Which is worse as practice: not eating breakfast or consuming whatever is available in your fridge or cupboards? Is it really better to choose something from the bakery shop?
Although we are proud of having “the best cuisine” in the world, we are not known of having a breakfast of equal value. Be careful though; don’t stick with pancakes and pies (made of cheese, ham or milk), so as to avoid needing a cardiologist before turning 50 years old.
So, does a proper Greek breakfast mean, using only products farmed and grown on our land? As you will read, I chose 8 Greek products due to their health benefits and capacity of providing energy throughout the day.
Eggs are actually one of the best choices for breakfast. I am obviously not referring to fried or scrambled eggs. Studies report that consuming eggs as breakfast increases satiety and restricts energy intake in the next meal, as well as assists blood sugar and insulin control (1, 2, 3). Eggs also contain significant amount of choline, which is essential for brain and liver health (4). Despite their high cholesterol content, eggs don’t raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs reduce cardiovascular risk by modifying LDL cholesterol structure and increasing HDL cholesterol levels, whereas improving insulin sensitivity (5).
Our, famous abroad, Greek yogurt is a unique fermentation product with high protein content. As a result, yogurt’s (and other dairy products’) protein promotes satiety by increasing PYY and GLP-1 hormones blood levels, and aids control body weight (6). After all, many types of Greek yogurt are good sources of probiotics (e.g. Bifidobacterium) that maintain intestinal integrity and health (7).
Even though we don’t produce coffee, it’s a rather significant part of our breakfast. Caffeine helps to improve mood and cognitive performance, even in small amounts (8). In addition, coffee is rich in antioxidants that degrade inflammation, protect integrity of blood vessels, and decrease diabetes and liver disease risk (9-11).
It sounds foreign but we actually produce oats, mainly on mountain or acidic soil. In early days, we used oats as provender or to make groats. Just to be up to date, we now recommend raw or soaked oat with yogurt or milk. Oat contains beta-glucan that reduces blood cholesterol levels (12) and increases satiety by promoting PYY hormone secretion (13). In addition, oat is rich in antioxidants that protect cardiovascular system (14).
I’m not referring to Northern European fruits, but to the crops of our mulberry tree. Its most tasty berries are the black and the red ones. They are rich in antioxidants, exerting anti-inflammatory and cardio protective effects (15, 16).
Adding nuts to your breakfast enhances satiety and helps avoiding body weight gain (17, 18). Most of them are energy dense, so you have to use them as part of a meal and not on their own (19). Nuts are proven to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and inflammation (20-22), mainly due to their high magnesium, potassium, and monounsaturated fatty acids content. Thus, in a recent research, replacing 2 portions of carbohydrates with 60 gr nuts resulted in blood sugar and cholesterol decline (23).
All fruits provide vitamins, potassium, fiber, whereas are poor in calories, too. In addition, citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C. As part of your breakfast, fruit can make you feel more full as a result of their high water and fiber content (24). It is also beyond any doubt that we can choose from a vast variety of fruits, both fresh and dried.
Flaxseeds are rich in viscous fiber, which help you feel full for several hours after a meal (25). Bear in mind that only 2 tablespoonful of flaxseed provide 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Because of its composition, studies indicate that it enhances insulin sensitivity, and decreases blood sugar levels, whereas it exerts protective effects against breast cancer (26, 27).
One more point
Try adding Greek honey, molasses or sourdough bread to your breakfast, especially if you don’t like oats.
In other words, combine 2 or more foods (from the list above) so as to have a proper breakfast that will provide boost and energy for the rest of the day.
By George Milessis Msc – Clinical Dietitian
- Vander Wal JS, Marth JM, Khosla P, Jen KL, Dhurandhar NV. Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec; 24(6):510-5.
- Rains TM, Leidy HJ, Sanoshy KD, Lawless AL, Maki KC. A randomized, controlled, crossover trial to assess the acute appetitive and metabolic effects of sausage and egg-based convenience breakfast meals in overweight premenopausal women. Nutr J. 2015 Feb 10; 14:17.
- Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutr Res. 2010 Feb;30(2): 96-103
- Zeisel SH, da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009 Nov; 67(11):615-23.
- Blesso CN, Andersen CJ, Barona J, Volek JS, Fernandez ML. Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism. 2013 Mar; 62(3):400-10.
