In the article the names “high glycemic index foods” and “low glycemic index foods” often appear: given the practical importance, it is appropriate to clarify their meaning.
Foods with high glycemic index : these are foods in which the sugars present are absorbed in the intestine very quickly causing an equally sudden rise in blood sugar (blood sugar). Our body is forced to intervene by producing insulin which has the effect of rapidly lowering blood glucose thus making an intense feeling of hunger appear. It is well understood that if high-glycemic index foods are consumed at each meal, the blood sugar will undergo continuous and sudden daily fluctuations.
Foods with a high glycemic index consist of drinks and sugary foods (e.g. pastries), baked goods based on white or refined flours (e.g. cornflakes, white bread, biscuits and rusks), pearled grains or refined.
Low glycemic index foods: these are foods in which the sugars present are absorbed in the intestine very slowly. In this way the blood sugar has only minimal oscillations, remains substantially stable and there is no need for insulin intervention. Stable blood sugar is accompanied by a persistent feeling of satiety.
Low glycemic index foods consist of foods to which no sugars have been added and / or foods that retain the natural presence of fiber: unsweetened baked goods based on whole or semi-whole flours, whole or semi-whole grain cereals, all the fruit.
Breakfast, the initial meal of the day, is a significant fraction of the entire food day and, for this reason, ends up influencing it in an important way. However, among the meals it is perhaps the one with the greatest differences in habits that vary from the regular consumption of a harmonious nutritional breakfast to incomplete, virtual or completely absent breakfasts (1) (2) (3).
This time of day is affected by family habits and behavior. For example, if parents go to work drinking only coffee and munching on their feet or having breakfast at the bar, the child is unlikely to sit down to have breakfast. In this case, the children go to school on an empty stomach carrying a particularly substantial snack with them to make up for the lack of breakfast. This will then prevent the child from having an appetite for lunch. A poor lunch will encourage afternoon pampering which, in turn, will induce a listless dinner. A well-known vicious circle that, almost paradoxically, often ends up causing the concern that the child is not eating enough.
Importance of breakfast
Scientific Societies recommend the regular consumption of breakfast (4) (3). The reasons are numerous:
Better physical and intellectual performances.Research shows that children and adolescents who eat a rich and balanced breakfast daily are more attentive in school and have better intellectual and sporting performance (5) (6) (7) (8). Several studies have shown that children who do not eat breakfast (so-called “breakfast skippers”) subsequently go into hypoglycemia and, consequently, have lower cognitive functions and at school, at the end of the morning, they are distracted and nervous: in fact if the level blood sugar is insufficient you are unable to maintain an adequate level of concentration and pay the necessary attention (5) (6) (8) (2) (3) (9) (10).
Other studies have confirmed that if low-glycemic index foods are eaten at breakfast, such as fruit or cereal derivatives in whole form, attention at school is better (6) (5) (3) (2) (10). Furthermore, children who regularly eat breakfast, compared to those who do not eat it regularly, show greater appetite on waking up and lie down earlier in the evening (2).
Greater safety in the supply of micronutrients. Children who “skip” breakfast tend to take low levels of micronutrients: the deficiencies related to the lack of the first meal are not generally compensated with the other meals of the day (3) (11).
Better appetite control. Adequate breakfast contributes to limiting blood sugar fluctuations (12) and consequently to inducing a satiating effect during the morning (13) (14) and even a reduction of the oxidative stress of the organism (12).
Prevention of metabolic diseases. Children who skip breakfast have a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity (15) and, with the same fat mass and calorie intake, compared to peers have a greater percentage of abdominal fat (16).
Answer to a physiological need of the organism. Our diurnal animal condition leads us to have a natural need for an adequate nutritional supply in the morning. The rising of sunlight in fact determines in our organism the increase of activity of the hormones that activate the metabolism (cortisol, catecholamines, thyroid hormones) and in this way the need arises physiologically to have readily available, through an adequate breakfast, the substances ( sugars, minerals, vitamins, etc) involved in biochemical transformations (17).
Ideal objectives of breakfast
Enjoyment and nutritional adequacy are the two main characteristics of a good breakfast, valid – there is no difference – both for the child and for the whole family.
Thesatisfaction , fundamental for the child to accept breakfast, is linked to several factors: the taste of the food, its presentation, the pleasure associated with consumption, but the environment and the family atmosphere in which breakfast takes place are also important. As is known, some disturbing factors (e.g. television) can negatively influence the time of breakfast.
L ‘ nutritional adequacy allows to achieve the essential objectives: to provide energy and ability to concentrate during the morning, the body to provide nutrients and “starter keys” (18) (ie the coenzymes consisting of minerals and vitamins, which are necessary to the cycles which are activated) and also ensure a good sense of satiety.
When does a breakfast define itself nutritionally complete?
When it contains in harmonic quantities foods belonging to the following three groups: protein foods, whole grain derivatives, fruit.
In practice, a component is chosen for each of the three groups just mentioned (and detailed below) and breakfast is thus composed (19) (4) (3) (10).
