Through my readings, as well as trial and error, I have discovered that my body runs most effectively when I consume fruit for breakfast. Even better are the green smoothies, providing minerals along with the vitamins in fruit.
We have been given many different messages about breakfast. Some people say that it’s necessary to eat a full, hearty meal in the morning to get your metabolism going and to give you energy for the day. Others say they don’t eat much at all, but prefer drinks and maybe little snacks. Both sides have valid points, which I want to explore further.
The meaning of the word ‘breakfast’ is discovered when you cut the word in half – break fast. The morning meal literally breaks the fast of the evening, the fast that occurs every night while you sleep. This fast is extremely important. When your body doesn’t have to focus on digestion, it can spend its energy toward healing and detoxification. This is one reason it’s not recommended to eat within a few hours of going to sleep, because your body has to do all of that extra work in the middle of the night, leaving you feeling tired and groggy in the morning. In fact, it’s recommended that you don’t eat past 8pm, as our digestive system slows down around this time.
Breakfast goes by many different names around the world, and is treated in different ways. In Japan, their version of breakfast is called asa-gohan, which means ‘morning rice’, traditionally consisting of miso soup and/or rice. In France, petit dejeuner means ‘little meal’, and generally consists of coffee and breads. Italy’s prima colazione is very similar to the French breakfast. The Dutch ontbijt is a word for breakfast, but also the word used for ‘snack’. In places such as these, breakfast is not treated as a large, significant meal, and is generally kept quite light until lunch time.
In other areas of the world, breakfast is treated like an event. Meats and breads are common in Ireland, and in the UK we see lavish, fat-laden meals of eggs, sausages, bacon, and breads. Germany and surrounding areas also like to have heavier breakfasts, with an emphasis on dairy products and breads. And let’s not forget the United States and Canada, where a traditional breakfast is likely to be buttered pancakes, waffles, bacon and fried eggs with toast.
Growing up in Canada as I have, I’ve been influenced to believe that a big, heavy breakfast starts the day off right. As time passed, though, I began to question if this was optimal for my body. I have never been able to eat large portions of food in the morning, and my stomach seems to be especially sensitive and prone to feeling sick at this time. Simple toast is what I began to eat most days, as it was heavy enough to stave off hunger, and didn’t make my stomach ache. Cereal, which I have had many love affairs with, does make my stomach ache, and in retrospect it’s easy to see why. It’s composed of nutritionally devoid, sugar-laden refined grains, artificially fortified with vitamins to simulate actual health. Hmm. I knew it was too good to be true when I was told Cinnamon Toast Crunch was healthy.
As I learned more about digestive health, the concept of a light breakfast started making more sense to me. In the morning, after our bodies have just awakened from their nightly cleanse, why assault it with grease, fat, and starches? Why not allow it to gently ease into it’s routines, instead of stressing it right from the get-go? I decided to experiment with this to see where it would lead.
Fruit is by far the easiest of all foods to digest. Our bodies love fruit, and begin utilizing the energy in them almost immediately. It takes an hour or less for our bodies to digest fruit – most vegetables take 1-2 hours to digest, fatty plant foods take 2-3 hours, and grains take 3-4 hours. Fruits are simple carbohydrates, which means the energy (sugars) in them are readily available, unlike complex carbohydrates (grains and starchy vegetables), which provide a slow but constant stream of energy.
Originally, I thought that complex carbohydrates in the morning would be ideal, as they provide you with fuel while also keeping you full. I tried eating breakfasts of bread or oatmeal, and while I noticed that I stayed full and I didn’t feel bad, I didn’t feel great, either. So I decided to try eating fruit for breakfast, something I was quite skeptical about at first, because I didn’t believe fruit was capable of keeping me full and satisfied.
One of the reasons that people complain of not being satiated by fruit is because they are fairly low in calories. Bananas average around 100 calories, and an apple is about 50 calories. By contrast, two slices of whole wheat bread with peanut butter equal 400 calories. In order to eat fruit for breakfast and feel fulfilled, I needed to first bend my mind around the idea of eating more fruit.
