A good breakfast is a game changer. That may seem like hyperbole — and something your mother always told you — but it’s the truth. In fact, scientific studies show that consistently eating healthfully in the morning is one of the most important things you can do to tip your metabolism in the right direction. That’s a move which will substantially cut your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Why is a good breakfast so critical for your health? To begin with, after a good night’s sleep your metabolism has slowed down and needs something of a kick start. Both your brain and muscles are looking for fuel (in the form of glucose), which will help get them going. It may be tempting to reach for a donut and a cup of coffee, which will certainly provide a sudden jolt of energy. However, that kind of quick (high-sugar) fix is a short-term solution that is bound to cause long term havoc with your metabolism.
In fact, high-sugar foods in the morning really set you up for a vicious cycle. For instance, early-morning spikes in blood glucose levels are especially problematic because they cause the pancreas to overwork from the get go. As Eric Rimm (Sc.D), a nutrition expert at Harvard School of Public Health notes, “Over time, if your pancreas is constantly producing insulin to compensate for high levels of glucose, it will burn out and you’ll develop diabetes.”
Worse still, eating a poor breakfast primes your body to be hungry sooner because blood glucose levels plummet soon after a high carb meal. This is what prompts many people to munch on late morning snacks. This leads to a roller coaster (up and down, up and down) effect on blood sugar that is both exhausting and dangerous. Not surprisingly, studies show that eating a poor breakfast — or skipping it entirely — encourages people to overeat throughout the day. Studies confirm that this pattern increases your risk for high cholesterol, weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
In contrast, a healthy breakfast sets up a virtuous cycle. As Dr. James Betts, who conducted a prestigious Bath Breakfast Project (at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom) notes, eating right in the morning “primes your metabolism to maintain stable blood sugar levels after subsequent meals” and throughout the day.
With that thought in mind, I’d like to share my recipe for a great breakfast cereal, which will help keep your blood sugar levels stable while lowering your cholesterol. It’s packed with heart-healthy ingredients that I have seen make a huge difference in the cholesterol levels (and the waistlines) of many patients over the years. The ingredients include:
- Rolled oats contain a viscous soluble fiber called beta-glucan that has a high viscosity. As a result, oats help you decrease the rise in blood sugar after a meal and help you feel fuller longer after eating. The science is clear that eating rolled oats regularly can significantly lower your “bad cholesterol.”
- Oat bran is a high soluble fiber, which means that it can help mop up cholesterol before it gets into your bloodstream.
- Wheat germ is a rich source of phytosterol, an all-natural compound that helps prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the small intestines. In addition, wheat germ is also a great source of Omega fatty acids, which studies have shown can lower both serum cholesterol and inflammation.
- Lecithin is an important nutrient, which is involved in many metabolic processes. Its role in lowering cholesterol is not established although anecdotal reports suggest that it is of value…and it is beneficial in protecting cells from oxidation.
- Flaxseeds have been part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. In addition to being fiber-rich, studies have shown that sprinkling ground flaxseed on cereal can help men lower their cholesterol.
- Sunflower seeds are a rich source of phytosterol, which helps keep cholesterol from getting into your bloodstream.
- Nuts. Studies show that adding almonds to your diet can prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. Walnuts have similar cholesterol-busting qualities. In addition, they are one of the only nuts with abundant levels of alpha-linoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Pecans are not just especially tasty — they are rich in heart-healthy nutrients (including a unique form of vitamin E, which appears to have a protective effect when it comes to intestinal health).
- The soluble fiber, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants in blueberries make them among the most heart-healthy foods out there.
I believe the benefits of my cereal recipe are so profound that I sometimes call it my “medicinal müesli.” In fact, it’s one of the first things I recommend to many of my patients struggling with high cholesterol. As I tell them, “you may have eaten your into this problem, and this breakfast is going to help you eat your way out of it.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
MY MÜESLI RECIPE
- 2 lbs rolled oats (regular or quick cook)
- 1 lb oat bran
- ½ lb wheat germ
- ½ lb soy lecithin granules
- ½ lb flax meal (ground flax seeds)
- ¼ lb sunflower seeds
- ¼ lb walnuts, pecans, or almonds
- ½ lb dried blueberries
- Mix all ingredients in a large container.
- Keep some out for immediate use. Store the rest in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. (Freezer is perfect).
- Eat ½ to ¾ cup of müesli in low fat or fat-free milk, soy/rice milk, water, or diluted juice. Can also be eaten with 3-4 ounces of live culture yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, with fresh/frozen berries.
- Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to each serving for an additional benefit on cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Chocolate lovers: Add 1-2 teaspoons of raw, unsweetened cacao powder which is a potent antioxidant and source of heart healthy bioflavonoids…and can reduce food cravings for the rest of the day.
Note: If you would prefer to cook this cereal, leave the lecithin, wheat germ, and flax seeds out of the mixture and stir 1 teaspoon of each into the cooked cereal.
I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Take good care,
Dr. Joshua Levitt