wheat toast and a piece of fruit is the better choice over processed cereal.”

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