For years now we’ve heard conflicting opinions from various health experts citing breakfast as the single most important meal of the day, and others rubbishing these claims and promoting intermittent fasting until lunch. Of course, many people have grown up either being ‘breakfast people’ or ‘non-breakfast people’, which is usually what determines your morning habits as an adult. But where does breakfast come into play when you’re dieting? And which food is the superior choice when weight loss is your goal?
You might think that skipping it altogether would make more sense from a calorie perspective, and we’ve all heard nutritionists’ cries that our favourite breakfast foods like granola holds a myriad of hidden calories and dangerous sugars… but cutting it out altogether would surely lead to overeating later in the day, wouldn’t it? Is plain porridge our safest option?
THE BEST BREAKFAST FOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Well, as it turns out, not only is eating breakfast your best bet for achieving weight loss, but eating this one particular thing will help you reach that goal. By providing a slow, prolonged energy release throughout the morning, filling up on this powerful food will eliminate your desire for a sugary mid-morning snack and therefore cut unhealthy calories out in the process.
Yes, we’re talking about the humble egg. Often cited as containing too much fat and cholesterol to be considered a truly healthy breakfast choice, The American Heart Association is in favour, noting that while one egg does indeed contain 1.5g of fat, 72.5% of the egg is made up of pure protein, which outweighs the fat content from a nutritional stand-point.
WHY ARE THEY NUTRITIONALLY GOOD FOR YOU?
Racking up just 78 calories each, they are an efficiently low-calorie food for a dieter, providing a solid protein source (6 grams in a large egg) and invaluable vitamins, such as Vitamin D (1 in 5 people in the UK have low vitamin D levels, according to national surveys) which aids health and the immune system, and choline, which helps metabolism and liver function, as well as fetal brain development. But it’s not just the trusty egg white which is important nutritionally – egg yolks are also good for the eyes. They’re significant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55.
WHAT ABOUT THE HIGH CHOLESTEROL FACTOR?
But what about the great ‘cholesterol fear that’s been doing the rounds for years now? Should we just ignore all that and put it down to bad press? Well, yes and no. Eggs are relatively high in cholesterol, and “people who are at risk for heart disease, have diabetes or who have had a heart attack should pay close attention to the amount of cholesterol in their diet”, according to Jo Ann Carson, professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas. But for the rest of the population, “eating an egg a day as a part of a healthy diet for healthy individuals is a reasonable thing to do.”
Even better news, if you’ve decided to go veggie (as over 3 million people in the UK have) and therefore are not eating other high sources of cholesterol such as red meat, then the extra cholesterol an egg provides is not considered risky at all.
WHY ARE THEY SO GOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Consuming eggs for breakfast is a great weight loss tool, according to a study published by the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri, with one survey showing that women achieve a 65% greater weight loss over 8 weeks when choosing this as their first meal of the day.
As stated previously, eggs contain a large amount of protein, meaning they help reduce your appetite (a more stable blood glucose and insulin response suppresses the hunger hormone, ghrelin), increase fullness, speed up your metabolism (through a process called the thermic effect of food) and lessen the chance of you overeating throughout the rest of the day. Eating a diet high in protein has also been said to reduce obsessive thoughts about food by up to 60% and cut the desire for late-night snacking by half, according to a study published by the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri.
Egg-lovers can rejoice! An egg or two a day seems to be okay for a low-risk, average person to consume, and may also just be the one thing that will make or break a successful diet.
Although do keep in mind that if you fry your egg in lots of vegetable oil, or add a big wedge of butter to your scrambled eggs, it both ups the calorie content of your meal and may increase cholesterol levels further. So, try sticking to heart-healthy olive oil (in a spray version if you can) to minimise excess calories when frying eggs or omelettes and try adding a little milk to scrambled eggs rather than butter, before cooking slowly over a low heat for a nice, creamy end product.