Protein foods.Consider the indications of the scientific literature that suggest to base the daily diet mainly on a wide variety of foods of plant origin and, at the same time, to limit the foods of animal origin (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25), it is advisable to use only vegetable protein foods for breakfast. Some examples of foods belonging to this group are mentioned below:
Milk-related drinks: cereal “milk” (oats, rice, barley, soya, kamut, spelled, soy, almond, almond rice, hazelnut rice). It is preferable to use whole grain milk which has a particularly favorable mineral and vitamin content.
Vegetable yoghurt (e.g. soy or cereal).
Dried fruit: almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.
Sweet spreads: almond cream, hazelnut cream, tahin cream Savory
spreads: chickpea hummus, tofu cream, paté of olives, artichoke cream
Others: farinata or chickpea fritters
Whole grain derivatives.It is a very large group of foods consisting of foods derived from the processing of cereals or their flours. The choice should be oriented towards wholemeal derivatives (20) for the remarkable and specific richness of nutrients (in particular minerals and vitamins) and for the low glycemic index. On the contrary, refined cereals and white flours are very poor in nutrients and moreover they have a high glycemic index. Some examples of foods belonging to this group are presented below:
– Wholegrain muesli
– Cereal flakes (oat or rice or buckwheat or millet, etc)
– Cereal porridge (e.g. oat)
– Bread, fresh or toasted , produced with stone-ground wholemeal or semi-wholemeal flour
– Wholemeal rusks (without added sugar!)
– Dried biscuits based on wholemeal (seeds) flours, free of added sugars and unfavorable fats (ie free of butter, vegetable fats, hydrogenated fats, etc)
– Wholegrain cereal biscuits
– Cake prepared with wholemeal or type 2 flour, extra virgin olive oil (or cold-pressed sunflower oil), vegetable milks and natural sweeteners (e.g. cereal malt or maple syrup or concentrated apple juice or cane sugar whole wheat).
Fruit.It should be proposed with the criteria of variety and seasonality. Fruit provides the body with a large quantity of simple sugars which, however – is a very advantageous characteristic of fruit – have a low glycemic index. Some fruit preparations are listed below.
– Fresh seasonal
– Fresh fruit salads – Dried fruit (plums, apricots, apples, pears, raisins, dates, figs), possibly soaked in water or vegetable milk or yoghurt,
– Extracts or juices or fruit smoothies ( possibly with added vegetables)
– Juices and fruit juices (freshly prepared, with no added sugar)
– Jam with no added sugar
A mistake not to be made
A recent Japanese study (26), very rigorous from a scientific point of view, studied two groups of children who had different eating habits in breakfast. One group consumed high glycemic index cereals: the other group consumed low glycemic index cereals. The researchers subjected children to brain magnetic resonance imaging by studying the development and quantity of gray matter, i.e. the nerve cells present. Children who have breakfast with high glycemic index food have been shown to have fewer nerve cells than children who have breakfast with low glycemic index food. Not only that: at the same time, the intellectual quotients of the first children also showed significantly lower scores.
It has been known for some time that our brain burns glucose in high quantities, but this study teaches us that our neurons prefer a level as constant as possible of blood glucose and, on the contrary, suffer when instead there are continuous changes in blood glucose as happens eating foods containing high glycemic index sugars.
The results just discussed suggest that we further strengthen some measures in breakfast (20):
– Avoid sugary drinks and foods (20). In this regard, the absence of dextrose, glucose, sucrose, glucose and fructose syrup and other similar sweeteners should always be checked on food labels;
– Avoid all foods (for example snacks and biscuits) based on refined or white flours;
– Check that the derivatives of the cereals used come from whole or semi-whole grains or flours;
– Avoid sweetening if not strictly necessary (for example, never sweeten milk or fruit juices because they are already naturally sweet);
If it is still necessary to sweeten (for example in home-made desserts), prioritize the use of fruit (for example in tarts), dried or dehydrated fruit (e.g. raisins, dates) which can be chopped inside the food, cereal malt (e.g. rice or barley malt), natural apple juice. If the previous choices are not practicable, other relatively unrefined sweeteners such as brown cane sugar (Mascobado or Panela varieties), honey or maple syrup can be used. In any case, avoid fructose and fructose-based sweeteners (such as agave juice) which tend to raise the level of triglycerides and, by inhibiting leptin, increase the sense of hunger.
Some practical examples of breakfast for children
It is considered useful to present, for illustrative purposes only, some of the many examples with which you can compose a nutritionally adequate breakfast by choosing foods belonging, in order, to the three groups of the ideal breakfast: protein foods, whole grains and fruit.
In the first series of examples, compositions are presented that could better satisfy those who prefer sweet taste:
– Soy yogurt, wholegrain muesli, fresh fruit
– Soy milk, oat porridge, centrifuged or fruit extract
– Hazelnut (or almond) cream ), cream of brown rice, dehydrated or dried fruit
– Oat or rice or almond milk, oat flakes, fruit juice
– Almond or hazelnut cream, toasted wholemeal bread, fruit salad
– Dried fruit, wholemeal rusks, jam with no added sugar
– Soy yogurt, puffed whole grains, fruit salad
– Homemade nut cake, fruit juice
– Pancake with yoghurt (with type 2 flour), fruit juice.
