When I was about 8 years of age, I used to be woken up by the Cock-a-doodle-doo sound of a rooster every morning. The roosters’ gracious sound was the farm alarm I was used to. In my young mind, I used to think that Mr. Rooster was saying good morning besides giving an indication that he was hungry. Every time he would crow my stomach would rumble in hunger. Interestingly, the roosters here in the Island of Oahu have a totally different circadian rhythm. This is not something you would find in a typical children’s book or movie showing roosters crowing at sunset. But that is okay. The point here is that Mr. Rooster was only informing the people that a new day has begun and it was time to get out of bed and prepare for breakfast. He was also letting us know that it was time to feed him and his kind.
As a little boy, breakfast was my favorite meal of the day. Surprisingly, it is still my best meal to date especially during the weekends when there are no pressing agendas calling for my undivided attention an hour after breakfast. I remember my mother used to gather her stainless-steel pot and a wooden ladle before slamming it together to wake me up if Mr. Rooster failed to succeed in getting me out of bed with his crowing. Well, the slamming was not only loud but my mother did it rapidly like a musician using his cymbals in the orchestra. The only exception being that the spotlight in the grand finale would be just the hi-hat crash cymbal player playing a solo piece of rock n roll. At that tender age, I didn’t really understand the meaning of having a healthy breakfast of champions. Luckily I now know more about health thanks to the lessons I learned from my mother. This habit of having breakfast even when I didn’t understand why I did it, really worked well for me when growing up. Breakfast was considered as the best ancient habit as it is today in our modern World. Why breakfast has a significant impact to health? Here’s why;
Reason 1: Breakfast Creates Healthy Habits
The knowledge that a growing child requires sound nutrition during his/her development years was passed to my mother who learned it from her mother who had also acquired the same from her mother. She passed on this knowledge to me at a tender age. She believed that having a consistent breakfast habit was a necessary lesson that I needed to learn during my development years. It also meant that when the entire family was healthy, energetic and strong it was easy for everyone to endure the day’s physical work that was required at the farm. In other words, this was the livelihood for my great, great grandparents. Interestingly, it is not much different for our household today that requires more energy to endure every day’s physical activities. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate breakfast daily used more energy through higher physical energy as compared to those who like fasting. Researchers have also suggested that healthy eating habits should be taught early during childhood. The habit should then be maintained during adolescence in order to satisfy the need for increased energy requirements. They go on to add those nutrient requirements correlated with other factors that can affect the adolescents’ food choice, nutrient intake, and nutritional status. This also means that good healthy eating habits prevent diet-related chronic diseases [1-6].
Reason 2: Breakfast affects Cognitive Process
A study which was done by C.R Mahoney et al from the Department of Psychology on children between 9-11 years of age found that the intake of breakfast improved the cognitive function immensely particularly in the complicated visual display. It also enhanced spatial memory, improved short-term memory and better auditory attention especially after consuming oatmeal [7-8]. The truth of the matter is that breakfast restores the glucose levels in our bodies which are an essential carbohydrate that the brain requires to function properly. Eating breakfast boosts your concentration power, memory, and mood and lowers stress levels significantly.
Reason 3: Meeting the recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumptions
On average, most experts recommend 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day. Eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables can be overwhelming especially in our busy schedules. So how is someone supposed to consume that entire amount in one day? I have found it best in my personal experience that, distributing my meals throughout the day allowed me to have more fruit and vegetable intake, versus consuming larger servings for lunch and dinner. And I am not referring to a 6 meal a day plan, as a distributing method of meals throughout the day. That is a whole different article in itself to talk about. The nutrient in fruits and vegetables meet our cellular function requirements Consequently, those nutrients help in dealing with all vitamin deficiencies effectively. They also help in reducing the consumption of higher energy-dense foods which are normally processed. Another study concluded that children who ate breakfast limited the consumption of unhealthy snacks later in the day [9-10]. While my mother may not have understood the science behind nutritional health, she was always consistent in including some kind of vegetables in every major meal plans of the day cooked or uncooked. Another method that mom used during breakfast besides getting us more fruits and vegetables was feeding us leftover dinner. This gave us an opportunity to ensure that we finished the previous dinner before we could have a new menu for dinner the next day. Leftover dinners were always some form of steamed vegetables. Of course, there are many more benefits of breakfast consumption but these were just a few I could remember in my childhood. Today I clearly understand why my mother implemented these basic principles.
What does a typical breakfast menu look liked when I was living in Hawaii? Our healthy breakfast menu included; oatmeal, papaya, guavas, Noni tea, bananas, leftover dinner (vegetable and chicken soup), Soursop fruit (custard apple), Sugar- apple (Annona squamosal), bread and peanut butter, macadamia nuts, wild rice mixed with white rice, coconut, steamed bitter melon leaves, opo squash, eggs fresh from our chicken farm prepared boiled, Kalamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa) as a morning citrus kidney flush beverage, and fried taro root or fried salted fish. This may sound all healthy but breakfast wasn’t always this way.
Hawaii was well known for its multi-cultural ethnic food and that is how Specially Processed American Meat(SPAM) found its way to the topmost chain of the most desired food among the locals. Since after World War II, SPAM has become a part of Hawaii’s culinary tradition. Today, they are eaten during breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast may also include; canned Vienna sausage fried in butter, pork hash, chow mein, a hamburger patty on rice containing fried eggs served with salty gravy and Portuguese sausages. All these can be found in upper market restaurants such as McDonald’s among many others. While it is tempting to go for the mentioned foods for breakfast, it also makes you vulnerable to hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, elevated cholesterol, cancer, osteoporosis and stroke among others.
Based on these studies, breakfast is noted to be significant but let’s face it, the way we do breakfast has to factor in our body type, resources, and schedule. For example, one person’s body type may actually do better on only two meals a day, another’s maybe three or more times a day. This can also vary for different healing stages of your life as well. When it comes to schedule, there are days you may need a quick breakfast option, and others you can sit down and prepare a fuller meal. The bottom line when it comes to breakfast is that it is a significant component for health and so we want to be wise about how we do breakfast and what we have for breakfast. Create a routine schedule, be consistent with when you eat, eat a variety of colorful foods and most importantly enjoy your breakfast!