There are those who wake up early to make a nice and rich breakfast, there are those who give themselves only the time for a brioche while getting down the stairs and there are those who just drink a quick coffee. There are those who prefer a sweet breakfast and those who prefer it savory. When it comes to breakfast, habits are really different! But what does science say about healthy choices for a good breakfast? Let's try to understand.
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day
Breakfast is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet and its regular consumption, especially in children and adolescents, leads to a reduction in the body mass index, improves nutrient intake and cognitive performance and helps to keep at bay the hunger during the morning thus avoiding excessive snacking and nervous hunger (Ferrer-Cascales et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2018 - Berti et al, Int J Food Sci Nutrition, 2015 - Schlundt et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 1992). Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, is linked to a deterioration in the quality of life and in an increase of chronic stress with consequences for the cardiovascular system (Ferrer-Cascales et al., Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2018). In 2017, the American Heart Association announced a study in which it was noted that 74% of people who skipped breakfast did not reach two thirds of the recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals compared to 41% of those who had breakfast (Gibney et al, Nutrients, 2018). In addition to this, scientific studies have observed that skipping breakfast, especially if combined with a sedentary lifestyle, can cause abnormal fluctuations in blood glucose thus deteriorating the stability of blood sugar levels (Ogata et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2019).
Breakfast, quality is important
However, what emerges from scientific studies is that it is important to have breakfast but, even more, it is important to have a high-quality breakfast. In fact, it was observed that those who had breakfast, but made a poor quality breakfast based on pre-packaged snacks, presented an increase in stress levels and a greater risk of depression than those who completely skipped breakfast. The lower risk of depression and a significant decrease in stress levels was observed, instead, in those who had a complete and healthy breakfast (Ferrer-Cascales et al., Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2018).
Healthy breakfast, guidelines
The guidelines suggest that breakfast should represent 25-30% of the daily energy requirement. A healthy breakfast should include these food groups, milk and dairy products, in case of intolerances or particular lifestyles also plant based products such as soy, rice, coconut, almond are fine but be careful that they don’t contain added sugars, whole grain bread and cereals, fresh fruit or frozen berries but also sugar free juices can be taken into account. Then, a good breakfast should guarantee a source of proteins, such as yogurt, nuts, bananas but also poached eggs, and finally oils, like a drop of extra virgin olive oil spread over a slice of brown bread, little linseed oil mixed with yogurt but also seeds like sunflower and pumpkin (Giovannini et al, J Int Med Res, 2008 - The association of UK Dietitians).