the science behind great day #6: what will I eat?

As a person who loves people and loves food, I have a quandary. Is there something we can eat which will make us better as individuals facing the world, and still be good for us? Yes.

Great day suggestion #6: Eat something good. And a real treat.

breakfast-uploadYou know the motherhood lecture about breakfast being key to starting the day right?  Recent heath studies have found that while breakfast is important, some people do fine with NOT eating breakfast. A 2012 Harvard study of 17,000 people showed that eating breakfast is linked to many health benefits, including optimism, weight control, and improved performance. But last year, researchers at Columbia University asked people to be in one of three groups — one group ate oatmeal for breakfast, one ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast, and one skipped breakfast. All tested equally healthy—and overweight people who skipped breakfast were the only group that lost weight.  It seems as if the metabolic system of different people can adjust wildly to breakfast.

What is far more important, research shows, is avoiding creating a “leanness mentality” or “scarcity sense” in your body or mind. This happens when we feel “cheated” or “under-fed”, and in response, our body begins to work hard to save resources. It decreases the expenditure of energy. It wants to rest to conserve calories. You know how blah you can feel when the oatmeal just stares back at you. “Can I just go back to bed, please?”

To avoid this “scarcity” or “blah” means keeping your body chemically and hormonally balanced. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, we do this primarily by allowing serotonin (and the corresponding amino acids) levels to recharge and grow in the morning. This sets us up for success for the day.

Since it has so many diverse and important roles in the body, serotonin levels are key to health mentally and physically. Serotonin allows you to have both energy and a positive outlook for the day. It makes us feel “well”and “ready”.

Serotonin is created when we eat protein, and can be found in a variety of foods like:

  • walnuts
  • pineapples
  • bananas
  • kiwis
  • fish
  • plums
  • tomatoes
  • turkey
  • bananas
  • milk
  • yogurt
  • eggs
  • meat
  • nuts
  • beans
  • fish
  • cheese

According to the research, a moderately sized breakfast with these kinds of foods helps boost our serotonin and to have a great day.

But there is another great surprise, too. Eat desert for breakfast.

sweet-rools-uploadTurns out that treating yourself to that morning chocolate-chip cookie may not wreck your diet after all. Researchers from Tel Aviv University report that eating dessert with breakfast — cookies, cake, or a donut, for instance — can help dieters lose more weight and improve everyone’s mental health. Eating a sweet treat (along with some level of protein, too) reduced the cravings many people had later in the day. As well, the ability to have a special treat gave a clear boost to serotonin levels and increased optimism for the coming day.

So take 10 minutes and eat well. Have your treat with a cup of coffee, which studies have shown help balance our blood sugar, counter heart disease, protect against stoke and even fight Alzheimer’s. Tomorrow morning, treat yourself a little. Drink a really good cup of coffee. I grind my beans each day. Fry an egg and eat it with good full-grain toast. Eat a slice of bacon. Spend an extra dollar on some really good fruit, and savor it for breakfast. Make an omlet with tomatoes and cheese. An English muffin with real butter and jalapeno-strawberry jam. A couple of slices of deli turkey rolled in a slice of pepper jack. Create a “whatever-I-have” fruit  and yogurt smoothy. Did I mention bacon? And a piece of chocolate cake. Or a donut. Rejoice — you’re worth it.

I know that the “scale” of Damocles hangs over your head. Me, too. Rebel a bit. It will perk you up for the day. Life is too short for a repeated bowl of plain oatmeal or a Power Bar.

Great day suggestions so far:

1. Start the morning the night before: mis-en-place.  More on that here.

2. Get up when the alarm rings the first time. More on that here.

3. Skip the electronic media in the morning. Period. More here.

4. Live today! And do it with an intentional, positive attitude. More here.

5. Thank God in prayer each day. More here.

6. Eat something really good.

Tomorrow: The science of gratefulness.

water-and child's legs in puddle

One comment

  1. Love, love your posts and find that I have been doing almost all of them for quite awhile. Since I turned 75 and my warrenty ran out, I find it very important to do all the things you post here. Very good advice, Brad. The only thing I do not do is eat breakfast. I fast from dinner the night before till about 10:30 or 11:00 am the next day and then have poached egg and bacon and toast and coffee or maybe kombuch, etc. Keep up the good work.

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