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Don't forget to start the day with a good, healthy breakfast

If mornings are a mad dash at your house, breakfast may seem like a luxury you cannot afford. But breakfast isn't just important for kids.

A Harvard Medical School study found that breakfast eaters have one-half the risk of developing obesity and insulin resistance, a major risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, compared with breakfast skippers. The researchers think that the key may be calorie control, and breakfast has an almost magical ability to help with that throughout the day.

When we eat, our bodies experience something called the "thermic effect," which means that we burn calories just by digesting and absorbing our food. If we get up at 7 a.m., skip breakfast, and don't eat our first meal until noon, that's five hours during which our calorie burn has slowed down.

Studies show that breakfast eaters eat less fat and fewer calorie-dense foods all day. Consuming most of your calories early in the day means you're less likely to overeat or snack in the evening.

Glucose is what your body uses for energy. During sleep at night, when your body doesn't require much energy, your blood sugar or glucose drops to the fasting level. When you get up in the morning, your muscles need more glucose for all the activity you do.

If you don't refuel with breakfast, your blood sugar can drop below the fasting level. This can cause weakness, headaches, dizziness and even fainting at worst. At best, you won't be operating at peak performance. Your brain uses glucose for energy, too, so you can see why breakfast-skippers do not perform as well.

Carbohydrates raise your blood sugar level the fastest. Examples of carbohydrate foods are hot or cold breakfast cereals, breads and fruits. Protein foods are best at keeping the level up for a long period of time. Protein foods include milk, cheese, eggs, meats and nuts. A combination of the two is best for keeping you working at top level all morning. If you eat a breakfast that provides one-fourth to one-third of the day's nutrients, you're off to a good start for the day.

Many breakfast-skippers experience the mid-morning slump. They feel a need for food, and rightly so, but they cure it with a snack. Snacking is not a bad thing if you eat nutritious foods. But, too often snack choices are high in calories and low in nutrients. This may be why many breakfast-skippers gain unwanted pounds fast.

The trick to eating a healthy breakfast is to stock up on foods that are ready to eat. Add these foods to your grocery basket: fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, orange juice with calcium and vitamin D, peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, bananas, and whole grain cereals, breads and waffles.

Web posted on Thursday, August 17, 2006

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