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Breakfast wisely

A healthy breakfast will make you feel energetic even at the end of the day


"TIFFIN" USUALLY is everything that a healthy breakfast should not be. A "light tiffin" will keep one sated and alert till lunch, at which time one can pack in a heavy meal, or so the thinking goes. And it is wrong. Others say that a full breakfast makes one feel dull, heavy and sleepy by lunchtime. Answer: not if you are eating the right kind of breakfast.

So what is wrong with tiffin, apart from the fact that its very lightness leads one to believe skipping it will not have serious consequences? To begin with, too few calories. A good breakfast will provide 40-50 per cent of the day's energy needs. Typical Indian breakfasts barely supply 10-20 per cent of the daily requirement. Protein-deficient and fried foods like puri, vada and dosa provide little energy or nourishment for the day ahead. Idlis are healthy, but we eat too few of them in deference to the "light tiffin" idea. Those who like a heavy breakfast usually eat a lot of polished rice: this leads to a glut of blood glucose followed by an insulin surge that causes hunger, dullness and sleepiness by lunchtime.

A healthy breakfast is above all a balanced meal. It contains carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and other micronutrients, and dietary fibre in the right proportion. Polished rice, white bread, potatoes, processed breakfast cereals, sugary syrups and jams are a bad choice of carbohydrate because of the insulin surge effect. Chapattis, parboiled rice and whole wheat bread provide a steady stream of glucose without triggering an insulin surge. Beans, dal, curd (not milk, because most Indian adults lack the enzymes to digest it), chicken, boiled egg whites, fish and lean cuts of meat are an excellent source of protein.


Beans complement chapattis very well because each contains amino acids lacking in the other, and their combined amino profile matches meat and eggs. The protein keeps one sated and alert by slowing digestion and by suppressing the insulin surge.

Fresh fruit are an excellent source of vitamins, dietary fibre and antioxidants. Nuts and vegetable oils, barring coconut and palm oil, are a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Half a cup of baked peanuts or a few teaspoons of oil are all that one needs.

Some skip breakfast altogether because they are on a diet. Fact: Skipping breakfast can make you dumb.

Research in the 1990s proved that those who ate a proper breakfast frequently scored higher on mental performance tests compared with those who skipped it. Skipping breakfast does not work because such dieters usually develop a snacking tendency.

Moreover, a gnawing, empty stomach before lunch or dinner usually leads to unwise food choices and makes one inadvertently compensate for breakfast. Successful dieters all have a healthy breakfast as a common denominator in their lifestyles.

RAJIV. M

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