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If you’ve been starting your day with breakfast to boost your metabolism, you’ve bought into a myth.
The idea of revving up your metabolism by eating first thing in the morning is a myth created primarily by breakfast cereal manufacturers, says Dr. Monique Tello in the Harvard Health Blog.
As it turns out, there may be health benefits to not eating as soon as you get up. And whenever you do eat for the first time each day, it’s not that iconic bowl of cornflakes you’ll want to eat for sustained energy and sharp brain functioning.
When to eat breakfast
Breakfast marks the end of an overnight fast — which can last as long as 16 hours, says Tello. That means you do not necessarily need to eat first thing in the morning.
“If you are not hungry when you wake up, that is normal, and you do not need to eat.”
An expanding body of research suggests there are health benefits to fasting, such as weight control and improved metabolic health.
An overnight fast that lasts as long as 16 hours is not for everyone, though, so check with your doctor before changing your eating habits.
What to eat for breakfast
If you want your first meal of the day to rev up your body or brain, avoid typical breakfast foods — such as pancakes, doughnuts and cornflakes.
“Regardless of what time of day you break [your] overnight fast, scientific evidence shows that all humans have improved cognitive performance and more sustained energy from meals that don’t spike our blood sugars, so meals with a lower glycemic load.”
Glycemic load is basically a rating of the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in a particular food. As such, it reflects how much a particular food will cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
A glycemic load of 10 or less is considered low, 11 to 19 is considered medium and 20 or more is considered high.
As you can see from the glycemic loads of the following breakfast options — reported by Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center — most have a medium or high load:
- Pancake (6-inch diameter): Glycemic load of 39
- Cornflakes (1 cup): 20
- Doughnut (medium size): 17
- Banana, raw (1 cup): 13
- Bread, white-wheat flour (one large slice): 10
- Whole-grain pumpernickel bread (one large slice): 5
- Orange, raw (medium size): 5
- Skim milk (8 ounces): 4
If you must have cereal, choose a bran cereal. Bran cereals have a low glycemic load, according to Harvard Medical School’s Nutrition Source.
Tello says other easy breakfast options with a low glycemic load include:
- Plain yogurt, fruit and nuts
- Oatmeal, fruit, nuts
- Whole wheat or rye toast with nut butter
- Black beans and corn or whole-wheat tortilla
Tello’s own go-to breakfast is a bowl of thawed frozen fruit topped off with a little plain or low-sugar yogurt and sprinkled with nuts, seeds or grains.
What’s your breakfast of choice for optimal energy or focus? Share it with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.