Spring has arrived and soon, slumbering creatures will emerge from hibernation, ready to fill their bellies with nature’s bounty.
Which makes it fitting that March is National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has declared this year’s theme is “Go Further with Food”. In our March series of blogposts, we’re going to explore the link between diet and mental health and how eating right can help you go further with your wellbeing and achieve more. Today, we’re going to look at breakfast.
At one point or another, perhaps as we’re running out the door, late to class or work, we’ve all been cautioned not to skip breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day – but is it?
Yes – according to a 2017 study, foregoing breakfast could be hurting your heart. In response to hunger pangs later into the day, those who skipped breakfast were more likely to eat more and rely on fast food alternatives throughout the work day to meet their caloric needs. Those who ate breakfast at home generally consumed healthier alternatives to fast food and were sated longer, leading to more moderate eating throughout the day. And it seems that the American Heart Association agrees: people who adhere to regular meal times, including eating breakfast are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure than those who skip breakfast. As we’ve explored in other blogposts, there is a strong link between a healthy body and a healthy mind – some food for thought.
So, we now know that having breakfast is important but what about what we’re choosing to eat in those early hours? Luckily for you, nutritionists and researchers have been working hard to crack the code on what you should be consuming to start your day off right.
Let’s start with coffee: a 2017 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal reviewed research that concluded coffee consumption had a “consistent association with lower risk of depression and cognitive disorders”. Additionally, a 2012 study found that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was correlated with a 50 percent reduced risk of suicide. According to Psychology Today, coffee’s benefits on wellbeing can be traced on its effect on dopamine release – a neurotransmitter linked to the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
Eggs, a long-time breakfast staple, have also been evidenced to enhance cognitive performance and can help pregnant mothers reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia in their babies. Yogurt and other fermented foods contain probiotics (healthy bacterial cultures), which have been linked to reduced anxiety and stress hormones. Breakfast favourites, like whole grain toast or oats release glucose slowly, providing steady fuel for the body and mind throughout the day. Fatty fish, like salmon, contain omega-3s, which can also benefit your mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and ADHD, while boosting learning and memory.
With all of these healthier options, there’s no better time than now to put away other traditional breakfast choices, like processed cereals and fruit juices, which loaded with added sugars, spike blood sugar and insulin, leading to an energy crash and irritability later in the day.
While the field of nutritional psychology is relatively new, there are thousands of researchers studying the link between diet and mental health and a growing body of evidence is helping connect consumers with options that are good for the body and the brain. We’ll explore more of these links in the rest of our March blogposts. Until next time!