After a long night of not eating, your body literally needs to break its fast with a healthy breakfast. Your blood sugar is low in the morning, so it needs a meal to power your muscles and brain, according to "Harvard Health Publications." You shouldn’t start the day with any old food, though -- registered dietitian Erica Giovinazzo tells “Health” that the ideal breakfast combines complex carbs and fiber with protein.
Complex Carbohydrate Options
Carbohydrates belong in a good breakfast, says Harvard, despite the macronutrients’ bad reputation. They provide you with energy and moderate blood sugar spikes, as long as you choose the right variety. Stick to complex carbohydrates low on the glycemic index; these options digest more slowly and release a steady stream of energy. Some of the healthiest carbohydrate options include steel-cut oatmeal, which is high in fiber, folate and potassium, says “Health.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also recommends adding whole grains to your diet; healthy options for breakfast include fiber-rich whole-grain toast and cereal.
Fiber’s an important part of a healthy breakfast, but the average American only eats between 12 and 18 of the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day, says the Linus Pauling Institute. Add fiber-rich fruit to your breakfast to boost your consumption; it has a positive effect on cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and weight control, LPI says. One healthy breakfast option is prunes, which have 7.7 grams of fiber per cup; add them to your whole-grain breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Raspberries, another healthy breakfast food, top that at 8 grams of fiber per cup. These berries are also high in antioxidants and vitamins C and K.
Round It Out with Protein
For the protein portion of your breakfast, Giovinazzo told “Health” that she recommends Greek yogurt, because it’s high in calcium and protein. Choose a nonfat, plain variety to avoid extra fat and added sugar, and mix in some fruit for flavor. Don’t discount one of the most traditional breakfast foods, though -- eggs. As long as your cholesterol is in check, eggs make for a protein-packed, vitamin D-rich breakfast food. Peanut butter can also provide a wallop of protein -- mix it into oatmeal or spread it atop whole-grain toast -- along with some fiber and potassium. Although peanut butter's high in fat, it’s 80 percent unsaturated, says Walter C. Willett, MD, in "Harvard Health Publications." If you prefer other types of nuts, add in walnuts, almonds or your chosen nut to your breakfast meal as an addition to oatmeal or yogurt. Professor of nutrition Penny M. Kris-Etherton told “The New York Times” that nuts are rich in protein, fiber, cholesterol-lowering plant sterols and micronutrients such as copper and magnesium.
For some, coffee's an essential component of a healthy breakfast, and the good news is that it’s a healthy option to start your day. Joe Vinson, PhD, a coffee expert at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, told “Eating Well” that drinking around two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee a day is associated with health benefits, including a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee also may help with type 2 diabetes, due to its antioxidants cholorogenic acids and quinides, which boost cells’ sensitivity to insulin.
- Health: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast
- Harvard Medical School: Breaking the Fast
- Harvard Medical School: Ask the Doctor: Why Is Peanut Butter "Healthy" If It Has Saturated Fat?
- Eating Well: Health Reasons to Drink Coffee (and Cons to Consider)
- The New York Times: Snacking Your Way to Better Health
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- The Dr. Oz Show: 50 Fiber-Rich Foods