I love breakfast, I truly do, it is something I love to have each morning after my workout and it helps to fuel me for the rest of the day. Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day and I would have to agree. What we decide to eat for breakfast sets us up physiologically for the rest of the day. If we eat a good quality breakfast it puts us in a better mindset to make other healthy decisions throughout the day.
Even if we intermittent fast and don’t eat until mid-day we still are having breakfast, as the name states, it is simply us breaking our fast. Therefore, regardless of our eating pattern breakfast is important.
When picking what are to eat for breakfast we should be deciding on what suits our long-term goals and what makes us feel good in the short term. A great way to do that is to select what are called ‘functional foods.’ These are foods that have multiple benefits and promote overall health and well-being by helping to prevent the development of chronic disease. Functional foods are vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, legumes and organic meats.
Why You Need More Functional Foods
Chronic conditions and diseases like cancer, obesity, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc affect about half of all adults in the United States, over 117 million people and seven of the top 10 causes of death in the US are from chronic diseases.
These numbers are absolutely staggering and this shows that there is a clear problem going on. It is no secret that living a healthy lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition and exercise, prevents chronic disease. This means we need to be paying attention to what we eat on a daily basis and consuming foods which promote our health and well-being – functional foods.
How Functional Foods Prevent Chronic Disease
The triage theory helps us to understand why eating nutrient dense function foods is so important. It states that some functions of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids) are restricted when levels are low and the functions required for short-term survival take precedence over those that are less essential (ie. long-term health functions). What this means is that if we are low in a particular nutrient our body will use the levels we have to keep us alive today rather than work to keep us healthy 10 years from now (ie. prevent chronic disease).
The main ways we get micronutrients is through functional foods which include all the co-factors. We should be striving to have lots of servings of vegetables each day with some fruits. A study of over 150,000 people ages 45 and up found that increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables was associated with reductions in all-cause mortality. They also found that those who had 7 or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables had that highest risk reduction.
Delicious Ideas for Getting More Functional Foods in Your Diet
I’m sure you’re like me and want to be apart of the lowest risk for death group so that means, we need to be getting some fruits and vegetables in our breakfast. Here are some functional food options to go along with our fruits and vegetables.
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Oats: are full of soluble fiber which feeds good bacteria in the gut and a healthy gut is vital for overall health. Oats also contain something called beta glucans which can lower levels of low density LDL cholesterol which is the harmful type of cholesterol.
Chia seeds: are also a useful food to add to breakfasts as they are high in fiber which also helps to control blood sugar and are high in omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation.
Ceylon Cinnamon: has anti-diabetic properties as it helps to reduce blood sugar levels by helping to aid the function of insulin. This is due to compounds in cinnamon known as MethylHydroxyChalcone polymers (MHCPs) which have been shown to have similar actions to insulin. There are two major kinds of cinnamon on the market Ceylon and Cassia Cinnamon, we want to be reaching for the Ceylon variety as cassia contains coumarin which can be toxic to the liver in high doses. Cinnamon has also been shown to improve levels of triglycerides in the blood along with fasting glucose levels. We do not need to dump large amounts of cinnamon on our food, ½ a tsp will give us the benefits of cinnamon.
How to Make Functional Breakfasts: 2 Killer Recipes
Functional Oatmeal Recipe
1/2 cup large flake oats
1/2 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chia seeds
½ cup blueberries
¼ cup chopped strawberries.
pinch of Himalayan Salt
1 cup filtered water
- Pour water into pot, add cinnamon, bring to boil.
Add oats, reduce to simmer for 3-5 min, stir occasionally.
- After oats are cooked, remove from heat, add chia seeds, blueberries, chopped strawberries, and pinch of celtic sea salt. stir and enjoy
TIP for extra thick oatmeal let it sit for 3-5 min to let the chia seeds expand and gel.
Functional Omelette Recipe
1 cup spinach
½ Red Pepper
3 Cremini Mushrooms
- 2 Organic Eggs
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
- 1 tablespoon filtered water
- Chop onion, red pepper, and mushrooms.
Melt ½ tbsp of coconut oil in a pan over medium heat
Add the onion, red pepper, mushrooms and spinach to pan with 1 tbsp of water and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk together.
Remove vegetables from the pan and add ½ tbsp of coconut oil, spread around pan. Pan over medium heat.
- Add the eggs and cover for 3 minutes.
- Add the vegetables and fold one side of the egg over the other. Cover for another 2 minutes then enjoy!
Before You Go…
Breaking our fast is important and when we do we need to be integrating functional foods into the mix and making sure we have some vegetables and/or fruits in the mix. Our breakfast sets us up for a successful day of eating the right way. We don’t need to eat our breakfast right away when we wake up, I personally workout fasted then eat after and that works great for me. Find what works for you. The important thing to remember is eating functional foods helps to keep us alive and healthy today and going forward, plus they make us feel good after our meal is done too!
This fantastic article was written by The Healthy Happy Coach, Joshua Graham (Fitness Expert and Nutritionist). Connect with him on Facebook at The Healthy Happy Coach.
- Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E62.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading causes of death and numbers of deaths, by sex, race, and Hispanic origin: United States, 1980 and 2014 (Table 19). Health, United States, 2015.
- Christian K Roberts and R. James Barnard. Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2005; 98: 3-30.
- McCann JC and Ames BN. Vitamin K, an example of triage theory: is micronutrient inadequacy linked to diseases of aging? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 90 (4): 889-907.
- Binh Nguyen, et al. Fruit and vegetables consumption and all cause mortality: evidence form a large Australian cohort study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2016; 13: 9.
- Oathman RA, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effect of oat beta-glucan. Nutrition Foundation. 2011; 69 (6): 299-309.
- Jana Blahova and Zdenka Svobodova. Assessment of Coumarin Levels in Ground Cinnamon Available in the Czech Retail Market. The Scientific World Journal. 2012.
- Allen RW, et al. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of family medicine. 2013: 11 (5): 452-9.
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