My Love/Hate Relationship With Breakfast

Today is National Cereal Day, and it comes at a time when I have been having a crisis of confidence regarding my breakfast choices. I’m not talking about whether to eat Lucky Charms or Cheerios (you might as well be pouring your milk over a bowl of cookies), rather my Sophie’s Choice involves grain in general. Because the more I look into it, even oatmeal or whole grain toast spikes your blood sugar which leads to diabetes and heart disease. Sorry Wilford Brimley, but oatmeal is actually NOT the right thing to do.

For years I’ve been eating plain steel cut oats with some berries or a banana and some sliced almonds for breakfast thinking this was a smart choice. It turns out this has been a better choice than cereal, pancakes or waffles but still inflammatory and a bad way to start the day.

“The major problem with oatmeal is the same problem with every other grain: It spikes your blood sugar and makes you hungrier.” — Dr. Mark Hyman, author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?

So if cereal is bad, and oatmeal is bad, what the heck should I eat for breakfast? That, my friends, is the question of the day.

In America, breakfast has really just become an excuse to pour sugar down your gullet. Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. But as I’ve gotten older, and after having a heart attack, I’ve been obsessed with food and nutrition. I’ve talked to my doctors, read all the studies and looked into all the diets (Mediterranean, paleo, Engine 2, juicing, etc.) All the “expert advice” on the Interwebs is enough to drive you to drink. The web is a cacophony of conflicting advice. Who are we supposed to trust?

I’ve written about this before, but the best person to trust is yourself. My blood work has improved tremendously as I’ve eliminated grains and added sugar. My weight is down as well, though I’ve always been relatively thin by American standards. Late last year, six years post heart attack, I had another coronary catheterization and my arteries are clear. Whatever I’m doing seems to be working. So why change anything?

The biggest improvement in my blood work came after I started reading the advice of Dr. Mark Hyman. Yes, I’m skeptical of any “celebrity” doctor and I certainly don’t agree with everything he says — but he always links to research and that research is peer-reviewed and published in legitimate journals. When I started incorporating his paleo-vegan or “pegan” style of eating into my life, that’s when my blood work went from good to great.

After a year or so of eating a mostly pegan diet (I admit I didn’t always follow the rules, morning oatmeal being a perfect example. A little too much beer being another.) I was feeling pretty good about myself.

So recently when my wife picked up his new book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?, I opened it first and started to read. And it reinforced what I’d been doing. And then starting on Sunday I doubled down on eating pegan. But then I woke up on Monday morning and with oatmeal off the table as it were I had no idea what to eat for breakfast! So I scrambled a couple of eggs with onions, avocado, and tomatoes using avocado oil in the pan and ate it with a serving of fresh blueberries. Then on Tuesday morning I fried a couple of eggs and ate them over a bed of sauteed spinach. And then this morning I woke up and couldn’t imagine eating eggs once again so I turned to the web to see what Dr. Hyman has for breakfast and basically it boils down to some kind of eggs with veggies or a smoothie.

So I poured some almond milk into the blender, added a half cup of frozen berries and a half cup of frozen mango, a tablespoon of ground flax seeds, two tablespoons of almond butter, half an avocado, and a tablespoon of coconut oil. And it was tasty. And it filled me up (in fact, as I write this it has been four hours since I drank my smoothie and I have not been hungry at all).

Still, there has to be more than eggs and smoothies, so I’ll continue to research. But it isn’t lost on me that what I’ve been eating for breakfast the past few days flies in the face of conventional wisdom about breakfast in America.

After all the controversy last year about saturated fat and in particular coconut oil, I’ve done more research. I think the medical establishment is wrong on fat and Dr. Hyman has helped to convince me. But I’m not just taking his word for it, I’m looking at the studies and ultimately my own body.

I’ll be getting some new blood work done soon so I’ll report out the results. In the meantime, just say no to National Cereal Day today and every day.

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