- Leidy HJ, Armstrong CL, Tang M, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. The influence of higher protein intake and greater eating frequency on appetite control in overweight and obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Sep; 18(9):1725-32.
- Prasannaa PHP, Grandisona AS, and D Charalampopoulos. Bifidobacteria in milk products: An overview of physiological and biochemical properties, exopolysaccharide production, selection criteria of milk products and health benefits. Food Research International 2014; 55: 247-62
- Ruxton, CHS. The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin 2008; 33(1): 15-25
- Ochiai R, Sugiura Y, Otsuka K, Katsuragi Y, Hashiguchi T. Coffee bean polyphenols ameliorate postprandial endothelial dysfunction in healthy male adults. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015 May; 66(3): 350-4.
- Ding M, Bhupathiraju SN, Chen M, van Dam RM, and FB Hu. Caffeinated and Decaffeinated Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and a Dose-Response Meta-analysis. Diabetes Care 2014 Feb; 37(2): 569-86
- Larsson SC, and A Wolk. Coffee Consumption and Risk of Liver Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterology 2007; 132(5): 1740-5
- Whitehead A, Beck EJ, Tosh S, Wolever TM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Dec; 100(6):1413-21.
- Rebello CJ, Chu YF, Johnson WD, Martin CK, Han H, Bordenave N, Shi Y, O’Shea M, Greenway FL. The role of meal viscosity and oat β-glucan characteristics in human appetite control: a randomized crossover trial. Nutr J. 2014 May 28; 13:49.
- Liu L, Zubik L, Collins FW, Marko M, Meydani M. The antiatherogenic potential of oat phenolic compounds. Atherosclerosis. 2004 Jul; 175(1):39-49.
- Jeong HS, Hong SJ, Lee TB, Kwon JW, Jeong JT, Joo HJ, Park JH, Ahn CM, Yu CW, Lim DS. Effects of black raspberry on lipid profiles and vascular endothelial function in patients with metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2014 Oct;28(10):1492-8.
- Riso P, Klimis-Zacas D, Del Bo’ C, Martini D, Campolo J, Vendrame S, Møller P, Loft S, De Maria R, Porrini M. Effect of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink intervention on markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial function in humans with cardiovascular risk factors. Eur J Nutr. 2013 Apr; 52(3):949-61.
- Brennan AM, Sweeney LL, Liu X, Mantzoros CS. Walnut consumption increases satiation but has no effect on insulin resistance or the metabolic profile over a 4-day period. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Jun; 18(6):1176-82.
- Tan SY, Mattes RD. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov; 67(11):1205-14.
- Novotny JA, Gebauer SK, and DJ Baer. Discrepancy between the Atwater factors predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug; 96(2): 296–301.
- Gulati S, Misra A, Pandey RM, Bhatt SP, Saluja S. Effects of pistachio nuts on body composition, metabolic, inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters in Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome: a 24-wk, randomized control trial. Nutrition. 2014 Feb; 30(2):192-7
- Kasliwal RR, Bansal M, Mehrotra R, Yeptho KP, Trehan N. Effect of pistachio nut consumption on endothelial function and arterial stiffness. Nutrition. 2015 May; 31(5):678-85.
- Berryman CE, Grieger JA, West SG, Chen CY, Blumberg JB, Rothblat GH, Sankaranarayanan S, Kris-Etherton PM. Acute consumption of walnuts and walnut components differentially affect postprandial lipemia, endothelial function, oxidative stress, and cholesterol efflux in humans with mild hypercholesterolemia. J Nutr. 2013 Jun; 143(6):788-94.
- Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Banach MS, Srichaikul K, Vidgen E, Mitchell S, Parker T, Nishi S, Bashyam B, de Souza R, Ireland C, Josse RG. Nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates in the diabetic diet. Diabetes Care. 2011 Aug; 34(8):1706-11.
- Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E. A satiety index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995 Sep; 49(9):675-90.
- Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, Mars M, Schols HA, Feskens EJ. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2011 Sep; 12(9):724-39.
- Hutchins AM, Brown BD, Cunnane SC, Domitrovich SG, Adams ER, Bobowiec CE. Daily flaxseed consumption improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes: a randomized study. Nutr Res. 2013 May; 33(5):367-75.
- Flower G, Fritz H, Balneaves LG, Verma S, Skidmore B, Fernandes R, Kennedy D, Cooley K, Wong R, Sagar S, Fergusson D, Seely D. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2014 May; 13 (3):181-92.