Healthbeat

4 ways to boost your energy with breakfast


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As you sleep, your body is hard at work digesting yesterday's dinner. By the time you wake up, your body and brain are demanding fresh fuel. "Breaking the fast" is a key way to power up in the morning. Do it right and the benefits can last all day.

If you miss the day's first meal, notes Dr. David S. Ludwig, a nutrition expert at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, you may start off with an energy deficit and have to tap into your energy reserves.

What's a good breakfast? One that delivers some healthful protein, some slowly digested carbohydrates, and some fruit or vegetables. A vegetable omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast qualifies, as does a bowl of high-fiber cereal topped with fresh fruit and reduced-fat or soy milk, along with a handful of almonds or walnuts.

Try these 4 tips for creating your own energy-boosting breakfast:

  1. Choose whole grains. High-fiber, whole-grain cereals and breads can help keep your blood sugar on an even keel and avoid a midmorning energy crash. With the hundreds of types of cereal on the market, bran cereal, bran flakes, and steel-cut oatmeal are typically the healthiest bets. To choose the healthiest breakfast cereal, read the label and look for:
    • 5 grams or more of fiber per serving
    • less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving
    • less than 5 grams of sugar per serving
    • whole grain as the first item on the ingredient list
  2. Include protein. Yogurt is a good choice; Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt. Eggs (up to one a day) are okay for healthy people. Although yolks are high in cholesterol, eggs have proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients and don't appear to increase the risk for developing heart disease.
    You might also include foods that have healthful fats such as those in nuts or salmon. Limit processed meats to the occasional treat as these foods are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
  3. Eat in, not out. You can enjoy a healthful breakfast out if you stick to oatmeal. But much of the traditional fare will start your day with loads of refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. Like most processed food, the breakfast offerings from fast-food chains tend to be high-sodium, low-fiber disasters.
  4. Blend up a breakfast smoothie. Combine fruit, juice, yogurt, wheat germ, tofu, and other ingredients. Toss them in your blender with a bit of ice and you have a refreshing, high energy breakfast.

For more on developing strategies for boosting your energy, buy Boosting Your Energy, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.