Ask any nutritionist or health expert and they will tell you that breakfast may very well be the most important meal of the day. (See 5 Reasons Skipping Breakfast is a Bad Idea.) But what they may not agree upon is why.
Some say it is critical for your body to “break” the “fast” that occurs when you sleep. Others say it restarts your metabolism and keeps your body from going into starvation mode. Still others feel that your breakfast meal sets the tone for the day in terms of food choices.
Given this, what is the best choice for breakfast?
One Meal, So Many Choices
To help answer this, Korean researchers recruited 371 people to answer questions about their breakfast habits, as well as their current health status. All subjects were between the ages of 30 and 50, with 268 women and 103 men.
In all, there were more than 20 food groups represented in the participants’ breakfast foods. These included:
- Eastern grains
- Western grains
- Cookies and cakes
- Kimchi (pickled or fermented vegetable side dishes flavored with seafood and spices;Korea’s most popular food)
- Fruit and fruit juices
- Processed meat
- Fish and shellfish
- Milk and dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Coffee and tea
The researchers identified three different breakfast patterns:
- Rice, kimchi, and vegetables (more typical Korean breakfast)
- Potatoes, fruits, and nuts and seeds
- Eggs, breads, and processed meats (a more American-style breakfast)
You Are What You Eat
Once the researchers identified the foods and food patterns, they tested participants for a variety of biological markers. These included:
- Height and weight
- Blood pressure
- LDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- Serum-fasting glucose
- Waist circumference
- Metabolic syndrome
When comparing these biological markers with breakfast choices, researchers found that men eating a breakfast of rice, kimchi and vegetables tended to have higher blood pressure levels, while the women eating this morning meal had higher triglyceride levels.
When it came to a breakfast of potatoes, fruits, and nuts and seeds, researchers saw a decrease in risk of both high blood pressure and high glucose levels.
Lastly, the typical American breakfast of eggs, bread and processed meats was associated with elevated triglycerides and increased weight and BMI in men specifically.
Given these findings, researchers concluded, “Reducing the intake of eggs, refined grains and other salty foods and increasing the intake of fruit, nuts and vegetables in a breakfast based on rice (including whole grains) as the staple food could have preventative effects against metabolic syndrome in Korean adults.”
The Breakfast of Champions
According to this study, the key to a healthy breakfast appears to be fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as whole grains. To capitalize on this, here a few breakfast options to start your day right.
- Quinoa with crushed walnuts and fresh berries
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Tofu scramble with onions, tomatoes and asparagus
- Pureed cauliflower with Brussels sprouts and pecan halves
- Oatmeal with 1/2 cup pureed sweet potatoes, cinnamon and pears
 Min C et al. Breakfast patterns are associated with metabolic syndrome in Korean adults. Nutr Res Pract. 2012 Feb;6(1):61-7.