Monday Medical: Start your day a healthy way

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We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although it may sound illogical, studies have demonstrated that people who eat breakfast tend to be thinner and healthier than those who skip the first meal of the day.

About 3,000 Americans are listed on the Weight Control Registry, a database of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Ninety percent of them say they eat breakfast most days of the week.

If you're starting a diet, breakfast may seem like an ideal meal to eliminate: Skip breakfast and go light on lunch; then you won't have to worry as much about what you eat for dinner. The truth is, that's a good plan for weight gain rather than loss.

The overnight gap between the evening meal and breakfast can be 12 hours or more. In that time, the liver's glycogen stores are depleted substantially, and blood glucose levels are very low. Eating nothing in the morning will put your metabolism in low gear. It's time to break your fast and get your metabolism moving.

Eating a good breakfast gives you an emotional lift and a burst of energy to face daily tasks. Skip breakfast, and your metabolism compensates by going on slow burn, consuming fewer calories with the same amount of effort.

Of course, a breakfast that helps with weight loss is a healthy breakfast. It is not a heaping helping of bacon, biscuits and gravy. Breakfast is a great time to eat fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, whole-grain cereal and whole-grain bread. Such foods are high in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber and calcium. Eating a sugary cereal may boost your blood sugar too quickly and leave you hungry by mid-morning.

Last year, I spent time with some health-conscious friends who started their day by eating a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and low-fat milk. They also added chopped nuts for even more nutrition and flavor. I also like to put brown sugar on my oatmeal, but even with that added dose of carbs, such a breakfast is satisfying and energizing. It's healthy, too, because regular consumption of oatmeal potentially can lower cholesterol.

According to an Australian study, the best breakfast option for weight loss and performance is high in fiber and rich in carbohydrates: All-Bran cereal with half-percent milk, a sliced banana and toast. Subjects reported that their hunger returned more slowly, and they felt more alert after this meal.

Subjects who ate high-fat breakfast selections -- either croissants, margarine and jam or fried egg, bacon, grilled tomato, toast and margarine -- were more pleased with their meal but found it less satiating than a high-carbohydrate option.

All breakfast options in the study had the same number of calories, and subjects were free to eat whatever they wanted after breakfast. By the end of the day, those eating the high-fat diets consumed more calories each day than subjects eating cereal.

According to studies, the best way to satisfy your appetite while improving mood, alertness, energy and metabolism is to get a moderate, steady increase in blood sugar through high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.

The final part of the equation is exercise. Morning is a good time for a workout, and vigorous physical activity will get your metabolism in high gear. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with fruit and nuts followed by a brisk 30 minutes on the treadmill may be the true breakfast of champions.

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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