Our scientific breakfast
We choose our foods mainly based on the information we gather in the scientific literature, but rather than decribe every compound in detail, we find it more practical to describe the composition of our meals first and briefly why we make our choices. Along the way, we will explain ourselves in more detail through scientific evidence or by using common sense.
To hit-off, our daily breakfast:
Overnight wholegrain oats with raw cocoa powder, chia-seeds, ground flax seeds, and red fruits in soy milk.
….and eggs in the weekend.
Wholegrain oats are complex unrefined carbohydrates which provide heaps of energy, but as this is released over an extended period of time a (potentially damaging) glucose rush in the blood does not occur. 5 table spoons (+/- 1) should give you enough energy for up to 4 hours. Oats need to be prepared overnight to allow proper digestion. It’s also practical, as your breakfast is ready to eat in the morning.
There is compelling evidence that raw unprocessed cocoa lowers blood pressure or, alternatively, prevents its increase. 1 tablespoon a day is enough.
Then, chia-seeds. Although many stories on potential health benefits are probably hypes, chia-seeds can be benefical because of their high yield in polyunsaturated fats with a favorable 3:1 Omega-3/Omega-6 fatty acid ratio (these are essential fats that our bodies cannot produce). In addition, chia-seeds are a great source of minerals (calcium, folate, manganese) and will ameliorate the texture of your breakfast as they become gelatinous when in contact with water. This takes some time, hence add them to your overnight oats. The swelling of the seeds has two additional benefits: 1) it makes you feel saturated quicker, as the volume of your breakfast increases, 2) the gelatinous membrane prolongs the digestion of the seeds. 1 tablespoon.
The PREDIMED study (see previous blog) showed that the subgroup of patients who consumed most Lignans, a class of polyphenols*, also had the lowest risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Together with sesame seeds, flax seeds are the #1 source of Lignans in human diet (more than extra virgin olive oil). Whole flax seeds are not readily digested by the body, so grinding is absolutely necessary. Ground flax seeds will also absorb water, helping to get a better stool. 1 tablespoon.
*Polyphenols are a group of structurally related active micronutrients in plants (seeds, leafs, fruits and vegetables) with a wide range of biological effects. Evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases is emerging. More on this in next blogs.
Red/Purple fruits (such as berries) will compensate for the bitterness of raw cocoa. Red/Purple fruit and vegetables are also a major source of (oligomeric) Proanthocyanidins, a class of polyphenols. These have been shown to reduce inflammation of the vascular endothelium, a thin albeit important layer of cells covering your blood vessels but taken together has the size of two tennis fields! Proanthocyanidins are now considered essential for a normal vascular function and there is emerging evidence that it may restore endothelial damage and its sequellae, such as atherosclerosis. 1 handful (frozen or fresh).
Finally, we choose to use unsweetened soy milk (fresh, not long-life) or other nut milk simply because the alternative, unfermented cowmilk, may have various detrimental effects on health (ie., in the gut) in the long term (although we agree that this statement is still controversial). A proportion of individuals cannot tolerate the cow protein casein at all and a large part of the world population is (partly) lactase deficient. Growth hormones in cow milk should not be of too much concern as these are readily broken down in the human body during digestion. There is no evidence that calcium in cow milk promotes bone growth or protects against osteoporosis, myths frequently advocated by the dairy industry. In fact, there are other richer sources of calcium, such as green (leafy) vegetables.
Oh yes…eggs. Eggs are nutritious and a long-lasting source of energy. Columbus eggs or organic are preferred, as these are a richer source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t worry about eating three eggs, we do! Your blood cholesterol only depends for 25% on cholesterol-rich foods. Furthermore, determining blood cholesterol levels for cardiovascular disease risk assessement is becoming increasingly controversial.
Drinks: Dragon Well Green tea and freshly ground coffee beans.
Green tea contains many polyphenols, which are probably more active in their non-oxidized form (black tea leafs actually are processed and oxidized green tea leafs). The most active is Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has anti-inflammatory properties. Population studies show that frequent consumers of green tea have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. We choose Dragon Well Green tea (also called Longjing tea) as it is a variety which has one of the highest concentrations of EGCG. Then coffee. Apart from the caffeine waking you up, coffee has bioactive components, an example of which is Chlorogenic acid, another polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties. Although roasting of green coffee beans has influence on polyphenol content and methods of preparation may also count, there are ultimate positive clinical effects associated with coffee consumption (10–15% risk reduction in all-cause mortality). This has lead to the formulation of clinical guidelines ecouraging patients with a variety of disorders, such as chronic liver disease, to consume it daily (3–5 cups).
As mentioned previously, we will discuss all evidence in more detail in due time. Meanwhile, enjoy your breakfast!
We wish you a nutritious week,
Greg and Céline, M.D.