Many of us have heard the saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and while there are differing opinions about this famous phrase, there is no doubt that breakfast habits have an effect on the body. When it comes to blood sugar, there are many factors that fall under this scale and what one eats (or doesn’t eat) can top the list. While people with diabetes should be particularly concerned with managing their blood sugar, it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid habits that make it difficult for our bodies to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
According to a report published by Eat This Not That, the four worst breakfast habits for blood sugar are:
1- Not eating enough fiber
Fiber is a valuable nutrient that performs many functions, from improving digestive regularity and blood cholesterol to increasing feelings of fullness and slowing the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
When one eats a breakfast that is low in fiber and rich in carbohydrates, such as white toast with jam, the carbohydrates in the meal will reach the bloodstream faster than if the same carbohydrates were eaten with a higher fiber content.
A rapid increase in carbohydrates can cause blood sugar to rise and fall after a meal, which can affect energy levels and appetite.
For people without diabetes, the body is well-equipped with insulin to aid in this process. However, over time, the body’s ability to respond efficiently to this increase in sugar may diminish. To moderate the required response from the pancreas, nutritionists advise including fiber in breakfast.
A good rule of thumb is to have at least 1 gram of fiber for every 5 grams of carbohydrates. This simple math can be done when looking at the Nutrition Facts panel, and when in doubt, replace white bread with whole grains and add fruit to breakfast, along with other high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, buckwheat and vegetables.
2- Not eating breakfast
While there may be some differing opinions about how important eating breakfast is, there are some physiological responses that occur to skipping it. In fact, one study of individuals with type 1 diabetes noted that skipping breakfast was associated with higher average blood sugar concentrations and lower odds of good glycemic control.
These observations are particularly concerning because poor blood sugar control in people with diabetes increases the risk of heart and nerve disease and kidney damage, as well as impairment of other organs and tissues.
For those without diabetes, skipping breakfast can have the opposite effect. During prolonged fasting, such as when you skip breakfast, your blood sugar levels are likely to drop. For some, this change may not be noticeable; For others, low blood sugar can lead to symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as a fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, irritability and dizziness.
3- Low amount of protein
A balanced meal is one that contains carbohydrates, protein, fiber and fat. If a meal lacks all of these ingredients, the levels of vitamins and minerals will become lower, which can lead to high blood sugar.
The body puts in a lot of effort to break down and digest protein, and when one consumes this nutrient along with carbohydrates, it can slow down the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
4- Lack of healthy fats
Similar to protein, fats also slow the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps reduce the possibility of high blood sugar. Healthy fats are also considered saturated nutrients, which means that a person will feel full for a longer time after breakfast. Because of the saturated benefits of fat, balanced meals including these nutrients may limit snacking and serving sizes to further aid blood sugar management.
Healthy fats, such as the unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts and nut butters, can reduce inflammation in the body and often don’t require much preparation before incorporating them into a meal. For example, add half an avocado to whole-grain toast instead of jam, add nut butter to apples for a protein and fat boost, and sprinkle peanut butter.