Breakfast should supply your body with a fourth to a third of the day's calories and nutrients, and is considered to give you that "kick-start" to your day. For years, researchers have known that breakfast provides the essential nutrients and energy needed for concentration while eliminating hunger symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness.
It should therefore be healthy - high in carbohydrate and fibre, low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals. A doughnut and a cup of coffee therefore do not measure up! In general, we consume too little calcium and fibre and too much sodium and fat. However, a nutritious, balanced breakfast is possible, just by making better food choices. Let's look at what breakfast can give us, the good and the bad...
Carbohydrates are considered our energy foods which we need to keep us going throughout the day. They allow us to concentrate on our work and keep the kids going during school. Our main sources of carbohydrate at breakfast are breads, cereals, porridges, and fruits. Dairy products also contain carbohydrate.
Cheese, eggs, and dairy products are rich sources of protein and are good to include at breakfast as long as you go for the low-fat or fat-free versions. These are considered our "building foods" since they help build muscle.
Getting adequate amounts of calcium is a concern of many women today, especially with osteoporosis (bone loss) on the rise. The emphasis is now on prevention - consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D (needed for calcium absorption) and exercise. These measures can guard against the development of osteoporosis later in life. Breakfast is an ideal way to help meet calcium requirements for the day since dairy products are easy to eat at breakfast and are an excellent source of calcium.
They have somehow acquired a reputation as fattening and thus are avoided by many weight-conscious women. This reputation is largely undeserved - skim and low-fat (two percent) milk, as well as low-fat cheese and plain low-fat yoghurt, are relatively low in fat and calories and supply many nutrients. The high-calorie label does, however, fit some members of the group, such as full-cream milk and yellow cheese, but does not apply to all dairy products.
Ways that you can add calcium to your breakfast include:
Another important substance breakfast can offer is dietary fibre. Fibre is important for maintaining a healthy digestive tract, especially the large intestine, or colon. Fibre contributes bulk, absorbs water, and speeds transit through the intestines. Adequate fibre can help relieve chronic constipation, a problem for many of us. It also may offer some protection against the development of diabetes, obesity, cancer, diverticulosis (a disease of the colon), and heart disease. In addition, high-fibre foods promote satiety (fullness). Breakfast foods that are good sources of dietary fibre include: