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Breakfast Is Killing America
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Breakfast Is Killing America

It's time to rethink breakfast.
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If you’ve been to my office for a physical exam, you’ve probably heard my “breakfast is killing America” spiel. To be clear, eating food in the morning isn’t the issue.  The problem rather, is the false belief that traditional American breakfast foods are healthy.

The idea of processed meat and whole eggs for breakfast was sold to our great-grandparents by advertisers in the early 1900s.  According to the book Propaganda, breakfast was reinvented to boost lagging bacon sales and somehow became “doctor recommended”.  While it’s true that doctors endorsed morning meals, they did not recommend the heavy meals that were advertised.  Like many marketing ploys, consumers believed the rhetoric and food producers and distributers jumped on the “healthy” advertising bandwagon.  Sadly, because of dubious 100-year-old marketing, many Americans still believe that traditional breakfast foods are good for us.

Again, eating breakfast is a good thing, but eating the wrong breakfast foods will cancel out the benefits.  Consider the following:

  • Sugar and simple carbs in syrup, honey, kids cereals, muffins, instant oatmeal, pancakes, and waffles cause all kinds of documented health problems.
  • Sodium in cured meat and salt sprinkled atop eggs contribute to high blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Saturated fat found in butter, cheese, cow’s milk (2% and whole), and breakfast meats contribute to clogged arteries. You’re not too young for atherosclerosis!
  • Cholesterol in egg yolks, red meat, and full-fat dairy push the limits of healthful guidelines.
  • Carcinogens in cooked red (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (turkey bacon, pre-packaged sausage links, ham) are associated with colon cancer.

Even if you put down the bodega breakfast sandwich and bagel with cream cheese, smoothies and granola bars might not be much better.  Smoothies are sometimes made with low-quality ingredients (think cheap peanut butter with sugar and partially hydrogenated oils), full-fat dairy, and poorly chosen protein supplements.  Granola bars are labeled as “natural, healthy, and organic” but they’re actually well-marketed processed food.  You can do better.

I encourage my patients to save traditional American breakfast foods for special occasions (a few times a year) and be thoughtful about everyday choices.  Meal prep and planning ahead can help in achieving breakfast goals.  For example, I try to keep low-salt, low-fat homemade breakfast turkey sausage patties in the freezer and sometimes I’ll make a big pot of cinnamon-spiced steel cut oats and ration it out for the week.  If I don’t have time to re-heat at home in the morning, I throw them in my bag as I’m running out the door.

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Gail’s homemade turkey sausage.  Recipe HERE.

We know that diet can influence many factors in pre-diabetes, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  Despite advances in science and health care, rates of disease are not declining in the US.  So maybe it is time to stop relying on medicine to save us and focus on the basics.  Like breakfast.

 

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