Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; We’ve all heard this saying before, but is it really true? The answer to this age-old question is yes, breakfast can have a profound effect on our current and future well-being. Not only has breakfast been associated with a lower risk of weight gain, it is also associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Moreover, it has been shown that the circadian rhythm and timing of meals play an important role in how food is digested, absorbed and used in the body. So if we know that breakfast is generally a smart choice, how can our breakfast options positively affect brain function?
Breakfast is the first meal to come after fasting during sleep. When we wake up, our blood sugar is low, which can automatically have an effect on cognition. You may have experienced it yourself: you wake up, fly to work without eating, walk to your desk and feel confused about what tasks you should be doing. Breakfast is the first opportunity of the day to feed your brain and regulate your blood sugar curve.
An ideal breakfast for optimal blood sugar control and optimal cognitive performance is one that includes protein, healthy fats, fiber, and some kind of produce. So eating a balanced breakfast can help set your day in the right direction, but what about keeping your brain sharp in the long run?
One of the best breakfasts you can have to keep your brain in shape is a breakfast that includes several food categories from the Mediterranean diet. Chia seed pudding with berries is a brain-boosting breakfast that will not only feed your noggin, but keep you full for hours. Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and plant-based calcium. Whisking chia with non-dairy milk like cashew milk and cinnamon provides a nutrient-rich base.
For toppings, adding a cup of berries will provide powerful antioxidants and extra nutrients. You can then add additional toppings such as slivered almonds and raw cocoa for even more potent plant compounds and healthy fats.
Research indicates that following a diet closely aligned with a Mediterranean-style diet is ideal for maintaining optimal brain function. Although more research is needed to determine whether this diet prevents or delays cognitive impairments like dementia, studies suggest that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline.
For those wondering what a Mediterranean-style diet entails, this includes prioritizing fruits and vegetables, seafood, healthy fats from olives, nuts and seeds, legumes, herbs and spices. The diet also encourages individuals to eat dairy and poultry in moderation and to limit processed foods, added sugars and red meat.
Get started today with this customizable overnight chia pudding recipe!
Sydney Greene, MS, RD
Sydney Greene is a Registered Dietitian specializing in nutrition for addiction recovery, eating disorders and body image, and chronic digestive issues. Read more