I think I say the word “Breakfast” more than any other word in my clinic. The most common pamphlet I give patients is my, "How to Eat Breakfast" pamphlet. I had a day of 20 patients. All 20 came in with various symptoms. My recommendation to all 20 was - Eat Breakfast! I couldn’t believe it! I said to my intern, "Well, we have another one that needs breakfast!" Now, breakfast isn’t for everyone. I completely understand that most of us hardly have time to slam a microwaveable breakfast burrito in the morning. I get it, but if you're serious about your life and your health, you need breakfast! However, I do recommend that some patients don't eat breakfast and do a true fast instead. These are patients who are obese (not just stomach fat, but obese), they suffer from sleep apnea and high blood pressure. In these cases, a fast is better because fasting does not spike your blood sugar. So fasting allows obese individuals to regulate their insulin more easily.
For everyone else, BREAKFAST! So why is breakfast so magical? Well, it's not magical, it's your cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for your fight or flight hormone that wakes you up first thing in the morning. It's extremely dependant upon glucose, aka, food. Your cortisol should be at its highest in the morning followed by a slow drop off after that until the evening when it will almost reach its lowest point. Cortisol is your car. Breakfast is your gas. If you plan to drive your car all day and don't put gas in it, you're going to burn out your spark plugs!
The caveat though? Breakfast must have high-grade premium petroleum to create healthy sustained energy output. Low-grade input will result in low-grade output leaving you feeling sluggish all day. The most important fuel you can consume is Protein. Even if you’re vegan you need protein! Protein is life! You actually cannot live without protein. The disease caused by not eating enough protein is called Kwashiorkor. And yes vegans do fall victim to it. Protein is vital to how our hormones are transported and used. They are the building blocks to our muscles, organs, and brain.
Without protein, human life literally cannot exist. I recommend a minimum of 20 grams of protein within 60 minutes of waking up. Without this fuel, your breakfast is nearly useless. If you are attempting to balance your hormones and blood sugar, I recommend 30-40 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking up. You have a short time you can run your car without fuel. So this getting up, doing chores, having two cups of coffee business then breakfast two hours later, doesn’t work! The next vital fuel you need is healthy fat. Most healthy fat has a lot of protein in it. Coconut oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish are all great choices. Fat acts as a vehicle that transports your hormones all over your body. Without healthy fats, your hormones have no transport system. This is one of the biggest issues I see. Healthy fats also act like WD40 in your blood vessels. It protects you from clotting in your brain, heart, and lungs.
The final ingredient to a wonderfully balanced fuel is nutrient dense fiber. Fiber can come from things like chia seeds, flaxseed or hemp seeds but fiber also is in all our fruits and veggies. Veggies are great in the morning! They provide a generous serving of vitamins and minerals and there's no better time than the morning to eat them! Cooked vs raw? Doesn’t matter, although, if raw veggies are harder to digest, cook them in some coconut oil and that can help the problem. I always recommend the most simple meals possible. The more food ingredients in one sitting can be a bit taxing so I prefer to “cycle” my food. One day I have yogurt with nuts and seeds and some sauteed veggies and eggs on the side. The next day I will do an omelet with peppers and onions. The next I’ll choose to do a chicken breast with spinach and kale. Cycling is a good way to get all the good things you need without causing too much digestive taxation.
I also like to group lunch in with my breakfast recommendations because lunch is the second most important meal and the most forgotten. Lunch should be less protein than breakfast (15-20 grams) but almost as much food. How many of you can say that your lunch is a big heaping protein and veggie filled meal? Not many, I bet. Dinner should be your smallest meal with the least amount of protein. This is a great way to start your day and keep yourself going. You’ll notice you feel more energy, better sleep, and better mood because your hormones will become normalized. And your digestive system should improve too. So, if you don’t do breakfast now, start to think about what your new breakfast should be!
Dr. Christina Fick