For some reason, breakfast meals have the long reputation of being very high in carbohydrates, including refined, “concentrated” carbohydrates (added sugar, grains, juices):
- Syrup, honey
- Orange Juice
How this came to be would make a very interesting research project.
My theory is related to the word breakfast itself. Did you know that it means “a break from the fast?”
The “fast” in this sense is the duration one goes without eating from bed time to rising the next day; about 9-10 hours. When the fast is over, the urge is to indulge in sweet, rich and savory food; in this case, sugars/ carbohydrates. It’s a subconscious move to reward ourselves for going without a meal for those 9-10 hours of sleep.
The other possibility is that there is this erroneous conventional wisdom that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” and that you need to load up on carbohydrates (sugar) “to get your brain and muscles going and maintain your energy levels for the day.”
Well, this simply isn’t true. For many people, skipping breakfast entirely can have significant health benefits, as long as you are eating healthy (whole foods, mostly plants; good fats and protein). It improves insulin sensitivity, burns body fat, reduces inflammation and improves mental clarity.
Your brain and skeletal muscles work just fine off of dietary fats. Fats are long-chain molecules that pack a lot of calories and “burn slow,” much like hot coals. If you are an athlete or work in a job that requires significant physical activity, carbohydrates are more appropriate as you need more “immediate,” quicker burning calories (like gasoline), which is what carbs offer.
If you are overweight, I especially encourage you to minimize or avoid concentrated carbohydrates in your diet, including breakfast. Your main goal should be to lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity of your cells so that your cells can burn more sugar instead of converting it to fat and storing it in your body. You cannot do this if you eat carbs all day and keep your pancreas busy producing insulin to deal with this continuous sugar influx. Frequently high levels of glucose trigger insulin secretion; insulin converts excess sugar to fat, stores it in fat cells and shuts down fat metabolism. Sugar/carbs are also addictive, causing one to eat more than his body needs.
If you are going to eat breakfast, stick to protein, fats, and plants. You will still get carbohydrates, but they will come from plants like kale or spinach. This is the best form of carbohydrates to eat, as they come with the whole food source including fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Here is a short video where I explain how to make a healthy, nutritious breakfast that will give you sufficient calories to start your day, along with a host of nutrients, without spiking your insulin levels.