Land Italian breakfasts have become too sweet. The classic appointment at the bar includes a croissant and coffee, while cornflakes, biscuits, rusks, and muffins are the protagonists in the family. All this often translates into many sugars and many fats in the body. Glycemic stress. It doesn’t matter that on the cereal package there is a bowl with some decorative strawberries to indicate a balanced meal or that the shortbread contains wholemeal flour. In fact, these are desserts.
The first problem is the habituation of the palate to certain tastes. “It’s easy to become a slave to sugar, like caresses, once you get a taste for it,” writes Isabel Allende in Aphrodite.
In the morning, however, metabolic mechanisms also come into play. «Breakfast represents a critical moment for regulating hunger throughout the day» warn the nutritionists of the team Ieo smart food from Milan.
The balance of metabolism
It is true that in the early hours of the day carbohydrate management is theoretically better. However, the reasoning applies to a slice of wholemeal bread or a handful of unsweetened cereals, that is, for complex carbohydrates accompanied by fibers.
If, on the other hand, free sugars are excessive and proteins are scarce, a paradox is created, which is this. Eating high-calorie foods leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar, which is followed by a massive production of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels.
The sorting of sugars in the body is so tumultuous that transient hypoglycemia sets in: the signal of lack of glucose in the bloodstream reaches the brain, which in turn launches the hunger alarm.
In other words, biscuits and croissants, rather than satiating for a long time, stimulate the appetite and lead to the search for other food shortly after.
Our ancestors ate early and worked hard, going to the fields. Those who go to the office, moreover by car, after having eaten a breakfast full of sugars and refined flour are candidates to put on weight.
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The importance of the protein quota
Nothing is comparable to poison and every now and then it’s a nice gift to enjoy a croissant with cream, but the same moderation should be used with the sweets sold for breakfast as you should have with cakes or cannolis at any time of the day.
Not only: it takes protein to complete the meal. The protein quota in the morning helps to better modulate the sensations of hunger and satiety in the rest of the day because it influences the levels of hormones involved in the modulation of appetite and satiety.
To be clear, eating only rusks with jam and tea is not a balanced choice. Dipping cookies in coffee isn’t. Better to introduce yogurt, for example, and opt for wholemeal bread.
In parentheses, fruit yogurt looks more like a dessert than a healthy product therefore the white jar is recommended, perhaps with fresh or dried fruit.
It is also good to mix the animal and vegetable sources of protein over the course of the week so one morning you will consume a cup of milk or Greek yogurt, another an egg, the next a handful of walnuts, the next a slice of bread spread with chickpea hummus, then a soy drink. Variety should be the feature of all meals of the day.
Complex carbohydrates are needed, to give energy, and the idea is always wholemeal or semi-wholemeal cereals. The less processed and less sweet the better. What reason is there to drink barley malt extract, glucose syrup, or other ingredients used by the food industry when you wake up?
Natural oat flakes are excellent in the porridge version, puffed whole grains, with no added sugar, such as barley or spelled.
It makes a lot of sense to alternate the sweet and savory breakfast accompanying a slice of dark bread once with a veil of compote (which has less sugar than jam) and once with extra virgin olive oil and oregano.
The importance of hydrating
Equally important to hydrate from the early hours of the day, with herbal teas, green tea, milk, vegetable drinks, or simply water. The cup of espresso does not replace the drink, which instead should always be present in every self-respecting breakfast. To find out: a warm liquid upon waking sets the intestines in motion.
As indicated by the nutritionists of the project Smartfood Leo the ideal breakfast should include:
- 1. A source of complex carbohydrates (wholemeal or semi-wholemeal bread, not bad durum wheat, unsweetened wholemeal cereals, oatmeal);
- 2. A source of protein (natural white or Greek yogurt, milk, ricotta, soy drinks or vegetable yogurt, eggs);
- 3. A source of good fats (nuts, extra virgin olive oil, oilseeds, avocado);
- 4. Fresh or dehydrated fruit or alternatively jam with a sugar content of less than 37 percent, or even vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes;
- 5. A drink (water, coffee, barley coffee, green tea, black tea), is better if unsweetened.
Examples of full breakfast can be:
• green tea, natural white yogurt with rolled oats, almonds, and apples;
• drip coffee, wholemeal nut bread with ricotta and blueberry jam (sugars less than 37 percent);
• coffee, natural soy vegetable drink with natural puffed barley grains, and a fruit salad;
• black tea, soft-boiled egg, toasted wholemeal bread with extra virgin olive oil, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Even some nutritionists wonder if it’s not better to skip breakfast considering what it has become in many homes. A sensible provocation, only then, for that matter, we should also advise eliminating lunches and dinners.
The right question is not whether or not to have breakfast but how to do it. In any case, there is no doubt that it is essential for children and adolescents to eat after a night’s sleep. It is for the brain and also for weight maintenance.
A recent literature review reports how the absence of breakfast is also related in adults to a greater risk of being overweight, and having hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
At the same time, the statement “those who skip breakfast weigh more” could have inverse causality: “they weigh more and therefore skip breakfast”, in the sense that, in order to try to lose weight, they give up their first appointment more frequently in the morning.
What emerges from the studies is that a healthy breakfast habit can help you better balance the meals of the day. Too many high-calorie foods, on the other hand, are never good for you, not even as soon as you get out of bed.
Eliana Liotta is a journalist, writer, and science popularizer. The main platforms (are Spreaker, Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast) you can find her podcast series The good that I want. “Because physical activity strengthens the defenses” is the theme of the new episode.
The review is by Lucilla Titta, program coordinator of Smartfood at the IEO-European Institute of Oncology.