Modern Irish people have a lot of balls in the air. But we must find time to have a healthy breakfast at the crack of dawn. Here’s some suggestions that you can try that won’t make you cry.
By Nicole Buckler
We are constantly told by the skinny and healthy disease-free countries of Europe how bad our diet is. Yes we know. If you shut up we WILL try harder. Sending purselves to work without a good breakfast is like trying to use nearly-flat batteries to power a ban saw. Not fun when you need to cut through the gristly parts of your day. We are likely to get a serious power failure.
The obvious solution for the overly-stressed is to grab a choccy croissant and a cola from the Centra on the way to work. It tastes damn good but yes yes we know, we shouldn’t eat simple carbs, especially first thing in the morning. But it is just so nice!
The more simple sugars in a meal, the more serotonin is produced in the brain, and the more the brain is sedated. While that choccy croissant and cola taste great, we will soon be circling the work pile like a Zombie from the Land of the Dead.
Yes we know we have to do better. Here we try to make some suggestions on how to stop scoffing pastries and start trying to be better human being altogether.
You may scoff at the world’s obsession with omega-3s at the moment. But it’s a big deal…bigger than you think. Omega-3s are needed to make the fat-rich outer membrane of our brain cells. All brain signals sent, (which can be issuing instructions for anything from washing your hair to calculating how much the entire LUAS extension project will cost) must pass through these membranes. These membranes are constantly re-creating themselves. And they can’t do that without a constant supply of omega-3. So if you aren’t getting enough of these fatty acids your thinking gets a tad faulty. This explains why you thought that yellow shirt looked great on you last week, and why everyone else taking omega-3 supplements was horrified and thought you looked like Tweety on crack.
According to Dr. David Horrobin, a pioneer in fatty acid research, eight per cent of the human brain is made up of these fatty acids. Ask yourself, if you haven’t got any omega-3s coming in, have you got 8% less of a brain?
You can upload omega-3 from fish, fish oil supplements, flax oil, nuts and omega-3 eggs, amongst other things. Asian cultures have long appreciated the brain-building effects of the omegas. In Japan, students frequently take omega pills before examinations. What utter smarty-pantses they are. And if you take a look at the longest-living population groups on the earth, you will see that their diets are dripping in omega-3 stuff…like fish. So make like an Eskimo – their traditional diet is made up solely of omega-3 stuff, like fish and whale steaks. While hooking into slabs of humpback is going a bit too far for us here in Ireland, we could probably take omega 3 supplements and hope for the best.
Populations who eat large doses of omega 3s have a lower incidence of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, like multiple sclerosis. The Eskimos, or Inuits, who have changed to a more modern diet do not get these same health benefits. They are smoking as many fags and are eating as many burgers as we are. And we’ll probably end up in the same nursing home as them, wishing we sawed more holes in the ice and went fishing in our capable years.
So why are Omegas 3s so scarce now in our diet? There are a few reasons. First is biological. Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as essential because they cannot be made in our bodies. They must be obtained from food. And our modern diet is seriously lacking in fishies. But there’s another more gross reason why we aren’t getting enough omega-3s. It’s because of what humans are feeding the animals we eat. Seriously. According to Dr Joseph Mecola (mercola.com) grass-fed animal meat has the right ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. And if we were still eating a caveman diet, we’d be spearing beasts made up of lean meat with these ratios. Those animals too would be eating a natural diet. But our dinner beasts don’t eat like this anymore. We lock them up and feed them all sorts of things they shouldn’t be eating to fatten them up – like grains. Daisy and Betsy have become as unhealthy as we have. It’s no different to a cow wandering into the Spar and buying a six-pack of Dutch lager and a pork pie.
According to Dr Mercola, if the ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats exceeds 4:1 in the human body, people have more health problems. This is especially meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1. Grass-fed beef is around 3:1. No wonder humans have wars and do other seriously stupid things. Our brains are faulty. Stick with grass-fed animals for the sake of your noggin…or live by the mantra…FISH POWER!
Eggs are fantastic breakfast food. They have choline in them, a fat-like B vitamin. While sounding suspiciously like something you put into pools to kill all the ugly buglies, this stuff has actually been proven to enhance memory and reaction time in animals, especially in aging animals. It also enhances memory in people.