In the following series of examples, instead, compositions are presented that could better satisfy those who prefer the salty taste:
– Hummus of chickpeas, toasted wholemeal bread, dried fruit
– Farinata or chickpea flour pancakes, fruit smoothie
– Vegetable cream (of olives or artichokes or tofu), toasted wholemeal bread, fresh fruit
– Ricotta cheese, wholemeal rusks, fruit salad
– Low-fat cheese, toasted wholemeal bread, fruit juice
– Egg, wholemeal rusks, fresh fruit
Three high quality breakfasts
Some gastronomic proposals are particularly complete and can make up the whole breakfast alone.
Budwig cream(27). Designed by Dr. Catherine Kousmine to balance the immune system and support the hormonal system, in our opinion it represents the most important and complete breakfast proposal, suitable for all ages. Thanks also to the peculiar presence of powdered oil seeds, it is rich in minerals, vitamins and omega 3. It is a simple, light breakfast and guarantees physical strength, mental energy and satiety throughout the morning. Its taste varies with the variation of the seasonal fruit used. It is prepared by mixing or blending the different ingredients:
– soy yogurt: 1 jar;
– freshly ground flax seeds (1 spoon in B and 2 spoon in A);
– sesame oil seeds, sunflower seeds, freshly ground squash (1 overall spoon);
– whole grains (e.g. 1 spoonful of buckwheat or millet)
– fruit: 1 diced seasonal fruit
– ½ diced banana
– ½ lemon juice
Can be served with a sprinkling of cinnamon (or carob powder or of cocoa). For further details, consult the website of the CiboèSalute Association: www.kousmine.net.
Bierchermuesli. It is the traditional breakfast of the Swiss mountain pastures. Like the Budwig cream, it contains several foods mixed together and presented in a single central bowl from which all are served:
– oat or rye flakes (soaked in water the previous evening);
– milk (in the original recipe it was the milk of the mountain pasture);
– fresh or dried sliced apples;
– any other fruit available: plums, blueberries, walnuts, raisins;
– lemon juice: 1 tbsp;
– hazelnuts or almonds in powder: a spoon;
Brown rice cream.The cream of brown or semi-brown rice is not only suitable for the first meals of weaning, but can be the basis for an excellent light and digestible breakfast (28). Rice cream can be prepared at home, but it is also possible to use commercial wholemeal creams to be prepared at the moment. Other ingredients, variously usable, are the following: almond cream, hazelnut cream, almond, dried fruit, dried fruit, cooked fruit, chocolate chips, cocoa powder. It can be sweetened to taste preferably with dried fruit or with rice malt or with brown cane sugar. It can be served by dusting the surface with cinnamon or carob powder or cocoa powder or pieces of coconut or other that the imagination suggests,
Breakfast: that’s why it’s important for children
The breakfast is an essential meal for the children, as it prevents diabetes and obesity. In particular, those who choose cereals and fibers instead of biscuits are more protected.
The confirmation comes from a study conducted by researchers from St. George University published in PLOS medicine. The research involved 4,116 children of 9 and 10 years of age whose eating habits were analyzedand measured the levels of insulin, glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin in the blood. 26% did not eat breakfast and had fasting insulin levels 26.4% higher than those who took it, as well as 26.7% higher insulin resistance and a slightly higher glucose level. Furthermore, among children who ate breakfast, those who ate cereals and fiber had lower levels of insulin resistance than those who preferred cookies.
“Breakfast – comments Claudio Maffeis, director of the operational unit of diabetes, clinical nutrition and obesity in pediatric age at the University of Verona, nutrition expert of the Italian Society of Pediatrics – is associated with an improvement in the health and metabolic parameters of the child , as well as a better academic performance. Those who skip it are destined to eat more after a few hours, often choose less healthy snacks that promote weight gain and modify the metabolism “.
The role of breakfast in the context of a healthy and balanced diet is confirmed by numerous scientific observations that show how regular consumption of a breakfast is associated with a greater probability of reaching the recommended levels of consumption of some micronutrients and of obtaining a reduction in the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular events and diabetes (3). The intake of breakfast by children and adolescents has favorable effects on school performance, on psychophysical efficiency and on the sense of satiety in the following hours (3).
One wonders if the children actually eat the foods we mentioned for breakfast. To answer, we should first of all observe that wherever in the world children eat what parents buy and prepare for them and for the family (28): to change children’s food, parents must first change theirs and where necessary change their habits. If the parents already have a correct breakfast, the children will also tend to have an equally correct breakfast because they will eat the same food as the parents. If, on the other hand, parents have poor nutrition, with too refined and high glycemic index foods, a change is necessary. And the main road to change is always that the changes are made first by the parents, and not by the children (28) (29).
Conflicts of interest: the authors declare that they have not had relationships, including financing, with subjects with commercial interests in the scientific field of the article.