Why (the way you eat) Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Good morning readers!  I just finished eating breakfast and was inspired to talk to you about why this meal is so important.  I could spend this time writing about how metabolism needs a kickstart in the morning with a good shot of protein to the bloodstream.  I could bring up why the first thing you put in your mouth should never be sugar, or else you will suffer from a crash an hour later and struggle to regulate your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day.  Anna Zell, a good friend and licensed acupuncturist, swears by protein and vegetables in the morning. Are you a numbers person? Check out this awesome post from Co.Exist with plenty of percentages to prove our point, like how a healthy breakfast will shape how healthy your meals are all day.  I can even give you a handful of links to great bloggers that will supply you with recipes to make you long for breakfast time. This Cinnamon Quinoa breakfast from Alkaline Sisters. Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Pudding from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Breakfast Pizza, made with gluten free crust, from Gluten Free Living LA. Our very own Basil Spinach Frittata and Sweet Potato Breakfast. All delicious and energizing for breakfast time.

Now that I have done all of these things that I claimed I would not….

I will get down to the point.  What you eat for breakfast is important, but so is the way that you eat it. If I asked all of you if you feel overstressed on a regular basis, I am certain I’d get a high percentage of you to say yes.  A major source of a stress begins with breakfast, and with the first 30 minutes of our day. When we hit the snooze button 3 times so that we have no choice to hop out of bed, take half a shower, maybe grab a bagel on our way out the door that we shovel down on the way to work, we have set ourselves down a stressful path for the whole day. How you spend the first half an hour of the day activates certain pathways in your brain and makes them more easily accessible.  In other words, if we activate areas of our brain, specifically the fight or flight mechanisms in the limbic system, within the first half hour of the day, we more readily activate those areas throughout the rest of the day. This makes even the smallest things seem catastrophic; we find ourselves crying over spilled milk.

Not only are we more likely to activate stress pathways in our brain if we do in the beginning of the day, we also have a lower tolerance for stress throughout the rest of the day when we need it most.  The stress hormone, cortisol, is helpful for us when it is necessary. When we are under a deadline that we have to meet in an hour, stress keeps our focus on the work so that we are not distracted. From a biological perspective, it is what gives us the energy to run away from predators or towards food.  We can actually overdose on cortisol though. Having too much in our blood stream is toxic- a lot like coffee. One cup means we are more awake. Sometimes two makes us extremely efficient. Three put us over the edge and we jitter to complete the tasks that don’t need to be done while the ones that are crucial sit on the corner of our desks, untouched. Not to mention that our adrenal glands, the regulators of stress, can only release so much cortisol at a time. If we exhaust our adrenals, cortisol cannot do its positive job of motivating us.  One step to avoid this is to make positive use of our morning, starting the day smoothly rather than in a stressed state.

So what do I recommend? Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you need to. When it goes off, hit snooze, but stay awake rolling around in bed for that 10 minutes. Then move along with your morning routine- shower, shave, chat with your family… do it all slowly. Stretch. Take time to make your breakfast! Sit down to eat it. Maybe that means you eat a little less breakfast so that you can get out the door on time. If you are eating nutritionally dense foods, like oatmeal with honey and nuts or 2 eggs with spinach and brown rice, you won’t need to eat a huge serving anyway. Start your day slow and steady.  Focus on setting yourself up for success in the am by keeping stress levels low. You will rarely regret creating more time for yourself in the morning to be more peaceful for the whole day.