DayJune 17, 2014

The Ideal Oatmeal

Breakfast is really important to me… but it is frequently the meal I have the least amount of time to prepare. Yet it’s supposed to power me through my day and help me avoid temptation later in the day. In the end… it usually but not always ends up being some variation of oatmeal. I don’t think I can fight it anymore… oatmeal is the breakfast du jour.

Meals give us energy. Our brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy. So: meals help our cognitive functions if we provide the body with the right nutrition. And for many people, what do you need from the get-go early in the morning? Dat brain power for work-related mumbo jumbo number crunching interpretation bullsht. Gosh, I have a remarkable talent for getting distracted with anecdotal information. I’m going to stop writing in full sentences. Bear with me. I get carried away when it comes to nutrition.

OATMEAL. 1/4th cup dry. Complex carb. 4g fiber. Is low-glycemic. A food is low-glycemic if it scores 50 or lower (effect food has on blood sugar levels). More fiber = feel “satisfied”/more full. Also has 5g of protein. Slow-digesting protein helps you feel full… LONGER. Fiber+protein = keep you from feeling like you’re hungry right after eating and after, too. But Carbs = energy to keep you going.

HOWEVER! if anyone says plain jane Oatmeal can satisfy them they’re lying or delirious. Also there wouldn’t be enough nutritional value to just pure oatmeal slow-boiled in water to mushy perfection.

Oatmeal checks out as a carb – 27g in 1/4th cup dry steel cut oats.

From the last post… I have learned that the ideal breakfast will have a combination of both complex carbs and protein… and it’s easy to see why. So wherefore art thou proteins?

First: When does the body rebuild and repair? During sleep. And from the last post, what repairs and rebuilds the cells? Protein! So upon rousing from that picture perfect pretty slumber… the body is in need of some protein. But alas, oatmeal – the world-proclaimed breakfast of champions – is a bit lacking in that department.

The easy solution: greek yogurt (17g protein, minimal carbs) or protein powder of some sort (varies depending on the source of the derived protein)!

From LiveStrong:

1. Kick Start Protein Synthesis – Your body uses protein to rebuild itself as you sleep, so come morning you’re in need of a protein boost. Just 20 to 30 grams of protein is enough to “flip on” your body’s muscle-building switch and maximize your ability to stack amino acids into protein and muscle. The morning is an especially good time to do this since your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol are elevated (cortisol runs on a circadian rhythm and is higher in the morning). Adding protein to your breakfast will stimulate protein synthesis, counteracting cortisol’s muscle degradation mechanism.

2. Make Better Choices – Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center discovered that an interesting rewiring of our brains occurs with higher protein breakfasts. In a small pilot study, they found that people who ate a high protein breakfast (versus those who ate low-protein morning meals or skipped breakfast entirely) experienced decreased activity in the part of the brain associated with reward-driven eating behaviors. These changes persisted for several hours after breakfast – indicating that a higher-protein breakfast helps you better control food cravings later in the day.

3. Feel More Satisfied – Protein has a satiating effect by controlling blood sugar and stimulating the hormone CCK (Cholecystokinin), which acts on the brain to increase feelings of fullness. This is especially beneficial for those looking to lose weight. Researchers at Purdue University found that dieters who increased protein at breakfast enjoyed sustained feelings of fullness after breakfast, though not at other meals.

Then there’s the small case of needing some servings of fruits and veggies every day…

So why not a nice handful of berries?

↑ high in antioxidants (anthocyanins)
↑ increases antioxidant capacity in plasma w/ intake of 3 cups of blueberries per day vs. 1-2 cups per day
↑ increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind)
↑ improves memory/cognitive function
↓ lowers triglycerides
↓ only 85 calories per cup
↓ low glycemic index (score of 50 or less)
↔ helps maintain blood pressure
↔ protects LDL cholesterol from oxygen damage, which in turns leads this bad cholesterol to clog the walls of blood vessels
↔ phytonutrient antioxidants help against oxidative stress to eyesight/helps protect against sun damage to retina

As if all that weren’t great enough, blueberries are fibrous. Oatmeal is great and all… but even a complex carb alone cannot do the body justice. Tossing in protein (very important at breakfast, I think!!) and some fruit (still a sugary carb, but with benefits that outweigh that small fact…) and flavors your oatmeal without need for nutritionless sugar.

Image Credits: Spoon University