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opinions from a food industry expert - BREAKFAST

opinions from a food industry expert – BREAKFAST

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BREAKFAST: The most important meal of the day?

The other day I said that breakfast is really not the important meal it’s thought to be.

Breakfast was important for many during the Agricultural Revolution. If you were going to spend the whole day working hard on the land with little chance for a break, you’d have been wise to get something nutritious in your belly before setting off.

Breakfast carried over into the mid-19th Century when regularised working hours came along during the Industrial Revolution, and labourers needed an early meal to sustain them during a long gruelling day. Lunch breaks came along much later.

Many people kept pigs and chickens, the most popular breakfast for the English was bacon or sausage and eggs with chunks of fried bread. Pork, ham, black pudding, liver and other offal, milk, and cheese would also be seen on the breakfast table. For the very poor gruel, porridge or bread would’ve had to suffice.

Before the introduction of the organised workforce breakfast didn’t figure at all. We normally ate the main meal around midday after, ‘working up an appetite’ labouring on the land, or hunting food for the family, a supper would be eaten at the end of the day before bedtime.

The Romans ate just one meal at midday, believing it best for the digestion. A soldier got up, brushed his teeth, then marched 20-30 miles with a 20.5 kg pack on his back before tucking his napkin into his toga and sitting down to dinner. I suspect, a Roman soldier gracefully swooning on the Fosse Way because his metabolism had failed to kick-start would have been a rare sight.

During the Great War, probably because of the uncertainty of knowing when the next meal could be, it was thought necessary that soldiers and those working on the war effort, should eat a nutritious meal at the start of the day: the key word here is ‘nutritious’.

The government coined the phrase ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ about this time.

During, and following, the 2nd World War, rationing made it impossible to put together the traditional breakfast. By now, since most of us believed breakfast was indispensable we had to look for other things. Porridge or toast were options, but the new sugar-laden cereals coming over from the USA soon took over.

The idea of needing breakfast to ‘kick-start the metabolism’ is a strange one. To kick-start, something implies that it must have stopped. Our metabolism stops only once, and that’s between ten and fifteen minutes after our brain dies. If there’s a breakfast that can fix that, I’m up for it,… ‘McDonald’s Big Resurrection Burger’ that’s a thought!… Or maybe not, how’d you get there?

The fact is, few things have any effect on metabolism, those that do, invariably slow it down, not speed it up… One thing conclusively known to slow it down, leading to weight gain is: attempting to lose weight using caloric or nutrient reduced diets. The more times you do it the more easily you will gain weight.

Our metabolism does not stop while we’re sleeping. What does happen is; Our body stops using ingested carbohydrates to fuel it. Instead, using a biochemical process to release energy stored in fat cells to fuel metabolism and the brain.

The problem for many of us is that through overeating carbohydrates, especially first thing in the morning, our bodies have become unused to accessing sufficient fuel to also provide energy for skeletal muscle. This is an example of ‘Use it or lose it’. Eating a refined carb may indeed make you feel that something has been ‘kick-started’ because of your suddenly elevated blood sugar, but this only serves to keep you reliant on carbs as your body’s main fuel, leading eventually to carb intolerance, then diabetes.

The body can quickly readapt to using energy from fat stores for all functions, simply by restricting carb intake, particularly in the morning.

Anyone who really struggles with switching from carbs to real food in the morning may need to do it gradually… have a little toast and real butter with your eggs or some berries in your yogurt. Carry some chocolate or an energy bar to eat if you should start to feel faint. Fainting is rare but can happen when the brain thinks there’s not as much sugar coming in as it’s used to.

This ceases to be a problem within a few days provided you are eating nutrient rich real food.

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