In reading about the body’s detoxification process, I discovered the importance of drinking lots of water upon rising. You aid your body greatly by helping flush out all the toxins released overnight. So I decided to try drinking water until hunger struck, which was quite different from my morning routine of eating almost immediately upon waking. What I noticed is that I often awoke with a sense of hunger, but it vanished after a couple of glasses of water. It seemed that what my body was really craving was water, and I interpreted the signals to be hunger. From the time that I wake up, which right now is between 7 and 8, I generally don’t start to get hungry until 9 or 10. And how do I feel during this two-hour period before I eat? I feel fine. I don’t feel tired, draggy, or lethargic. I feel completely fine.
When it comes time to eat, depending on what I’m doing and how hungry I’m feeling, I’ll either eat some fruit, or blend everything up in a big smoothie. Now, I’m not just talking about one little banana, which you remember only clocks in at around 100 calories. I’m talking about a banana, mango, and a couple apples. Or a big navel orange, apple, and banana. Or maybe a nice smoothie of two bananas and a handful of berries. In other words, lots of fruit. I found that some mornings, I could eat a large feast of fruit, and other mornings, a banana and apple was more than enough until lunch. I think it’s really one of those things where it’s important to listen to your body and pay attention to it’s cues.
The results of eating fruit for breakfast were very significant for me. When I ate fruit, I didn’t get that heavy-stomach feeling I had when I ate breads and starchy foods. I ended up feeling full in a way that still felt light. The result of this was increased energy and clarity, which are excellent things to have in the morning! You’re essentially consuming energy, but not putting a strain on your digestive system, as fruit is so easy on the body, and so effortless to use. I can’t believe how peppy I’m feeling these mornings, especially because I kicked my caffeine habit a few weeks ago!
Recently I’ve been finding that adding greens to my smoothies adds an even bigger benefit, especially for my brain. In learning how various foods affect my body and moods, I’ve found that fruit intake helps create joyful energy and vitality, while greens seem to sharpen the senses and allow for stronger thinking and deeper concentration. Combining the two in the morning has a very positive effect on me. The greens provide alkalinity, chlorophyll, and minerals, while fruit provides carbohydrates and vitamins. Greens are like the yang to fruit’s yin.
When you add greens to your smoothies, I suggest starting small, increasing the quantities of greens depending on your taste buds. Fruit definitely overshadows the flavour of greens, and ideally you want to strive toward a ratio of 60% greens to 40% fruit, but when you’re starting out, invert that figure. Also keep in mind that the power of your blender determines how pleasant of a smoothie you’ll be drinking. A cheap blender creates a chunky smoothie, and you want the greens to be nice and emulsified, so your drink is all the same colour. You might want to try pre-blending the greens in water before you add the fruit, depending on the power of your machine. It also depends on how tough the greens are. Kale and collards are quite tough and don’t disintegrate easily, while spinach and romaine are more easily blended.
For fruit, try combinations of bananas, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, mangoes, pineapples, peaches, nectarines, papaya, or pears, to name a few.
Standard greens include spinach, kale, romaine, collard greens, beet greens and swiss chard. Don’t forget about herbs, like mint, basil and parsley.
Remember to add water when you’re blending, anywhere between 1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on the desired consistency.
Try creating interesting flavour combinations, like apple-banana-cinnamon, or banana-cherry-cacao (Check out Kristen’s recipe
). Fresh ginger is delicious, great for your digestive system, and tastes awesome with fruit.
Freeze bananas and berries to create milkshakes. Blending frozen bananas with a little bit of nut milk and vanilla tastes absolutely divine. It’s amazing how ice cream-like bananas become when frozen and blended. If you have a hankering for chocolate, make a chocolate shake out of bananas, nut milk, cacao and some agave or dates for sweetness.
Pump up the nutrition of your smoothie by adding ground flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds. All of these are rich sources of Omega-3, and a tablespoon or two goes a long way.
When it comes to creating delicious smoothies, your imagination is the limit. Every day can be a brand new, unique creation, depending on the contents of your fridge and your mood. Who doesn’t like the idea of a (milk-free) milkshake for breakfast? What about a strawberry shake? Or a tropical fruit partay? Or a mysterious, delicious neon-green drink? 🙂