Around dieting, weight loss, weight gain, and health, there’s a huge amount of information about what is healthy and what isn’t. Some people will swear by just a black coffee in the morning to kickstart their metabolism, and then not eat until lunch whereas some people will argue it’s better to have a huge breakfast so they’re not hungry all day.
Then there’s the superbly marketed smoothies… are these good? Well, you’ll notice to make a smoothie you’ll need to buy a smoothie machine. Being cynical, one could argue this is partly responsible for the marketing drive to promote smoothies as healthy, and it is.
Anyway, many approaches can work but it depends on the health goal. The most sensible approach is considering what to eat, or perhaps not to eat with a more logical and open minded approach than simply absorbing marketing messages (often subconsciously).
What does your body need?
Yes, every body is different, that’s true, but the variations are typically very minimal except in the most rare of circumstances (<0.1%). To honour this argument, consider that there’s over 10 million estimated different species of animals on our planet. All animals need food, and within the same species it’s the same food. Yes, your cat or dog may well turn its nose up at carrots whilst your neighbours cat adores carrots, but in the wild, have you ever heard of a fussy giraffe, or a polar bear that just ‘didn’t like that’….
We can take clues from weight management. Of the estimated 10 million+ species, only 3 really ever suffer from weight management problems. They are, humans, cats, and dogs.
You can easily spot the problem here. We have introduced foods into our diets, and that of our pets that is not natural to the foods found naturally in the environment.
Through scientific methods we can use this information to conclude that all humans can typically eat the same foods, and that food choices and preferences are really only down to availability, which is a result of modern agriculture, not evolution.
So, the bottom line; our bodies need nutrition. And nutrition is can be broken down into constituent parts such as water, fibre, and then terms such as macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, sugars), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). You may have heard these terms thrown around by nutritionists, health gurus, and the media. It’s big business telling people what to eat because everyone has to eat!
So how can we decide which nutrition is correct?
The answer here is more simple than it may first be perceived and that’s a result of the mass confusion from food marketing, the media, friends, family, and other influences.
We should ultimately take clues from nature because this is the most unbiased source available.
Latitude determines the type of food availability to a degree (intentional pun), so at the poles there’s very little food available; perhaps some fish and a few land animals but that’s it. They’re very hard to catch and use a lot of energy to do so – this is one of the reasons why populations don’t thrive at such latitudes. At the equatorial latitudes, fruit grows in huge abundance, with fruit acting as water storage organs to nourish the fruit as it grows, and it grows fast in the intense relentless sun – food here is limited and somewhat scarce. And, no – it’s not just fruit, there’s other crops too, but they tend to struggle with the long dry seasons, and it’s the same for animals (including humans) living here. Animals here have to expend a lot of energy just to survive.
The polar and equatorial latitudes are tough for food sources.
Moving to the temperate latitudes, things become interesting! In this region, most of the world’s population live and thrive! Mostly in the northern hemisphere, but the same is true in the southern hemisphere also. At these latitudes, fruit grows well, vegetables grow well, beans, legumes, starches, tubers, in fact almost all crops thrive in these latitudes.
This is no coincidence that almost all of the worlds population live at the same latitude as their food source. It just makes sense. And you thought you clicking on an article about healthy breakfasts…. You have, but it requires some background to make sense!
And so, back to the title…
A healthy breakfast is most logically going to consist of the foods most native to your environment, and in the abundance that is provided in that environment.
These foods are essentially unprocessed, they are made from plants, not in a refining plant or factory and they will be based around complex carbohydrates. These foods are readily available, easily harvested, and store relatively well.
Examples of these foods with a high abundance around temperate latitudes (where you likely are right now) are:
Now, starches grow in abundance, as do fruits and non starchy vegetables. You should, by now, start to see where this leads to. The conclusion is one of logic and reason. Pick the foods most in abundance in your natural habitat and build breakfast around those.
It’s not to say don’t eat animals, it’s too suggest that prior to modern agriculture and tools, animals were extremely difficult to catch, and in many cases killing animals was different and dangerous! We have thrived without habitually eating them.
A few examples..
Let’s take oats, which grow in absolute abundance and are quite similar to wheat. With minimal processing oatmeal is produced. It’s packed with complex carbohydrates, protein and a modest level of fats. Interestingly, it’s also packed with fibre and a lot of vitamins and minerals.
