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Healthy breakfasts to boost your energy levels

Marie-France Farré

min read



What better way to start the day than with a good breakfast? However, when it comes to being healthy and feeling full, not all breakfasts are created equal. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury, here are a few tips to help you kick-start your morning with a healthy, balanced, energy-boosting breakfast.

Healthy breakfasts to boost your energy levels


Continental breakfast: a road to type II diabetes

Most hotels and B&Bs offer croissants, toast, butter and jam for breakfast, together with a good dose of freshly squeezed orange juice. At home, toast and croissants are often substituted for a bowl of cereal with cow's milk, accompanied by a glass of shop-bought orange juice from concentrate. All of the foods mentioned above are actually incredibly unsuitable for breakfast because they all have a high glycaemic index—otherwise known as "GI", which measures how quickly food is digested using the PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load) index—and can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. In the medium- to long-term, this phenomenon leads to glucose uptake and consequently weight gain. It also puts a strain on the pancreas, which produces insulin (the hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels). If overworked, the pancreas may stop producing enough insulin, paving the way for type II diabetes.

To eat or not to eat: that is the question

Contrary to popular belief, having breakfast every morning isn't essential for everyone. First of all, it's important to learn how to listen to your body. Do you eat out of habit or desire? Some force themselves to eat in the morning even when they're not hungry, thinking that they won't be able to last until lunchtime. Most nutritionists also recommend eating three meals a day and claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but this isn't necessarily the case. In actual fact, it all comes down to your constitution, metabolism and lifestyle. A top athlete won't have the same wants and needs as a sedentary elderly person, for example.

What's important is listening to your hunger and energy levels. It's worth noting that by eating in the morning, we're both losing energy via digestion while also fuelling our brain with glucose (if we're consuming it). Many scientific studies have shown the benefits of intermittent fasting, which involves giving our intestines a break for 16 hours by eating in the evening and then skipping breakfast. According to research conducted by Dr Valter Longo, an Italian-American gerontologist and professor of biology specialising in molecular biology and genetics, a frugal diet is the key to health and longevity.

Basic principles to follow for a healthy breakfast

For those who opt for breakfast in the morning, there are several options to choose from. First of all, kick off the day with some herbal or loose-leaf green tea, or even a large mug of warm or hot water. Next, choose wholefoods that have been processed as little as possible. For example, go for wholemeal sourdough bread rather than white bread or pastries—which have a high GI and are chemically leavened, making them harder to digest—or even a nice bowl of organic, seasonal fresh fruit rather than a cereal bar with dried fruit. These dietary choices will help you to fill up on the essential micronutrients (such as minerals, vitamins etc.) and macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) that your body needs. Otherwise, you'll just be consuming empty calories, leading to an inevitable mid-morning crash.

On the other hand, proponents of chrononutrition advise looking at neurotransmitters. Between the hours of 5 am and 9 am, nutritionists recommend eating tyrosine-rich foods, which can directly affect your levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can lift your mood in the morning, boost concentration and help regulate your body's motor functions. Healthy foods that contain tyrosine include bananas, avocados, legumes, tofu, almonds, spirulina and peanuts. Simply put, low-GI foods also serve to regulate your blood sugar level, helping you feel fuller for longer.

If you're feeling peckish, opt for avocado on toast; a slice of wholemeal bread with peanut butter, almond butter or hummus; or a green smoothie (1 banana, 1 handful of fresh spinach, 1 teaspoon of spirulina and a kiwi blended with a dash of plant-based milk, for example).

Take your time to chew your food — after all, digestion begins in the mouth! If you've got more of a sweet tooth, try a slice of sourdough bread made with an ancient-wheat flour (such as kamut) and topped with almond butter and ground cinnamon (which is rich in antioxidants), or even a bowl of porridge made using rolled oats, milled flaxseed and plant-based milk. Mixing up your routine by varying your breakfast choices based on the season and your own personal preferences will help diversify your diet and equip you with a whole host of essential micronutrients.

Apple porridge recipe

An easy recipe for the whole family, containing fibre, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fatty acids (omega-3). In a nutshell, it's the perfect way to keep you feeling fuller and more energised for longer!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 300 ml unsweetened plant-based milk

  • 600 ml water

  • 200 g apple puree with no added sugar

  • 2 apples

  • 2 tbsp almond butter

  • 2 tbsp milled flaxseed (optional)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • A dash of agave or maple syrup (optional)

Cut the apples into small cubes without removing the peel, which is full of nutrients.

Put the rolled oats, water, plant-based milk, milled flaxseed, cubes of apple and cinnamon into a saucepan. Cook over a low heat until the rolled oats have absorbed the liquid. Once your porridge has a lovely thick consistency, gently stir in the apple puree followed by the almond butter. Serve immediately, adding a dash of agave or maple syrup to sweeten according to taste.


Marie-France Farré

Marie-France Farré is an experienced naturopath and has a certification in wholefood plant-based nutrition from eCornell University. She has written many books on health and well-being, and often writes for specialist magazines. She is both a holistic chef and a yoga instructor, lives in Landes and is a mum of three.