A healthy breakfast

Breakfast is possibly the most important meal of the day. By eating a meal with a range of nutrients early on you set yourself up for the day. Breakfast should provide energy that you can use throughout the day and set your appetite at the correct level. Interestingly, a recent study found that those who ate breakfast, had a 95% decrease in their blood sugar level after lunch compared to those who had no breakfast. In other words, by having breakfast you are reducing your chances of suffering from low energy in the afternoon. I generally strongly recommend anyone who skips breakfast to reconsider as this really is the most important meal of the day and skipping it is never an effective weight loss strategy.

Comparison of various well known types of breakfast

Traditional English.

Pros:

The traditional English is a low GI meal which means that it doesn't disrupt blood sugar very much leading to more even energy levels throughout the day, better appetite control and less chance of adding on unwanted pounds of fat.There are plenty of good nutrients to be had in the complete proteins in bacon, eggs, black pudding and sausages. The lycopene in fried tomatoes have been linked with reduced incidence of certain cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. The good fats and vitamins D and E found in free range organic eggs are linked with protection against heart disease and a range of other chronic diseases. The saturated fats in this breakfast get a bad press in the media and from government agencies, but there is little evidence that it is actually harmful. We've been eating plenty of it since the dawn of human existence, so it would be surprising if it was.

Cons:

An English breakfast can be a bit too salty. Use low salt baked beans, reduce the amount of bacon and shop brought bread and don't add any salt to the eggs if you need to reduce salt in your diet. You may want to consider reducing the amount of fruit juice, toast and marmalade with the meal as these are concentrated sources of carbohydrates and there is evidence that for some people seperating out concentrated protein sources from concentrated carbohydrate sources is beneficial for their digestion.

Kippers.

Pros:

Kippers are a protein packed start to the day containing plenty of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which are linked with reduced blood pressure, clearer arteries and better immunity and brain function. A high protein breakfast will ensure a low GI meal which will. like the English breakfast keep blood sugar fluctuations to a minimum, helping to ensure balanced energy and appetite levels throughout the day. 

Cons:

Bear in mind that kippers contain alot of salt and in excess for some people this can lead to raised blood pressure. Some of this effect is due to salt changing the osmotic pressure in our body such that fluid is moved from cells into the body fluid compartments (bloodstream, lymphatics and intracellular spaces). For people about to undertake vigourous and prolonged exercise, the lack of any carbohydrate could be an issue. Especillay if the stores of body carbohydrate (glycogen), are low already due to previous lack of sleep or intense training. It should also be remembered that any smoked foods tend to contain carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines that if taken in excess has been associated with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Continental breakfast.

Pros:

The continental breakfast with coffee could provide a long term health benefit as coffee intake has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic illnesses such as Parkinson's disease and strokes. It can also give a lift to athletes if taken shortly before exercise. It has become popular as it often requires little in the way of preparation.

Cons:

Unfortunately the popular continental breakfast has a high GI, meaning that it raises blood sugar levels, and this can give rise to fatigue and cravings later in the day. It is also low in useful vitamins and minerals, with muffins, bagels, croissants and jam containing basically nothing but empty calories.

German breakfast.

The German breakfast is typical of the buffet breakfasts you come across in many hotels in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Pros:

This breakfast contains plenty of protein and some salad items. Frankly it looks like a cold version of the English breakfast. As such it provides complete proteins in the form of cheese slices, eggs and ham. these foods will keep the GI of the meal low and prevent fatigue and appetite instability later in the day. The salad items provide a few micronutrients.

Cons:

Like the English breakfast the cheeses and hams can be salty and should be eaten in moderation by those who are salt sensitive with high blood pressure. The sources of carbohydrate should be moderated unless vigourous exercise is planned or the morning. I can't help looking at this and feeling it doesn't look as satisfying as the English variety. Maybe that is because it is winter and the meal looks cold?

Bircher Muesli.

This continental cereal is typically a mix of porridge oats, yoghurt, fruits and nuts.

Pros:

Although it isn't loaded with protein the presence of nuts and the use of low GI carbohydrate sources such as oats and yoghurt mean this meal is overall a low GI meal. For this reason it should lead to an even release of energy throughout the morning and afternoon, reducing cravings and fatigue. The fruits and nuts contain many vitamins and minerals. Examples to consider adding are dark berries (blackcurrents and blueberries) that contain phytochemicals that improve cardiovascular health and may protect against certain cancers. Nuts contain healthy fats and a bundle of B vitamins that are essential to mental health, while a pro-biotic yoghurt will help to improve digestive health by providing a dose of healthy bacteria for your gut.

Cons:

This breakfast may be lower in fat soluble vitamins athan a traditional English breakfast.

Cereals.

Almost certainly the most popular breakfast in the UK currently, what does a bowl of breakfast cereal really give you?

Pros:

Cereal breakfasts are quick and easy. They also are mostly fortified with added vitamins, especially the B vitamins and iron. For those with a poor diet can be quite a benefit. For those with good diets it may still be of some use especially for vegans who may be lacking in vitamin B12 and iron.

Cons:

Breakfast cereals with the exception of pure porridge oats are normally highly processed and high GI. This means they can destabilise blood sugar levels, leading to fatigue and cravings later in the day. Most have high levels of salt also which can be a problem for some people with raised blood pressure. Often cereals with a healthy image don't always stand up to scrutiny. Most muesli products are surprisingly sweet and will raise the GI of a meal significantly. Others including crunchy oat based cereals still use unhealthy trans fats in some of the oils they use, to create the textures and tastes in the mouth that sell best. In fact you'll be lucky to find any oat crunchy type cereal that is free of trans fats anywhere on the supermarket shelves.