And according to Psychology Today Magazine, Choline supplementation minimises fatigue. Choline given to athletes during a 20-mile run improved running time by a significant amount. These are the kinds of uppers you need to power you through that horrific sales pitch where it takes you four hours to sell your products because the potential buyers are asking you stupid questions over and over again. Egg power!
Some people can’t drink caffeine. It sends them on an anxiety rampage where they think they are going to die, or else they think everyone else around them really should die. But if you are the type that can drink caffeine, you can kick back and have as many green teas as you like. And here’s why. According to the European Food Information Council, caffeine has a mild stimulant effect, acting on the central nervous system and improving alertness. Tests have shown caffeine to be capable of speeding up rapid information processing in the brain by 10%. So if we can’t get to the power eggs and fish oil, then green tea can suffice until we drag ourselves half-dead into health shop trying to inhale anything even vaguely omega-3.
But most importantly green tea is packed with anti-oxidants, which undo the damage you have done the night before with your pints and chips. Anti-oxidants keep wrinkles the hell away from your face, so we like them.
An amino acid called tyrosine perks up the brain, and fast. It is found in seafood, turkey, tofu, legumes, yoghurt and tuna. While this all sounds rather vile first thing in the morning, there is a tasty way to upload it at sun-up.
Throw some silken tofu or some yoghurt in a smoothie along with other things that taste really nice, like strawberries. Soy foods stabilise blood-sugar so you won’t get stuck with your arm in the chocolate vending machine at 10:00am like me on more than one occasion.
A Better Brain with Blueberries
We know that stuffing fruit down our cake-hole keeps our body supple and gives us a chance at being mistaken for a supermodel. But blueberries are THE brain food. In animal studies, researchers have found that diets rich in blueberries improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.
So make like a rat and nibble on our blue friends for greater brain power. And a blueberry muffin does not count. Sigh.
Tai Chi is best served as an accompaniment to a morning meal. You may think this is an unusual breakfast component. But the reason why it is here is because it is a mainstay in the day of the world’s longest-living people – the Okinawans. They live on tropical islands off the southern coast of Japan, and have the highest percentage of 100-year-olds in the world. These oldies – well into their 110s – bounce around like 20-year-olds high on Red Bull. Diseases of the West like coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer occur in Okinawa with the lowest frequency in the world. In fact hardly anyone following a traditional Okinawan diet gets any of these body-snatching diseases.
A big part of this health success is their diet. Their food pyramid is different to that of the West. On the bottom layer is fruit, veges, and wholegrain foods made mostly from rice. And they are big on the omega-3s, getting most of their protein from fish and really skimping on the red meat. But an important element of this wellbeing and jumping-bean energy is their approach to stress-reducing, spiritually meaningful exercise. So make like an Okinawan in the morning and do Tai Chi in your undies. I will if you will.
The Long-Life Breakfast
If you take a leaf out of the Okinawan breakfast book, you will be eating the best ever breakfast. Unfortunately, you might also be a bit grossed out. The breakfast of choice is miso soup (made from fermented soy beans and salt), dried fish, and a raw egg over rice with dried seaweed. Yum yum. Not. I think most of us would rather skip the 7am seaweed experience die a few decades early. But fear not – there is an Irish version of this (see below). So embrace this perfect Irish breakfast with me and I’ll see you for a game of tennis on your 110th birthday.
The Perfect Irish Breakfast
- Smoothie: Blueberry (anti-aging, mental agility) and silken tofu or yoghurt (both have brain perking tyrosine) with a teaspoon of flaxseed oil (omega 3 for brain alertness and repair)
- Egg on toast: Omega-3 Egg (choline for endurance, plus protein to stave off hunger) on wholegrain toast (complex carbs for slow-release energy so you don’t end scoffing crisps at 11:00am)
- Green Tea (flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants, bit of caffeine to perk you up)
- Orange juice (vitamin C, massively anti-aging, has a positive effect on brain chemistry)
- Tai-Chi for 30 minutes
Yes we know we are one of the worst countries in Europe for eating in our cars on the way to work. Shut up skinny healthy countries. We will try harder.