Sugar Time

“If it’s not chocolate, it’s not breakfast.”

― Laini Taylor

I love chocolate, but not for breakfast. Which isn’t a problem, because I don’t like breakfast. For breakfast, that is. I do like breakfast stuff, at anytime of the day, but just not at breakfast time. Constitutionally, my system revolts – I actually get queasy – at just the thought of food first thing in the morning. It’s as if my body needs to first wake up and get moving for a while before eating anything becomes possible.

But that’s me and, as in many regards, I’m not your typical person. Most people like breakfast, or at the very least eat it every morning, probably as a habit instilled in them by their mother when they were children, or have bought into the medical/nutritional position that it should be one’s primary meal.

All to the gratification of the purveyors of breakfast food products. From the bottom of their hearts – if not their financial bottom lines – they thank you.

And what a veritable cornucopia of products there is.

For example, there are some 4,945 different types of breakfast cereals in the U.S. (up from just 160 in 1970.) 

90 percent of American breakfasts consist of cereals, pancakes, waffles, bagels, toast, muffins, biscuits, scones, croissants, and so on, and they all have one thing generally in common – they are processed grain flour, carbohydrates which, once in the gut, quickly convert to sugar. And as all of them usually have sugar (refined or high-fructose) and/or starch (another carbohydrate/sugar source) added in their processing, it is a double/triple wallop. And since most people add a topping of sugar or syrup or jam to boot, it’s a big issue. 

One reason – among many – why this is bad is because when sugar enters our bloodstream, the hormone insulin is released to process the sugar. If more sugar comes in than the insulin can handle, the sugar is stored as fat and the insulin system can be overwhelmed. Eating this stuff on an empty stomach is bad first thing in the morning as there is little fiber, fat or protein in your system to slow down the sugar absorption to levels your body can safely process. (So maybe it’s a good idea to eat at the same time some bacon or sausage for their protein and fat content, but fat is another dietary health issue. Maybe with some fruit for its fiber, although fruit has its own sugars, albeit fructose is somewhat different in the way the body processes it.)

And we wonder why diabetes – not to mention obesity – has become such a major issue, especially among the young. So what alternatives are there? 

Eggs? Sure. Most people can safely eat up to 3 eggs a day before the cholesterol they contain becomes a risk for heart disease. But they’re only so many ways to prepare them and repetition is boring. 

Anything else? In a recent article in the Washington Post by Michael Ruhlman, entitled “Is breakfast our most dangerous meal?” (from which I borrowed for this and you can read in its entirety at,%C2%A0Roxanne, Roxanne Sukol, preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, medical director of its Wellness Enterprise, suggests “steel-cut oats, not cooked but rather soaked overnight with a dash of vinegar. I add whole-fat Greek yogurt and some nuts if I have them — it’s a satisfying small dish.”  Sorry, too much trouble. Ruhlman adds, “Beans are great too. I had a delicious dish of lentils and a small amount of basmati rice at the new vegetarian restaurant abcV in Manhattan, the other morning, and my companion had congee [a type of porridge or gruel] made with black rice and millet, in a seaweed and mushroom broth.” To which I add, “Yuck!”

To make it easy in the morning “hit the floor and out the door”, you might as well just hand your kids some chocolate as they head to school.

They would rather that and thank you for it, and you can rest easy in your mind knowing it’s no worse than jam covered scones, syrup drenched pancakes or waffles, or cereal with a couple teaspoons of sugar on top with milk (which contains lactose, another kind of sugar.)

But if they (or you) need a pick-me-up in the morning, instead of sugar, maybe a simple cuppa or two tea or coffee (plain, of course!) Either is a whole lot healthier.

– Bill


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