Busting Healthy Breakfast Myths: Dr. Mark Hyman's 5 Tips to Eat Smart in the Morning

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Busting Healthy Breakfast Myths: Dr. Mark Hyman's 5 Tips to Eat Smart in the Morning

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We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn't mean any old breakfast will do. It's important that your first meal of the day be a healthy breakfast, and some of us still have some outdated notions as to what that entails. Luckily, Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the new New York Times bestseller “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?” has more than a few thoughts on the topic that he's willing to share, busting five popular healthy breakfast myths.

1. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea.

More experts challenging the idea that skipping breakfast is a bad idea thanks to the increasing popularity of intermittent fasting. A 2014 paper wrote that while breakfast had long been considered the most important meal of the day, in reality, it's "just another meal" and "prolongation of overnight fast, which depends not only on timing of [breakfast] but also on timing of the last meal of the day, can be beneficial."

Intermittent fasting has been shown by some experts to contribute to accelerated cell repair and weight loss, and Hyman ascribes to this belief.

"Sometimes I might skip breakfast and have a bulletproof coffee to stay in the level of ketosis and continue fasting," he says.

The Takeaway: If you don't have time for a healthy breakfast, it's probably better to skip it entirely than load up on sugary junk.

2. A cold-pressed juice is the perfect healthy breakfast option.

But while a juice can be a great way to get tons of vitamins and minerals into your diet first thing in the morning, Hyman warns against drinking too many of your veggies and – especially – fruits.

The fresh-pressed juicing trend has reached astronomical heights, becoming a $3.4 billion industry. But while a juice can be a great way to get tons of vitamins and minerals into your diet first thing in the morning, Hyman warns against drinking too many of your veggies and – especially – fruits.

“When you drink fruit, it doesn’t create the sensation of fullness you get when eating it,” he says. “This is because whole fruits contain fiber. Also, your brain doesn’t recognize calories the same way it does those you eat. As a result of those two factors, you end up consuming more calories drinking juice or sugar-sweetened beverages than when you do eating whole fruit.”

And don’t think that just because your juice is mostly veggies you’re in the clear: sweeter vegetables like carrots and beets, which are so popular in juices thanks to their higher sugar content, have the same effect on your body as fruit.

The Takeaway: If you’re going to have a juice as part of a healthy breakfast, consider serving it alongside something a little bit heartier that will keep you full.

3. Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast choice.

“When you start your day with sugar, you kick off an addictive cycle of sugar and carb cravings that will last all day long,” writes Hyman in his book.

Many foods that we traditionally consider to be breakfast foods are really desserts, according to Hyman.

"You would never eat ice cream for breakfast, but many cereals, toaster concoctions, muffins, and other things that pass as breakfast – even ‘healthy’ choices – contain as much if not more sugar,” he says. And consuming this much sugar first thing in the morning has devastating effects on the rest of your day.

“When you start your day with sugar, you kick off an addictive cycle of sugar and carb cravings that will last all day long,” writes Hyman in his book.

Fruit-flavored yogurts, most bran muffins, and the vast majority of granola bars can all set off this cycle – as can oatmeal, despite what many of us were raised to believe.

“Oatmeal has been touted as heart-healthy because the bran it contains reduces cholesterol,” Hyman writes. “However, there is often a ton of sugar in instant or microwavable oatmeal.”

Even if you choose plain, steel-cut oats, he says, oatmeal “spikes insulin and blood sugar, which makes you even hungrier.”

“While it’s a better breakfast than sugary cereal, oatmeal has a high glycemic index, which means having some for breakfast virtually guarantees that you’ll spend the rest of the day overeating,” he writes.

The Takeaway: Starting your day off with a sugary breakfast sets you up for a sugar-filled day.

4. Protein-rich breakfasts are hard to make during the week.

“Studies show protein-rich breakfasts can improve satiety and reduce evening snacking,” Hyman says.

But if you’re not eating cereal, pancakes, or muffins, then what can you have? Hyman suggests a combination of protein and fat, which has staying power to keep you full and fuel you for the day ahead.

“Studies show protein-rich breakfasts can improve satiety and reduce evening snacking,” Hyman says. “Another showed a protein-rich breakfast helps reduce your hunger hormone ghrelin and increase cholecystekinin, which signals your brain to stop eating. Protein-rich foods like eggs, nut butters, or a protein shake steady blood sugar and reduce metabolic fluctuations later in the day.”

But that doesn't mean you have to cook up a full English every morning. Here are a few of our favorite quick and easy healthy breakfast ideas rich in both fat and protein:

5. Eggs are bad for people with high cholesterol.

“After decades of avoiding eggs because we were told that cholesterol caused heart attacks, the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines officially exonerated them, finding no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease,” writes Hyman. “Now eggs are a health food.”

For someone who eats animal proteins, one of the best healthy breakfast options is an egg.

This, of course, goes against decades of nutritional guideline advice, but the jury is in: eggs are good for you (and that includes the yolks).

“After decades of avoiding eggs because we were told that cholesterol caused heart attacks, the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines officially exonerated them, finding no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease,” writes Hyman. “Now eggs are a health food.”

But that doesn’t mean you should eat any eggs or prepare them any old way. Choose pastured eggs that come from chickens that have been fed a natural diet and have had access to the outdoors. Not only are they more humane, but a 2010 study showed that pastured eggs were richer in vitamins A and E, as well as in omega-3 fatty acids.

Choosing healthy eggs from producers you trust also means you can cook them runny, which Hyman says is the best way to consume them.

“Egg yolks, which happen to be the most nutritious part of the egg, contain powerful antioxidants,” says Hyman. “When the yolks are cooked in high heat, they will lose the amount of antioxidants they contain. To preserve these antioxidants, I recommend lightly cooking eggs.”

The Takeaway: Eat eggs: they're cheap, they're filling, and they're good for you, provided they come from a good source and are cooked properly.

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