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What makes a healthy breakfast? The carb versus fat debate

Eating breakfast in the morning allows your body to “fuel up,” both physically and mentally, increasing energy and concentration levels throughout the day. But given a choice, do you opt for bacon and eggs or something like oatmeal or a bagel with cream cheese?

What’s important to consider here is the value of a macronutrient balance. The body receives calories from three types of macronutrients.

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

That’s it! The best meals are a balance of these three components. Vitamins, minerals, water and other micronutrients present in food contribute greatly to the body’s health and function; however, they provide no energy source that impacts your weight status.

Let’s break down two common breakfast philosophies—high fat and high carb—and get to the bottom of what really makes a healthy breakfast.

High fat or high carb?

Ideally, meals are balanced between the three macronutrients. Comparing these two breakfast plates is a practice of looking at the extremes, but it’s a helpful illustration when you’re trying to learn more about building a balanced plate.

The plate of bacon and eggs contains a significant source of protein but also provides a hefty dose of fats. Contrary to the beliefs of previous low-fat fad diets, dietary fat in food doesn’t directly make you gain body fat. Any of those three macronutrients can create body fat when eaten in excess.

On the other side, the bagel with cream cheese provides lots of energy with fast-acting carbs, but also a significant source of the type of carbs that don’t treat our body the best. When we eat refined or white carbohydrates, blood sugar tends to spike, and insulin is released quickly in large amounts. Over time, chronic blood sugar imbalances can lead to insulin resistance, prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Building a better breakfast

So, what in the world are you supposed to eat, knowing you want to stay healthy and feed your cells with the energy they need? Breaking apart the meal into components is the easiest. Build a healthy breakfast by incorporating a good source of protein, carbs, fat and the often-missing ingredient, fiber.

Protein

  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Smoothie with protein powder
  • Bacon or turkey bacon
  • Sausage or turkey sausage

carbs

  • Berries
  • 1/2 banana
  • Apple or orange
  • Oatmeal (no sugar added)
  • Low-sugar granola
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole grain toast

Fat

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-2 tablespoons nut butter or a small handful of nuts
  • Egg yolks
  • Bacon
  • Olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil
  • Butter or ghee (clarified butter)
  • Coconut (try adding shredded unsweetened coconut to yogurt or oatmeal)

The missing ingredient: Fiber

We’ve talked about the importance of protein, fat and carbs in every meal, but there’s a little more to it than that. When building your breakfast plate, choosing high-fiber foods will help keep you full for longer.

Fiber, the part of plants we don’t digest, does more than regulate the digestive tract. Fiber also:

  • Slows digestion, which keeps blood sugar more stable
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Promotes weight maintenance

Good sources of fiber for breakfast include:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Vegetables (try making an omelette or scramble)
  • Beans (add black beans to breakfast tacos)
  • Nuts
  • Chia seeds (add a tablespoon to your yogurt bowl)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Berries

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What makes a healthy breakfast? The carb versus fat debate