… Why breakfast really is the best way to start your day
MASERU (TmgLive) - The importance of breakfast has long been a part of the prevailing wisdom, and the habit of eating breakfast has always been a marker of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, if there’s a meal that is going to be skipped, it’s probably breakfast; and this is a pity because research clearly shows that there are many vital health benefits associated with eating breakfast regularly.
For the first time in South Africa, a broad coalition of health partners including leading non-profit organisations, health professional associations as well the National and Provincial Departments of Health, have aligned National Nutrition Week (9 – 15 October 2018) with National Obesity Week (15 – 19 October 2018) to promote a shared and very important message that eating breakfast is the best way to start your day.
After a long fast, a healthy breakfast kick-starts the metabolism, lights up mental functioning and boosts physical energy on a day-to-day basis. However, the health benefits of breakfast are not just experienced over the short-term. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast regularly over the long term helps to reduce risks of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. This correlates with studies that show that children, adolescents and adults who eat healthy breakfasts regularly have better, sustainable weight outcomes and are at a lower risk of becoming overweight and obesity.
“It is ironic that one of the common reasons for skipping breakfast is the desire to lose weight when it has the opposite effects,” says Rebone Ntsie, Director: Nutrition at the National Department of Health.
“The lack of breakfast leads to a far greater risk of compensating with unhealthy snacks to get through to lunchtime and with bigger lunch portions.”
Ntsie points out that, according to the 2016 South Africa Demographic and Health Survey, 68% of women and 31% of men in South Africa are overweight or obese. Life-threatening, severe obesity affects around 20% of women and 3% of men. Approximately 13.3% of children under 5 years of age are overweight or obese; and according to the 2012 South African Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES), 14.2% children aged 6 to 14 years are overweight or obese.
CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, Professor Pamela Naidoo says: “At least 80% of early deaths caused by heart disease and stroke can be avoided by following a healthy diet, which includes eating a healthy breakfast, in combination with regular physical activity and avoiding the use of tobacco. It is important to understand how the food choices we make contribute to overweight and obesity.”
Many South Africans consume large amounts of sugary drinks and eat a lot of convenience foods that are typically high in sugar and fats. There’s also a common preference for highly refined starchy foods over those that are minimally processed and healthier. Taking in too much food energy from nutrient-poor foods leads to weight gain.
However, making poor food choices is not the only issue. Professor Naidoo points out that our modern lifestyles easily lead to ‘portion distortion’. “Large portion size is also a major contributor to weight gain whether people eat out or at home,” she says.
What should a healthy breakfast consist of?
Breakfast should consist of at least one food group (excluding beverages). However, to stay fuller for longer and improve the variety of nutrients you take in at breakfast, it helps to include foods from three or more food groups. A rule of thumb is to choose a minimally processed starchy food combined with a food from at least one of the following groups:
. vegetables or fruit
. dry beans, lentils, split peas, soya
. fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs
. milk, maas or yoghurt
. plant oils, soft margarine, peanut butter
In addition, it is important to drink clean safe water instead of a sugary drink.