Breakfast special

What would you like for breakfast? That’s an easy enough question to answer.

But here’s a breakfast question that millions of people answer incorrectly every morning: What kind of breakfast delivers the healthiest nutrition?

Today we’ll hear from two colleagues of HSI for some common-sense suggestions about the “most important meal of the day.”

Toucan Sam

You may have heard TV news reports about a recent study concluding that breakfast cereal consumption is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who either skip breakfast or eat bacon and eggs. (BMI is an estimate of your total body fat based on your weight and height.)

Let’s take a quick look at the study details.

Researchers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley, examined data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a large population-based survey conducted in the U.S. from 1988-1994. The objective was to compare different types of breakfasts to energy intake and BMI. Breakfast types included meat/eggs, ready-to-eat-cereal, cooked cereal, breads, quick breads, fruits/vegetables, dairy, fats/sweets, beverages, and those who skipped breakfast completely.

Results showed that 1) Skipping breakfast is not an effective weight management tool, and 2) Breakfast intake of ready-to-eat-cereal, cooked cereal, and quick breads is associated with lower BMI than any of the other breakfast types.

Now, knowing that the interpretation of survey data is not just number crunching (analysis is called for, and analysis can be tweaked and skewed), it’s important to note that the sole funding for this study was provided by Kellogg-USA. Yep, THAT Kellogg. And it’s also worth noting that of the many breakfast types examined in the study, Kellogg’s just happens to manufacture the only three types that got a big thumbs up: ready-to-eat-cereal, cooked cereal, and quick breads. Quite a coincidence, huh?

So according to the results of this specific study, the best breakfast choices for keeping your BMI within acceptable range include PopTarts (qualifying as a quick bread) and Toucan Sam’s favorite breakfast treat: Froot Loops. Both of these fine products are manufactured by Kellogg’s, of course.

Here’s an amusing irony: Dr. John Kellogg and his brother Will established the Kellogg’s company in the early 1900’s. Dr. Kellogg was a famous and somewhat eccentric nutritionist who believed that one of the pillars of good health was to eliminate sugar from the diet. Just imagine what Dr. K. would think of a bowl of Froot Loops!

But high sugar content isn’t even the worst part of the UC study’s highly suspect breakfast advice.

Steel cut Irish

In a Daily Dose e-letter last summer, William Campbell Douglass, M.D., made a comment about breakfast food, which just happens to provide a perfect reaction to the UC study.

Dr. Douglass wrote: “If you start your day the Kellogg way, you’ll get what you deserve – obesity and diabetes. Cereal, muffins, and other standard breakfast offerings contain massive amounts of sugar – or pure carbohydrates that your body converts to sugar. Bombarding your system with these foods every morning will make your pancreas work overtime to produce insulin – and wearing out your pancreas will lead to diabetes.”

In other words, there’s much more to the total health picture than just BMI.

In another Daily Dose, Dr. Douglass looked at a study of adolescents who ate either instant oatmeal or unprocessed oatmeal for breakfast. The study showed that the group eating instant oatmeal consumed more food later in the day than the unprocessed group. The reason? The higher glycemic index of the instant oatmeal causes it to be digested more rapidly, so hunger returns sooner.

Dr. Douglass sums up the results by observing that, “processed food is junk food that robs you of nutrients – not to mention the pleasure of eating real, good-tasting food. Oatmeal is an excellent example of where you can see the difference between processed and unprocessed for yourself. Purchase a container of Quaker Oats (‘Old Fashioned – 100% natural’) and a can of McCann’s steel-cut, Irish oatmeal (made in Ireland). Open the lids and compare. They don’t even look like the same grain! And the taste difference is remarkable – Quakers is mushy, McCann’s is crunchy. Once you go natural, you will never turn back.”

Protein powered

So what does Dr. Douglass suggest for breakfast? He recommends foods that will “get you off to a stable start, free of violent fluctuations in blood sugar,” such as eggs, bacon, medium rare beef, poached fish, and unhomogenized dairy products (including cheese). If you want something sweet, he says that fresh, whole fruit is fine, but not juice or canned fruit.

This “menu” is quite similar to another list of breakfast foods suggested by HSI Panelist Eric Berg, D.C., C.R.A., who told us about diet and its relation to fatigue in an e-Alert I sent you last year. After reviewing thousands of his clients’ diets, Dr. Berg identified one common denominator in patients suffering from fatigue: They “either eat nothing for breakfast, or they eat carbohydrates in the form of toast, bagels, cereals, or a bran muffin.”

Here are some of the items on Dr. Berg’s preferred breakfast menu: eggs, peanut butter, cream cheese, cheese, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, raw nuts, tahini butter, hamburger patty (no bun), pork chop, steak, ham, bacon, fish, and sausage.

And to those he adds these carbohydrates that are acceptable when taken in moderation with the above proteins: fruit in the cottage cheese, sprouted grain (Ezekiel bread) with peanut butter or cream cheese, berries with plain yogurt, red potatoes with cheese and eggs, celery with peanut butter, and steel cut oatmeal.

And one of the best reasons for choosing these breakfast items is the way they’ll make you feel. Dr. Berg says, “When you eat more protein for breakfast, you’ll find not only an improvement in energy but also in mental clarity. Depression and anxiety are two other conditions that can be diminished or eliminated with a good solid protein breakfast. Try this out for a couple a days and you’ll see.”

I wonder if toucan meat is high in protein?

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“The Effect of Breakfast Type on Total Daily Energy Intake and Body Mass Index: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III)” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 22, No. 4, 296-302 (2003),

“A Lighter Start to the Day”, 8/4/03,