However, the point here is that it is close to the whole natural food. You may hear stories from all types of sources that ‘carbs make you fat’, this is simply a poor understanding of carbohydrates and to be detailed in a later post.
With a solid base of oats, fruits and vegetables can be added.
Very simple, and one definition of a healthy breakfast. You are receiving a lot of starch, which is a great source of energy for your body, protein, essential for growth (but not in excess – as marketed), and fat. You do indeed need fat in your diet, but very very little. Most people in the western world are overweight, and by overweight really we mean overfat. Their bodies are carrying too much fat. In our diets, we really only need around 5% of the total calories to come from fat as long as we are consuming the essential fatty acids (EFA), and to do this, eating whole natural foods is a sensible way.
With respect to supplementation, we simply don’t have enough data. With whole natural foods as described above, we have tens of thousands of years of data.
It’s not you, it’s the food.
So really, when we look at what makes defines a healthy breakfast, it’s nothing to do with the latest marketed product, the coolest smoothie or most endorsed or popular food at all.
The definition comes from history, and success leaves tracks. By tracking the foods consumed by all the evolutionally successful healthy populations on our planet the evidence is very very clear.
The issue we now face in the western world is one of availability and that’s where education such as Intelligent Eating provides comes into play.
Take a look at the following breakfast..
Rice, beans, tomatoes, spinach.
Perhaps not conventional? Not quite coca pops or blasted in a vitamix?
But is it healthy? Absolutely.
Is it practical? Well, you can buy a rice cooker for £6.50 and have it delivered tomorrow if you’re a member of Amazon prime… And cooking, well it takes around the same amount of time for rice to cook as it does for the average person to have a shower and get dressed.
As for chopping a tomato, throwing in a few beans and spinach leaves…. suddenly this has become almost as simple as toast, butter, jam, etc…
But it’s the health benefits that you really want to hone on in here. Eating the way healthy people eat (not western nutritionists, dieticians, doctors) but healthy people in populations around the world with low incidence of disease will give you similar benefits.
Benefits such as
- Low cholesterol (in the UK, under 5mmol/l is deemed as healthy (193mg/dl)), but in reality a significant proportion of those who have heart attacks and strokes have cholesterol in the range of 4-5mmol/l, so it would make a lot of sense to ensure your total cholesterol is under 4mmol/l (154mg/dl). And optimally, under 3mmol/l (116mg/l). Of course, cholesterol isn’t the only risk factor, nor is simply looking at only the total cholesterol, but it’s still significant and important. Millions of people are prescribed statin drugs – I propose that this is a better and safer method.
- Lower blood pressure. Again most people in the west world have high blood pressure. It might not be deemed high by their doctor, but it’s likely higher than it should be. For brevity, just think about whether you’d prefer to consider eating well or take prescription medication for the rest of your life, and a LOT of people end up on medication to lower blood pressure, often with awful side effects.
- No hunger. This is a big point, because it’s all great to suggest the above benefits but it has to be sustainable, and building a breakfast around a base of starch will keep you full until your next meal, typically lunchtime. Ask yourself this of the latest fad diet, smoothie, juice, or fast food breakfast.
- Money. Starting your day off with food like this saves you money. 1kg of rice? 1kg of oatmeal? Incredibly cheap food sources… You save money because the food is cheaper, and you save money because you don’t end up buying incredibly expensive junk snacks.
It’s definitely the food.
Think carefully and with rationale about this point.
In populations where availability of processed foods is low, disease is low. Where the availability of processed foods (in particular animal products) is high, disease is high. The importance of detail and understanding is crucial, in the average supermarket there will over 30 different types of breakfast oats for sale. They’re all different, some are exceptionally healthy, some are the reverse.
Do you know how to make the right decision? The fact you have such a choice is a huge huge part of the problem, you’re being marketed to. Relentlessly, because it’s commercially of interest to pharmaceutical companies, food companies and the health service to have you less than optimally healthy.
For all animals, including humans, the problems are the same, but availability is not..
When did you last hear of a giraffe with type 2 diabetes? Or an elephant with high cholesterol?
This is about education, not marketing noise. The education is required because of the society you live in. Without this critical education, you are ultimately no more than a helpless victim and that’s why there’s so many people who are desperately unhappy with their health, weight, prescription medications, and future.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Should you have reached the end of this post, then I applaud you for doing so. Most people won’t, they’ll have become distracted by something else. However, If you think it would be useful for anyone you know to read this then please do ping them the link.
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