Breakfast: the First Academic Frontier
Studies show that fewer than half of us are eating breakfast with real adverse effects: especially for children. Studies conclude that students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their attendance, memory, concentration, problem-solving ability and test scores[i]. Study after study proves what educators have long believed to be true: when children’s basic nutritional and fitness needs are met, they have the cognitive energy to learn and achieve. In addition, the lack of breakfast consumption over the last 40 years also mirrors obesity rates. Simply stated: breakfast is an essential part of a child’s life.
Breaking the Fast
The term ‘breakfast’ literally means literally means “breaking the fast”. After fasting all night, a developing body (and brain) needs a number of things: great carbohydrates (fiber), complete protein and healthy fats. When your child wakes up they have not eaten for a long time which is hard on a young person’s body as they have faster metabolisms and need constant replenishment. For example, if your 6 year old ate dinner at 7pm the night before, a 7am rise means a full 12 hours without nutrients. The result? Insulin and glucose levels rise while the child’s body tries to quickly rebalance itself. If nutrients are lacking over time, the body will start to effectively ‘stockpile’ energy (or fat) when the child does eat in order to quickly store food as fat for future use. This creates a cycle of stress on the body and potential pediatric weight gain.
Avoiding Childhood Obesity – Eat to Lose:
Studies indicate that with a healthy breakfast children are more likely to lose excess weight and maintain weight loss. In one American study, they reviewed thousands of adolescents for five years and found that: teens who ate breakfast (with more daily calories) had a lower Body Mass Index even though they ate more calories in a day. Other studies have proven that breakfast helps to jump starts the metabolism, helping kid feel fuller for longer while decreasing bad snack desires. In one study they reviewed the brains of children and found that those who ate breakfast were far less likely to be enticed by the bad trans-fatty foods at lunchtime.
Not all Carbs are Created Equal
Carbohydrates, with the best choice being the complex-carbohydrate of soluble and insoluble fiber, become the brain’s basic fuel. “Without glucose,” explains Terrill Bravender, professor of pediatrics at Duke University, “our brain simply doesn’t operate as well. People have difficulty understanding new information, [they have a] problem with visual and spatial understanding, and they don’t remember things as well.”
When choosing a healthy breakfast meal, look for foods with high fibre percentages that make up the carbohydrate portion. So for example a cereal that is 20g of carbohydrate and has 18 grams of fiber is an incredible choice. Conversely, a bowl of cereal with 20grams of carbohydrate that has minimal fiber basically means that this is a bowl of sugar – as that is how your child’s body will use or metabolize the carbohydrates.
What you want to look for are “low glycemic” foods. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly food carbohydrates are absorbed into our bodies and converted to energy. Sugary low fiber cereals are ‘simple carbohydrates’ that are metabolized very quickly causing a peak in blood-sugar levels. This sugar “high” then requires the body to try to get rebalanced by secreting insulin to stop the negative effects of this poor choice. Blood sugar levels then fall dramatically after two hours or so. These blood sugar peaks can trigger a release of hormones that can affect mood. In some children, these hormones can affect concentration and memory.
High fiber foods such as whole grains, chia, fruit, veggies and oatmeal, on the other hand, are absorbed very slowly. The result is high fiber breakfast eaters have a slow rise in blood sugar levels and the energy and nutrients last them through the morning. At one study done by Tufts University, the psychologist Holly Taylor had one group of children eat sweetened oatmeal for breakfast while another ate Cap’n Crunch cereal with the same sugar content. Afterwards, both groups were given academic tasks. The oatmeal eaters did up to 20 percent better than the Crunch eaters. To Taylor, that shows that “the children were remembering more information … after having eaten oatmeal.” Although both cereals had the same sugar levels, Taylor says that the oatmeal had more protein and fiber, and therefore a lower glycemic index.
Protein is important to have at every meal, especially first thing in the morning. Most importantly, the protein needs to be complete so that the body can utilize it immediately. Research shows that a high protein breakfast results in feelings of satiety for longer periods and better food choices throughout the day if your first meal has protein-rich foods, such as eggs, low-fat dairy products and fiber-filled fare, such whole-grain bread, hemp seeds, nuts and oatmeal. These foods have more staying power than highly processed low fiber low protein foods such as bagels, muffins, donuts and sugary cereals.
Good fats are also an important part of a healthy start to a little one’s day. Make sure that you avoid any trans-fatty acids found in many processed foods like donuts, cookies and snack foods. Also lay off the saturated fat that is high in meat and dairy products. Instead, opt for healthy fats found in essential fatty acids (EFA) – Omega 3 and healthy Omega 6. The EFAs are needed for: normal brain function; growth and development; bone health; and regulation of metabolism. Great sources of vegan EFA sources can be found in Chia and Hemp Hearts.
In addition, Hemp Hearts are the only food source of an incredibly beneficial type of omega-6 fat called gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is a direct building block of good anti-inflammatory hormones. GLA has many benefits as it helps to: regulate blood pressure; reduce inflammation; enhance immune response; defend against abnormal cell proliferation; assist in production of steroids and hormone synthesis; regulate the body’s fluid balance by assisting kidney function; reduce allergic response to allergens and promote nerve transmission. So a great way to start the day is to have EFA’s daily.
Recipe of Champions
This recipe is fast and easy. Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals the combination of oats, coconut oil, chia, hemp, goji, and coconut sugar help boost immunity and energy, decrease inflammation, provide whole protein and EFA’s, lower blood sugar levels and ensures great digestive health.
1/2 cup water boiled
1/3 cup Quick Flake Oats (Gluten Free)
1/2 Tablespoon Edica Naturals’ Organic Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon Edica Naturals’ Organic Chia
1 Tablespoon Edica Naturals’ Organic Hemp
1 Teaspoon Edica Naturals’ Organic Cacao Nibs
1 Teaspoon Goji Berries
1/2 Teaspoon Edica Naturals’ Organic Coconut Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Boil water. Assemble dry ingredients and place in a bowl. Pour water on top, stir and let sit for a minute. Top with rice milk.
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By Ann Barnes, Co-Founder, Edica Naturals. Copyright 2016.