In Greece, they have a saying: “Eat like a king in the morning, like a lord at lunch and like a beggar at dinner”. This proverb stresses the importance of breakfast in our diet, and yet a lot of people still skip it as a meal.
Breakfast is the first meal we have after a long fast. The etymology of the word breakfast means literally “to break the fast”, meaning that it is the meal which interrupts the night fasting, i.e. the period of the night, during which we do not consume any food.
After 8-10 hours of sleeping without food, the energy reserves in our body have diminished and certainly our brain and body need “fuel” to function correctly.
The importance of breakfast is major, when we want to increase our efficiency at work and at school, as it seems that people who have eaten breakfast are more concentrated and more vigilant. On the other hand, people who don’t have breakfast tend to be more tired and lazy. This is due to the reduction of the blood glucose levels. We should also know that glucose is the food of the brain.
Unfortunately, a lot of people, young and older, don’t eat breakfast, either because they underestimate or ignore its value, or because they think that the daily stress and lack of time keep them from dedicating a few minutes of their day in their nutrition and in themselves. Many people think that having a large breakfast will make them gain weight. However, scientific studies disprove them, since they suggest that people who eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight and tend to keep this lost weight. On the other hand, skipping breakfast leads to excessive food intake later throughout the day, less control over the quantity and quality of the foods that are consumed, as well as wrong messages of satiety.
Breakfast is that meal of the day which should provide us the necessary energy to have a kick start in our day. Therefore, if you are interested in having a better performance at work or at school, a good breakfast will help you “wake up”. According to research, people who eat breakfast are more energetic and do better at tests or their work than those who skip breakfast. Furthermore, studies in children have shown that consumption of breakfast improve memory and have a positive effect in the processes required to retain new information. On the contrary, a hungry person can be apathetic, indifferent or even lazy, when assigned with difficult tasks. Adults and mostly children who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese, since they eat larger portions at lunch or tend to nibble snacks that are usually unhealthy and rich in fat and calories.
Impressive findings of many studies show that people who have breakfast make more balanced choices for their diet throughout the day. Specifically, it has been shown that the percentage of fat they take is significantly lower. These traits of a balanced diet where also apparent in laboratory test – people who did not have breakfast had higher concentrations of blood cholesterol.
If the lack of time is the reason you don’t eat breakfast, you can plan what you will have for breakfast from the previous night, saving precious time. People who have trouble with waking up early and tend to leave for work or school without having breakfast, could eat something practical on the way, for example a sandwich or a cereal bar or fruit or fresh juice with a bagel.
From culture to culture, breakfast varies depending on the geographic location, the customs and the traditions of each country. There are many types of breakfast, such as the traditional English breakfast, the American breakfast and, of course, the Mediterranean breakfast – which we will analyse later. Clearly, the Mediterranean breakfast is far more healthy than the English and the American, which are rich in saturated fats (eggs and bacon, butter pancakes, cookies, sausages, etc.)
A healthy breakfast should be consisted of all the food groups (especially, whole wheat cereals, fruit and dairy) in order to ensure a variety of essential nutrients and fiber.
The traditional Mediterranean breakfast may differ from region to region, but has a lot of common choices. It may include beverages or refreshments, bread, pastries, soups, dairy products, cereals and nuts, honey or marmalade, fruit (fresh or canned), pies (sweet or savory), eggs and omelets, sweets and, of course, olive oil and olives.
Traditional Mediterranean breakfast beverages include sage, mint, chamomile tea, different juices, such as pomegranate, prune, grape or peach, Greek coffee, etc.
One can also find many types of bread, as well as sesame bagels, corn bread, bread sticks, raisin bread, olive bread, onion bread and brioche.
Soups are another common food people have for breakfast in the Mediterranean, including asparagus soup, tahini soup, vegetable soup or frumenty soup.
There is also a great variety of dairy in the traditional Mediterranean breakfast, such as milk, kefir, Greek yogurt, as well as many different types of cheese.
Nuts is another component of the Mediterranean breakfast, with chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pine seeds having the lead role.
Honey and other bee products are necessary and they come in many different types – as many as the different flowers and trees one can find in the Mediterranean. Apart from honey, another common sweetener is molasses, along with jams from different fruit, such as kiwi, apple, appricot, quince, wild strawberry, bergamot, orange, fig, cherry, and more.
Fruits are also very commonly found in Mediterranean breakfasts, including grapes, pomegranates, kiwis, apples, peaches, cherries, melons, raisins, bananas, oranges, watermelons and apricots.
Pies are pretty common in the Mediterranean and they are often consumed as part of breakfast. They can be found in sweet or savory versions. The most famous Mediterranean pies include cheese pie, spinach pie, minced meat pie, olive pie, butternut squash pie and zucchini pie.
Last but not least, the traditional Mediterranean breakfast may include different types of sweets, such as halvah and tahini, rice milk, pasteli (a dessert with sesame, nuts and honey), fruit cakes or tarts and other baked or fried desserts.
In conclusion, anywhere you may eat, at home, at work, in the car or at school, it is important to start your day in a healthy manner, every day. Schedule your time and find easy, healthy and tasty ways to take all the important nutrients of breakfast, which you and your family need. Incorporate breakfast any way you can in your daily routine and…have a nice day!