Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The World's Best Power Breakfast!

When it comes to breakfast there are several issues that need to be understood in order to make good choices for this "most important meal of the day."

First, the word breakfast literally means to break our fast. We have been fasting through our sleep period and the result is low blood sugar. It is this low blood sugar level that typically motivates our first food picks of the day. The body's call is for sugar! Our brains are not even fully functioning until we get blood sugar levels up because they rely entirely on simple sugars. With these forces understood it becomes easy to see why sugar cereals, doughnuts, pastries, pancakes, waffles, yogurt, sweetened coffee beverages, juice, jelly, instant breakfast drinks, smoothies and fruit are all popular choices.

Our next issue is of course how to manage blood sugar optimally. We need to bring it up quickly, but not too quickly. We need to maintain it through the day and we need to avoid dramatic or rapid fluctuations. Working within these guidelines will keep the body on an even energy burn without periods of tired and wired. These guidelines also result in protection from and reversal of blood sugar disorders, including insulin dependency!

Now we need to understand that it is all about the carbohydrates in the diet and that they are far from equal. Carbohydrate must be eaten with fiber. Fiber is the time release mechanism provided by nature. Without it we are essentially injecting ourselves with sugar. Carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines, primarily the small intestine. Without the buffering effect of the fiber sugar is taken up too quickly resulting in a spike in blood sugar and insulin. It is the spiking that we feel as being tired or wired. This is not the roller coaster we want to hop on first thing in the AM!

Starting the day with the right food choices sets the stage for successful blood sugar management throughout the day. In addition to blood sugar management we should also take the opportunity at breakfast, as with all meals, to load up on antioxidants. Generous liquids or high water content foods are also important to flush away the elimination that has taken place through our rest period. The best breakfast choice to cover all of these bases is the humble smoothie. Ok, maybe not so humble by the time I'm finished with it, but a smoothie nonetheless.

My top picks for a real POWER breakfast smoothie include; flesh and coconut water from young coconut, (check Whole Foods and other natural foods stores but Asian markets are the best place to find them/ they have white husks) bananas, acai,(check the freezer section in Whole Foods and other natural foods retailers/ Sambazon is the best quality and the frozen packets are smoothie ready!) blueberries, strawberries, mango, and pineapple juice.

Open the coconut with a thick bladed sharp knife. The coconut will be filled with water, it should be clear and have a delicate odor, the flesh should be white. If it has started to turn pink it is not fresh. Pour the water into the blender and scrape the flesh out with a spoon. The consistency of the flesh is like pudding and is rich in fatty acids critical for proper immune function. Use half of the coconut water and meat along with one half of an acai package unless preparing multiple servings. Unused coconut meat and water can easily be stored frozen in a zip-lock bag until needed. Add remaining frozen fruit and top off with pineapple juice. Pour the juice only to the level of the fruit and blend until smooth; add more juice a little at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Adding various boosters can supercharge this basic smoothie. I like to keep half a dozen boosters on hand and mix them up from day to day. My top picks include flax seed, raw hemp protein (Manitoba Harvest brand is the best, made simply from ground whole raw hemp seed), raw cacao (chocolate, nibs or whole bean is best)), raw carob, powdered greens (Amazing Grass brand is best, wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa), raw oat bran, raw wheat germ, macca, Siberian ginseng, dates, fresh figs, nut butters, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Fresh ingredients are always better! However, using frozen fruit is also fantastic and there is no waste. I like to buy my bananas for example, ripen them, peel and freeze them. When I find really nice fresh fruit that is in season I will stock up and store it in the freezer. Portioning out individual ziplock bags of fruit and keeping them in the freezer is a great time saver for those mornings when there is no extra time and it makes it easy for kids too.

Start the day with a generous glass of water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by the smoothie approximately 15 minutes later.

Ideally the smoothie can be followed in 30-45 minutes by sprouted or whole grain breads and cereal. Carbohydrates found in the fruit will typically reach the blood stream within 15 minutes if consumed on an empty stomach. The sugar in fruit is in a simple ready to use form; it does not require the stomach or much digestive activity at all. Carbohydrates found in grains on the other hand can take hours for the body to break down into the simple sugars it actually uses. By starting with the smoothie we are providing a source of immediately available energy fully buffered by the fiber naturally found in all fruit. The smoothie will carry us for hours, plenty of time for the complex carbs found in the grains to be broken down and prepared for use.
By following the simple sugars in the fruit with the complex sugars in the grains we are setting the stage for proper blood sugar management through the day.
Smoothies are sweet, rich and delicious and even the kids love them.

Boundless energy throughout the day is ours for the taking. This simple breakfast regimen is the foundation on which to build. Enjoy!

No comments: