From Biosis 19, November 2007

Breakfast: A Stress-Reducer

Just as a race can be decided at the starting gun, so, too, a day’s outcome can be decided by its beginning. For many Americans – over 70% of us – that outcome is often exhaustion, tension, pain – all induced by stress. Indeed, sometimes we feel it from the moment we awaken from insufficient or low quality sleep. Already wound tight, we find ourselves rushing about to get the kids off to school, to get to work, to run errands, to make meetings or classes or other activities. And we feel even more stressed.

So we start cutting corners, trying to buy the time we think will ease the pressure. One of the most commonly cut involves breakfast. Anywhere from 25% to over 50% of us habitually skip it, and those who don’t tend to choose convenience foods such as cold cereals, breakfast bars, breads and sweet rolls, fast food and the like. The “meal,” such as it is, consists mainly of refined, highly processed carbs.

The result? Under either condition, the level of cortisol – a major “stress” hormone – released by the adrenal glands stays high. Serotonin and other “feel good” neurotransmitters stay low. And just as the morning rush can compound psychological stress, so the lack of a quality breakfast compounds physical stress.

The obvious solution is to make time for breakfast – ideally, one with a low glycemic load. For this type of meal – one that doesn’t send blood sugar levels soaring as the typical convenience breakfast tends to do – helps lower cortisol (this hormone also releases sugar into the blood stream) and ensure a steadier energy level through the day. Both conditions calm the body and ease stress.

Regularly eating a low glycemic breakfast is neither as hard nor time-consuming as you might think. Here are some ideas for easy, 5-minute prep breakfasts to get your day off to a good start:

  • Quiche or frittata, made in advance so it can be just heated up or eaten cold
  • European style breakfast with sliced meat, cheese, whole grain bread and a small amount of fruit
  • Hardboiled eggs, whole grain toast and berries
  • Nut or seed butter (e.g. peanut, sunflower, cashew, macadamia) on apple slices or whole grain toast
  • Muesli or whole grain cereal with nuts and seeds added, with milk or mixed with plain yogurt
  • Canned sardines, kippers or other fish, tomato slices, whole grain toast

Find more options and recipes through search: Low GI breakfast recipes.

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